German police investigating ancient artefact vandalism in Berlin museums


A general view of the museum island complex, where unknown perpetrators damaged numerous pieces of art and antiques at the museum island, along with other Berlin's museums, in one of the largest cases of art vandalism in decades, according to German media reports, in Berlin, Germany October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - German police are investigating after dozens of priceless artefacts in some of Berlin's most famous museums were daubed with an oily liquid by unkown vandals, causing possibly irreparable damage, officials said on Wednesday.

The attacks took place during opening hours on Oct. 3 but were only made public late on Tuesday by newspaper Der Tagespiegel and broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, which called them one of Germany's most serious attacks on artworks in decades.

A total of 63 objects were damaged, including Egyptian sarcophagi, stone sculptures, and 19th century paintings held at the Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie on Berlin's Museum Island.

Museum officials said "first aid" attempts to remove the spots left behind had been successful, though visible traces remained.

"Given our impression so far that the objects were chosen at random and that there is no obvious connection between them or a certain motivation, we believe the person acted alone," said Carsten Pfohl, a Berlin police investigator.

The museums, barely a stone's throw across the river from Chancellor Angela Merkel's own city centre flat, have been at the centre of lurid conspiracy theories in recent months in online communities of anti-mask and anti-social distancing truthers that have thrived during the coronavirus pandemic.

Attila Hildmann, a vegan celebrity chef who spreads conspiracy theories about the coronavirus to over 100,000 followers on the Telegram messaging service, wrote in August that the Pergamon, home to a reconstruction of a giant altar from the Ancient Greek city of Pergamon, contained the "Throne of Satan".

Describing the museum as the centre of a global conspiracy of "corona criminals" he wrote: "Here they conduct human sacrifices by night and defile children."

(This story refiles to fix typographical error in headline)

(Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Tom Brown)

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