On the night of August 2-3, a group of thieves parked a bus in a grocery store parking lot, about 250 yards from the front of the Eyewitness Museum in Beek, Holland. Several more vehicles sped up to the museum as one rammed through the front door. In the following five minutes, six to eight thieves worked in concert to empty the museum of nine mannequins, headgear, and weapons worth an estimated 1.5 million Euros.

A little more than two months later, on the night of October 12, thieves broke into the War Museum in Ossendrecht by drilling through the back wall and deactivating the alarm system. They stole at least 23 mannequins dressed in various Third Reich uniforms and fully equipped with accouterments and firearms worth an estimated 1 million Euros.

And most recently, during the night of November 3, 2020, thieves struck the Deutsches Museum Nordschleswig in Sønderborg, Denmark. Again, fully clothed mannequins seemed to be the target as the thieves carried away Hitler Youth and SS displays.

LISTEN TO GOLDFINGER

In Ian Fleming's novel Goldfinger, Auric Goldfinger says, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” That is to say, there is a pattern here. 

All three of these museums are privately owned. In at least two of the museums, there was no surveillance equipment in operation. Finally, the thieves KNEW what they were after. They targeted high-end weapons, original SS and Fallschirmjäger uniforms, and headgear.

These are not random acts. If they haven’t piqued the concern of other “private museums,” it is time they do. Someone is financing high-level thefts of Third Reich material. They are targeting "private museums because these share some common characteristics:

*Single staff member — the owner of the collection,

*Lack of systematic, sophisticated security, and

*Lack of accession records documenting the collection.

FORGET THE CONSPIRACIES

Oh, and a word to those who want to perpetuate the “poor Nazis” theory that this is some sort of “anti-history” program to eliminate artifacts: Sorry, that just doesn’t play. Law enforcement experts are quick to explain that brazen, targeted thefts like these are all about the money and the artifacts.

If they were about the history portrayed, the perpetrators would simply have destroyed the relics in place and not have taken the chance to cart them off. In addition, they would have targeted the institution perpetrating the Nazi image —rather than selecting artifacts to remove. 

But that didn't happen. They went in knowing exactly what to take — most likely at the behest of an individual with a deep pockets and equally deep regard for militaria of the Third Reich, either for the personal sense of ownership or knowing how easy it is to convert high-end militaria into cash.

So, whether you operate a private museum, work for a public institution, or are even a prominent collector with a well-know assemblage of Third Reich relics, take note. Thieves already have.

While this is an affront to the hobby, there might be an odd twist in our favor. As the art world has demonstrated time and again, nothing drives up demand like a good museum heist.

Let's just hope this triad of robberies isn't just the tip of the spear.  

Be vigilant.

John Adams-Graf

Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

Read more about the three robberies:

*Dutch Eyewitness Museum, Beek, robbery

*Dutch War Museum, Ossendrecht, robbery

*Danish Museum Norschleswig robbery

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