Rank miscreants are descending on Dutch war museums in highly organized operations to steal Nazi memorabilia, according to a new report by the Guardian.
In recent months, museums in the provinces of North Brabant and Limburg were raided for antiques linked to Adolf Hitler’s Waffen-SS and the Nazi regime, including SS uniforms, parachutes, daggers, binoculars and firearms — worth well over millions of euros in total.
A recently stolen rifle once used by German paratroopers, called Fallschirmjägergewehr, is worth an estimated 50,000 euros ($60,000).
Now, museums throughout the Netherlands are heightening security on the controversial artifacts.
“Yesterday, I took stuff from the Hitler Youth, and uniforms of the SS are also being removed [from display],” said Frans van Venrooij, owner of the 1940-1945 War Museum in Loon op Zand. He also hid a number of forks from the cutlery collections of both Hitler and the SS leader Heinrich Himmler. An upgraded secure door was installed at the entrance as well.
To prevent substantial heists, the Arnhem War Museum has reportedly laid roadblocks that keep out larger vehicles.
Some institutions are taking the hot items off their hands altogether, such as the Overloon War Museum, who will return the Book of the Dead, from the Auschwitz concentration camp, to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation in Amsterdam, from which the book was loaned.
Jan de Jonge, owner of the Oorlogsmuseum in Ossendrecht, said thieves had “drilled holes in the door to get the handle down from the inside” and cut glass covering display cases. De Jonge, who lives in a home attached to the museum, heard nothing on his side of the wall.
“You name it. There’s nothing left,” he said. The curator also pointed out that the stolen items were “German stuff. They didn’t take anything from the allies.”
De Jonge also pointed out that his items were “private property and not insured” and “can be traded internationally.”
At the Eyewitness Museum in Beek, some 1.5 million euros worth of “original pieces” were ransacked, according to owner Wim Seelen. He found the front door had been rammed down, and display cases filled with “a number of masterpieces that are very rare and precious” shattered inside the building. Security footage showed the raid was messy but thorough and only took only six minutes.
“They knew what they were looking for,” said Seelen. “The only thing I can come up with is that someone ordered it. Many of the stolen items are so unique that you cannot sell them.”
John Meulenbroeks, director at the Museum De Bewogen Jaren (“Museum of the Eventful Years”) in Hooge Mierde agreed, calling the trend “disturbing.”
“It seems like this is on request. Maybe [the items] are already with a collector who is wealthy,” he guessed.
Dutch detectives have announced no leads or arrests in any of the cases, the Guardian reported.
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