Burglars steal Soviet medals from Berlin’s Stasi Museum
Communist-era medals and jewellery of historical interest rather than significant monetary value have been stolen from Berlin’s Stasi Museum (pictured) in the former head office of the East German spy agency.
The police said the thieves entered the Lichtenberg district building on Sunday morning after climbing the foyer’s roof and through a first-floor window.
They smashed several glass display cases and took an Order of Karl Marx – the state’s highest honour, the Order of Lenin and a Hero of the Soviet Union medal. They also took several wedding rings, a bracelet, and a watch, all of which had been confiscated by the secret police, from the old offices of the former Stasi boss Erich Mielke, who ran the East German security apparatus for more than 30 years.
The suite is preserved as demonstrators found it when they stormed the Stasi building in January 1990.
Many precious items confiscated from dissidents were discovered.
Most of the valuables were later returned to the owners but some unclaimed items were put on display in the museum.
In a much more damaging break-in, thieves recently stole at least a dozen 18th-century ornaments encrusted with hundreds of diamonds worth millions of euros from the Green Vault, part of a former royal palace in Dresden, in one of the most daring heists in post-war German history.
The extent of the Stasi theft is not yet clear.
Dr Jörg Drieselmann, the Stasi museum’s director, said the burglars smashed three glass cabinets and took four East German decorations.
Until 1990, the Stasi’s ugly headquarters sprawled over 29 buildings in Lichtenberg. It contains the organisation’s vast intelligence archives, which are supposed to be under constant guard.
Some of the medals were replicas and the Order of Karl Marx, which was only given to a tiny number of Communist figures, including the dictators Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker, would probably not sell for more than a few thousand euros.
“It is always painful when there is a break-in. The feeling of security is considerably disturbed,” Drieselmann told Der Tagesspiegel. “These are not great valuables. But we are a historical museum and we didn’t expect anyone to break in on us.”
Dresden’s Green Vault museum has offered a €500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the thieves. Two men took advantage of a power cut to enter the vault through a ground-floor window and escape with two accomplices. They appear to have evaded a security cordon.
Picture credit: Wikimedia