The Manching art robbery and the question of what does the police protect? – Munich

If you are interested in cultural treasures, one sentence is enough to startle you. After the Manching gold robbery, the reports on the night of the crime said: The responsible police department found out about the power and data failure in the Manching area, and the officials then went off to check – at the local banks. Apparently, the idea of ​​checking the Celtic Museum to make sure everything was in order never came up.

The culture friend thinks differently, loosely based on Bertolt Brecht: Where can the bigger crime happen? At a privately built ATM with colorful bills, or at an irretrievable antique gold treasure of the ancestors, the property of the general public? But even those who have little to do with Brecht may involuntarily ask themselves: Isn’t there a list of art and cultural assets that require special protection that officials can access in such a case?

After the spectacular gold and jewel heists of recent years? For some of which power lines had also been cut? And since the country has been pondering what will happen if there is a blackout for months? So if power and data lines should be cut for a longer period of time? Will the police protect the potato chips in the supermarkets from looting first, or the crown jewels in the residence?

The last question is polemical, admittedly. Nevertheless, it is interesting how it is arranged with a directory of places that are particularly worthy of protection or endangered, in which Bavaria’s cultural treasures are stored, which could be a guide, under whatever alarming circumstances. The result of the research: “The Bavarian police do not have a conclusive list of ‘cultural assets to be protected’,” according to the Ministry of the Interior.

“Of course,” the local police stations had “information on relevant museums or collections in their service areas,” explains a spokesman. In addition, no further information can be given on the nature of police property protection measures. That would “endanger the success of the measures”. Only the police headquarters in Upper Bavaria North can provide direct information on how the “prioritisation of operations” happened in the Manching case.

Once upon a time: the pot of gold from Celtic times.

(Photo: AFP)

Andreas Aichele is spokesman for the police headquarters and, as a member of the district council of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, is used to thinking in larger social contexts. He puts it in a nutshell: “You’re sort of asking about a ‘triage of material assets’? That hasn’t existed before,” says Aichele. An incoming alarm is decisive for where the officials make their inspection trips. Since many institutions – including state or municipal ones such as the Manching Celtic Museum – work with private security companies, the police never receive an alarm directly from them. And if the power or data flow to a certain location in the area of ​​operations is cut off, the police only find out if, for example, a citizen calls to ask whether they are alone with the problem.

The Bavarian Museums are responsible for their own security, although many are advised by the State Criminal Police Office. Insurers also play a role. The Munich group Allianz, for example, has been offering art insurance since 1896 and therefore has painful worldwide experience with the latest possibilities and practices of thieves. Art insurance boss Eric Wolzenburg says his team is increasingly concerned with the question of “how to prevent cultural treasures from being secretly and undetected replaced by replicas at night”.

In comparison, it is a truism that art treasures, which consist of objects with high material value and easy mobility, are particularly endangered during raids. Nevertheless, it is precisely these small objects that are currently attracting special attention in all houses in Bavaria. For example, the Palaces and Lakes Administration, which, in addition to the Munich and Würzburg Residences, is also responsible for several dozen other houses and their art treasures, is currently reviewing all of its own security measures.

And Art Minister Markus Blume? He has just submitted a “5-point package of measures” to the cabinet to protect cultural assets in Bavaria. It is about the “critical infrastructure” around the houses, their communication facilities and “intelligent” new systems. Because Blume says that he was particularly shocked by how “the inhibition threshold has fallen to touching works of art”. The consequences for the actually desired low-threshold access to art could be devastating. Art would be locked away rather than made more accessible. And priority lists or not. “In general,” says Blume, “we need a stronger awareness of the value of art and culture in our country.” He thinks that “the social outcry in the case of attacks on works of art should definitely be bigger”.

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