A quick guilty verdict was handed down today by the Copenhagen Municipal Court to two men accused of stealing 1,045 Second World War documents from the national archive, Rigsarkivet, and the now defunct regional archive Landsarkivet for Sjælland. One of the men was sentenced to two years in jail while the other will serve one year and nine months. The case is the biggest theft of historical documents in the history of Denmark.
The theft was carried out by two men, aged 47 and 53, over a period of three years starting in 2009. The men were also charged with violating weapon laws for being in possession of a large number of non-functioning Second World War era weapons, which one of the defendants claimed he had used to prepare for a role as an extra in a movie.
Both defendants pleaded guilty and accepted the verdict. However, they disputed the prosecution’s argument that the documents were irreplaceable, as well as their 1.5 to 3 million kroner estimated value.
The men claimed they had stolen the documents, which primarily dealt with Danish Nazis, for the purpose of writing a book. The prosecution rejected that argument, and claimed they intended to sell the documents to collectors. The 53-year defendant did, however, admit to selling a soldaterbog, a document given to each soldier upon finishing active duty.
During testimony, the 47-year-old defendant had described the experience of stealing the documents as “exciting.” His attorney later explained that this client felt like a “child in a candy store” when in the archive, given his fascination with the Second World War.
Judge Marianne Madsen said in her verdict that stealing from the archives was a “serious matter”.