Mysterious vandal attacks at Berlin museums

22 Oct 2020

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Berlin: Friederike Seyfried, Director of the Egyptian Museum, shows a damaged sarcophagus from ancient Egypt.—Reuters
Berlin: Friederike Seyfried, Director of the Egyptian Museum, shows a damaged sarcophagus from ancient Egypt.—Reuters

BERLIN: Vandals have damaged dozens of artworks and artefacts at some of Berlin’s most renowned museums, police said on Wednesday, in a stunning attack kept quiet by authorities for more than two weeks.

Egyptian stone sculptures and sarcophagi as well as the frames of valuable 19th-century paintings at three institutions on the German capital’s Unesco-listed Museum Island were among more than 60 objects sprayed with an “oily liquid”, leaving visible stains, Christina Haak, deputy director of Berlin’s state museums, told reporters.

National media, which had earlier referred to around 70 damaged objects, called it “one of the biggest attacks on art and antiquities in German post-war history”.

The state criminal investigation office (LKA) said it has opened an investigation over “property damage to artworks and artifacts on display”.

Police believe the vandalism occurred on October 3, German Unity Day, during opening hours at the Pergamon Museum, Neues Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie.

A museum staff member reported the damage to her superiors that day, a national holiday, and the LKA was informed two days later.

LKA criminal division chief Carsten Pfohl told a news conference that the case was not made public initially to protect the investigation and out of “consideration” for the owners of works on loan.

He said there had been about 3,000 people visiting the museums that day and initial viewing of security camera footage had not turned up any suspects.

German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters expressed shock at the vandalism.

“Beyond the pure damage to property, such attacks demonstrate a deep contempt for artworks and culture achievements as a whole,” she said, ordering a security review at the museums.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020