News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie.
Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie.

Three Berlin Museums Targeted in Vandalism Attack

Sixty-three artifacts were damaged in a vandalism spree taking place across three institutions on Berlin’s Museum Island earlier this month, as reported yesterday by German daily Die Zeit and broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. Berlin police have determined that an attacker, or attackers, sprayed an oily substance on objects at the Alte Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, and Pergamon sometime during 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on October 3, while the institutions were open. Information on the attack was withheld from the public while officials contacted those who had purchased tickets to the three targeted museums for that date online, in hopes of discovering witnesses to the incidents; however, as many tickets were sold at the door and their buyers untraceable, these efforts proved fruitless.

Among the items harmed, several of which were on loan, were Egyptian sarcophagi, stone sculptures, and the frames of nineteenth-century pictures. Attempts to rectify the damage, which includes staining, have been successful in some measure, and have involved cleaning the objects and applying compresses to soak up the oil. Security has been tightened on the island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Spee River, says Berlin State Museums security chief Hans Jürgen-Harras, who acknowledged that “achieving 100 percent security would mean taking objects out of public view.” 

The motive of the attacker or attackers is unknown, and no link between the damaged objects has been ascertained. However, speculation has swirled in the media that the vandalism may in some way be tied to German QAnon conspiracy theorists, specifically vegan chef Attila Hildmann. A German nationalist and coronavirus denier, Hildemann in recent months took to social media to describe the Pergamon as the “throne of . . . Satan” and a site of human sacrifice, and called for his followers to storm the institution.