file photo. American soldiers during the census of gold bars from the Reichsbank warehouse in Thuringia, spring 1945.
Photo: EASTERN NEWS
The old hand-drawn map clearly marked Dutch towns, rivers, roads, and three trees that grew somewhere on the outskirts of the field. It was there that someone put a red dot, as if afraid that over time they would forget where in 1944 German soldiers buried a treasure trove of jewelry.
In January, the National Archives of the Netherlands published thousands of documents. Among them is a map of buried treasure near the town of Ommeren in the southeast of the kingdom. After the war, she studied at the Dutch Institute of Administration, involved in the search for an arrested Wehrmacht officer, but to no avail. German soldiers, after looting the Bank of Rotterdam in Arnhem in August 1944, were said to have hidden banknotes, watches, precious jewelery and diamonds in four ammunition boxes.
– We do not know for sure if these treasures existed, – says an employee of the archive Ann-Marieke Samson. – But the institute has done many checks and the map is reliable. But they never found the treasure. It is quite possible, if it existed, that it could have already been unearthed.
At the beginning of 2023, the National Archives of the Netherlands declassified and published, after the limitation period, more than 1,300 documents from the Second World War. Including a Nazi treasure map.
Although almost 80 years have passed since the fall of the Third Reich, attempts to discover caches and treasures left behind by the Nazis have not dried up. But does something remain that has not been found, or have the missing jewels quietly graced private collections for a long time? There is no answer to this question yet.
Soldiers of the Third Reich began exporting valuables from other states in the late 1930s. According to the most conservative estimates, the total value of what was stolen by the Third Reich could be as high as $500 billion. Nazis took gold reserves from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and the Netherlands. The commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, Field Marshal General of Aviation Hermann Goering, was responsible for the removal of the treasures. He participated in robberies across the state and also led the export of cultural goods that were important to the Reich.
They needed everything. Upon entering any territory, special corps began to operate there, which were engaged in taking everything: currency, gold, military equipment, for example, gasoline, mineral reserves, – says Konstantin Zalessky, vice president of the Association of Second World Historians. War. – First of all, they took what belonged to the state, the army and the fleeing citizens. Private property came in second. The scale of the theft at the state level was staggering.
AT A DEPTH OF 600 METERS
Disappointing treasure hunters. Most of the stolen goods were already found in the first years after the Second World War.
– A large number of caches were found in 1945-1946. Punctual Germans formalized everything and marked the location of the shelters. All this became the property of the allied forces, says Konstantin Zalessky.
One of the biggest finds was made by American troops in April 1945 at the Merkers Salt Mine, now the deepest tourist attraction in Europe. Here, at a depth of 600 meters underground, neatly folded bags contained 8,000 gold bars and another 3,000 bags of gold coins, 63 bags of silver, one bag of platinum bars, 8 bags of gold rings and teeth, bags of German and foreign banknotes. and 27 paintings by Rembrandt. In addition – all kinds of household utensils stolen from private houses.
The commander of the allied forces, Dwight Eisenhower, came to see the find. The US Treasury and the Bank of England valued gold at $4 billion at current exchange rates, silver at $4 million.
April 1945. An American soldier discovered bags of currency and gold in the Kaiserode salt mine, Germany.
Photo: EASTERN NEWS
Since Merkers ended up in the territory controlled by the USSR, the Americans quickly took the treasure to their zone of occupation, to Frankfurt. General George Patton wanted to use the wealth he found to buy new weapons. But the Pentagon disagreed with the general’s idea, and news of the stash leaked to the press.
The gold was returned to the European banks, and they, in turn, transferred about 6 tons to the Holocaust relief fund.
The same Americans also discovered another giant “stash” – it was buried in the garden of the Kerry Villa near Salzburg (attentive readers may remember that it was mentioned in Yulian Semenov’s “Seventeen Moments of Spring”). This house was rented by none other than the head of imperial SS security, Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
By the end of 1944, Kaltenbrunner clearly understood that the war was lost. From that moment on, his main objective was to save the valuables stolen by the Nazis from all the places where the German boot stepped on. There was no hope of salvation when the first Soviet soldier entered German territory victorious. The gold stored in the Reichsbank vaults, as well as jewelry and world art, it was decided to urgently transport to caches.
Under the supervision of 150 specially trained officers, part of the Reich’s gold reserves were transported to Villa Kerry, worth a total of one billion marks. There were also boxes of fake sterling. It was planned to throw them into Britain in order to undermine the kingdom’s economy.
As you know, Kaltenbrunner’s attempt to organize a comfortable post-war life failed. In 1946 he was executed by the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Occasionally, to this day, small caches with Nazi treasures are found. For example, in 2020 a chest with silver cutlery was found in the ruins of a 14th-century castle in the Polish town of Nowy Sacz. During the war there was a barracks for German soldiers.
In 2019, the diary of the German officer Egon Ollenhauer was made public, where a cache was indicated in Polish territory: 260 trucks with hidden treasures in 11 places. One of the deposits contained 28 tons of gold, and the other contained gold coins, medals, and jewelry. But so far this treasure has not been found.
Despite the excitement that many hunters still have, finding the treasures of the Third Reich is unlikely, Konstantin Zalessky believes.
– Really find only what was hidden in the personal collection. For example, recently in the attic of a house that was being prepared for demolition, they found two dozen paintings stolen by the Germans, explains the historian. – In addition, the Nazis often hid loot in the mines, not all treasures could be preserved to this day in such conditions.
ask point blank
Where did Rommel’s gold and the Amber Room disappear without a trace?
Many treasures from the Third Reich have not been found and their disappearance over the years is steeped in myth. The disappearance of the so-called “Rommel gold” was a case in point. In 1943, during the occupation of Tunisia, the Nazis confiscated much jewelry from the local Jewish community, and when things got really bad for the Germans and Italians in North Africa, the loot began to be smuggled out of the country. But where?
Chest with gold wedding rings, found by the allied forces in the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Photo: EASTERN NEWS
Later, thanks to a tip from the arrested SS men, two of the three caches where the Tunisian treasures were kept were found. But the third, the largest, has not been found so far. According to the testimony of the Germans, the treasure was flooded one kilometer from the coast of the French island of Corsica. Divers have already climbed the entire bottom there, but they have not found any barrels with gold and diamonds. The treasure is named after the famous German general Erwin Rommel, who led the Nazi army in Africa and was nicknamed the “desert fox.” However, experts say that he himself had nothing to do with the gold theft.
No less famous is another loss – the Amber Room of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace, which did not have time to be evacuated before the German army attacked Leningrad. The amber panels, decorated with semi-precious stones and covered with gold leaf, were presented to Peter I by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I. The Wehrmacht soldiers considered the Amber Room to be their property and brought it to the royal castle. in Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad). After that, his tracks are lost. At least, in the dilapidated castle after the shelling, the Soviet troops no longer found it. However, there is a popular version that it could completely melt in a fire.
A lot of money was spent on the search for the Amber Room all over the world. She was searched for in sunken German ships and in the secret collections of American billionaires, in alpine caves and South American prairies, where some top officials of the Third Reich lived under assumed names. But everything is useless. In the end, the Amber Room in Tsarskoye Selo was recreated. And the location of the original treasure remains a mystery.
Finally, some masterpieces of world painting, once stolen by the Nazis from the museums of the world, are still not found. In particular, we are talking about Raphael’s “Portrait of a Young Man”, Caravaggio’s “Portrait of a Courtesan”, Rembrandt’s “Angel with the Features of Titus”, Modigliani’s “Woman with a Fan”, “The Montmartre Boulevard at Twilight” by Pizarro. And also about eight Faberge eggs, whose value is estimated at 100 million dollars. Surely now these valuables are in private collections.