• gerard van weyenbergh

Degradation of artworks in Berlin, is it a new threat to "culture"

Degradation of works of art in Berlin: a new threat to culture?

Is there a political or religious message behind the degradation perpetrated in broad daylight on October 3 against 63 pieces from "Museum Island" in the heart of the German capital? Mystery.

For the moment, the investigators favor the track of an isolated act of vandalism and without reason. But the act, still without claim, worries the Germans because it targeted a cultural symbol. The Museum Island, somewhat the equivalent of the Parisian Louvre, brings together five state museums that house the world's richest collections. Listed as Unesco World Heritage Site in 1999, the site belongs to the State Foundation for Prussian Cultural Heritage (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz), one of the world's largest cultural institutions.

Somebody perpetrated the damages to the prestigious Pergamon Museum, and the Old National Gallery with an unknown object spraying an "oily substance" (perhaps a pistol with water, a syringe, a clown flower water lance…). They left stains on Egyptian sarcophagi, paintings of the XIX th century, and stone sculptures.

It is the institution as a whole that seems to have been targeted on October 3 - German unity day, national holiday - because there is no logical link between the damaged parts. "They were chosen at random from different rooms," recalled Carsten Pfohl, head of the survey. Known pieces have been spared, such as the bust of Nefertiti. Concerning the paintings, the stains were only found on the frames. "This substance is colorless and is not corrosive," said Carsten Pfohl. The museum did not identify the damage until after the closure.

Christina Haak, deputy director of the Berlin museums, thinks this is a logical continuation after a series of degradations committed in recent months on the walls outside the museums. "The threat has penetrated inside," she notes. For her, this damage constitutes "the most important ever perpetrated in public museums" in Germany and a "new threat against culture".

Threats from a conspirator?

The investigators have no leads except the suspicions that weigh on one of the main conspiracists in Germany, the anti-Semite Attila Hildmann, a German counterpart to Dieudonné. This best-selling author of books on vegan cooking accuses the "demoness" Angela Merkel of preparing a genocide with Bill Gates under the guise of the fight against Covid-19. The Chancellor lives opposite Museum Island (Pergamon side).

A few months ago, Attila Hildmann had made speeches on one of the museums' steps before being driven out. Followed by 100,000 people on the Telegram social network, he has since claimed that the "throne of Satan" is hidden in the "Great Pergamon Altar" (the centerpiece of the archaeological museum) where children are said to be raped every night.

According to testimonies, Attila Hildmann would have called on his fans to storm the museums, which investigators have not confirmed. "The dogs bark," governed the chef after these suspicions.

Security in question

This week, the police, who waited three weeks before informing the public on "matters of investigation", launched a call for testimony from 3,000 visitors on October 3. But the police has no trace of at least 2,000 of them who bought their tickets on the spot without leaving any personal data. The viewing of the surveillance cameras did not make it possible to locate the perpetrator (s) who remained for at least an hour in different rooms, between 10 and 6 pm.

Beyond the symbol, the attack on Museum Island once again calls into question the security of this exhibition space and could make foreign museums hesitate to lend their objects. Among the damaged parts, four are ready!

Three years ago, Museum Island had already been the subject of a spectacular theft of a 100-kilo gold sculpture. The "Big Maple Leaf", bearing the effigy of the Queen of England, was protected by an armored display case. The three climbers (three young mafiosi convicted since) managed to steal it in the middle of the night using an ax and a wheelbarrow while walking through the railway viaduct that crosses the island to museums. The gold sculpture has never been found. It was probably cut up and sold in pieces on the black market.

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