History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e11 Episode Script

The Hunt for Stolen Nazi Treasure

Tonight, an enduring
World War II mystery.
Somewhere, the Nazis
are sitting on a stockpile
of confiscated wealth.
Vast amounts of art, gold,
silver, and currency
are looted by the Nazis
and stashed all over Europe.
Anything of value
that can be stolen, they steal.
Though some is recovered
in astonishing finds,
much more is still missing.
Now, the mystery begins.
Where else did the Nazis
hide their wealth?
We'll explore the top theories
surrounding this lost treasure.
The CIA documents show this gold
is linked to these
high-ranking Croatian priests.
The Nazi gold train was found
in the Owl Mountains.
The diary says
that something around
$7 million worth of Nazi gold
was stolen by this officer.
Where did the Nazis
take their stolen loot,
and can it ever be found?
April 1945, as Allied forces
advance into Nazi territory,
they occupy the small town
of Merkers, Germany.
Merkers is right
outside of Frankfurt.
From a strategic perspective,
it's fairly unimportant.
The only thing notable
is a salt and potassium mine.
On the morning
of April 6th, 1945,
American military policemen
are patrolling an area
outside of Merkers
when they stop two refugee women
for violating a curfew.
As they're driving them back
to the American command post,
a German-speaking American MP,
Richard Mootz,
starts interrogating the women.
He wants to know
why they're out walking
in spite of the curfew.
As they drive
by the Kaiseroda Mine,
the women say,
"Forget the curfew.
"How would you like to know
about a significant amount
of stolen treasure?"
That question immediately sparks
intense interest.
Rumors of a vast
Nazi treasure horde
stored throughout Europe
are rampant.
Almost from the moment
that Hitler becomes chancellor
of Germany in 1933,
he instructs his military
to start stealing gold.
This begins domestically,
confiscating money
from local banks
and from Jewish citizens
that are being displaced
from their homes and sent
to concentration camps.
Once Hitler's army
start invading other countries,
they do more of the same,
and it goes beyond
just stealing gold.
Artwork, jewelry,
silver, platinum
anything of value that
can be stolen, they steal.
So, when the soldiers
hear the rumor
from these women
about stolen treasure,
they definitely take notice.
The news quickly reaches
U.S. General George S. Patton,
commander of the Third Army
in Germany.
By the time General Patton
hears this particular story
from Merkers,
the Allies estimate
that Nazi Germany
has taken nearly $600 million
worth of stolen gold.
This includes 223 million
from Belgium,
193 million
from The Netherlands,
additional gold from Austria
and Czechoslovakia.
And that's just
what Patton knows about.
It doesn't include millions more
in stolen gold
from private citizens
and businesses.
Despite these
estimates, Patton is wary.
Lots of people
have tried to get leniency
with promises
of hidden Nazi treasures,
and almost none of it
has panned out.
But Patton decides
it's still worth looking into,
because he knows that somewhere,
the Nazis are sitting
on a stockpile
of confiscated wealth.
We always have to remember
that even as late as April 1945,
the end of the Second World War
was not a forgone conclusion,
and lots of things
could have gone wrong.
Depriving the enemy of
a significant quantity of gold
is the equivalent of driving
a nail into his coffin.
Finding any part
of this treasure
will help the Allied war effort.
The only question is,
where is it?
According to the two women
detained in Merkers, it's there,
deep underground
in the local salt mine.
These women claim
to have eyewitnessed
these valuables
being transported
on trucks and crates.
And when valuables are moving
in the wrong direction,
meaning moving to the mine
and going down into it
rather than the other
way around,
that's where their suspicion
about things
of great value came from.
Within hours of the women
telling their story,
General Patton sends a bunch
of resources to Merkers.
He has to use fighting forces
that would otherwise
be committed to battle,
and designate them to come back
to Merkers
to provide a security cordon
around the area,
because after all,
he has to exercise great caution
that this might be a trap.
The next day,
April 7th, American soldiers
start interviewing
other eyewitnesses.
They talk to several men
in and around Merkers
who were forced
to work in the mine,
either clearing out rooms
or bringing gold down into it.
One British POW
who had also been forced
to work in the mine tries
to make a sort of crude map
for the Americans
to show them the location
of the treasure room.
Army engineers survey the area
and start making plans
to descend into the mine.
Patton tells everyone to keep
this potential treasure
Don't report it to anyone
until they have it in hand.
On April 8th,
American forces enter the mine.
I can't imagine what
must have been going
through the mind of these troops
as they go down
into this deep mine.
They don't know
what they're going
to encounter down there,
they don't know who
they're going to encounter
down there.
There could be
armed Nazi guards,
there could be booby traps,
there could be nothing.
Exploring this mine
was no small task.
It's a network of tunnels
below the surface,
18 square miles in overall size.
There's no convenient signage.
There's nothing that says,
"Nazi gold, this way."
But based on
the interviews with people
that work there,
they know to go to a room
called Room Eight.
And as they approach,
it's pretty clear
there's something
very important inside it.
The room is sealed
by a huge steel door.
The door is impenetrable.
But the engineers figure
the adjacent brick wall is not.
So, they load up one side
with dynamite.
That's how they open the vault.
The first thing
the American soldiers see
is gold literally
tons of gold.
This is the motherlode.
Room Eight's not a room at all.
It's more of a cavern
than anything.
It's 75 feet wide,
150 feet deep,
12-foot ceilings
it's a massive open space.
They count 8,198
individual bars of gold,
each worth thousands of dollars.
The world hasn't seen
this much gold in one place
outside of Fort Knox.
And that's just the beginning.
Besides the gold bars,
they also find gold bullion,
currency from England,
France, and Germany,
gold coins, platinum,
and the plates used
to make German Reichsmarks.
Also hidden in the mine,
hundreds of priceless
stolen artworks.
In other words,
this was the largest
German pawn shop of the time.
Anything that had
any value at all
had been crammed
into this one cavern
inside this mine complex.
So, everyone is ecstatic
and amazed
by this once-in-a-lifetime
There's so many riches,
so many treasures.
But then they get
to the back of the room,
and the mood changes.
In addition
to the precious metals,
they find 189 suitcases
filled with gold
and silver household items
that have clearly been stolen
from everyday people.
But that's not the worst of it.
In some of the suitcases,
they find a horrific sight
hundreds and hundreds of teeth,
human teeth that all have
gold fillings in them.
Nobody has to ask where
these gold fillings came from.
They already know.
They're the teeth
of thousands of Jews
extracted from the living
and the dead
in concentration camps.
They had gold fillings
ripped out of their head,
because that gold had value.
It gives you an idea
of how cynical
the Nazi view was
towards humanity,
towards human decency
and dignity.
I don't know of anybody else
besides the Nazis
who did anything like that.
As they come to terms
with their grisly discovery,
American forces need
to figure out the next steps.
It's a task so daunting that
Generals Patton and Eisenhower
show up in person to supervise.
The generals approve
a logistical plan
to get all this heavy stuff out
from 2,000 feet below the ground
and move it to safety.
Remember, there's still
a war going on very close by,
so it's an already difficult job
made even harder.
As all of this material
is moved from inside the mine
to above ground,
it's taken into Frankfurt
to an old bank building
that had been captured
by Allied forces.
And as all of the material
is being deposited at that bank,
and an accounting of all of it
is being completed,
there's recognition for the fact
that there's a lot
still missing.
The gold, silver, and currency
that was found at Merkers
adds up to about $250 million.
But according
to Allied estimates,
the Nazis stole closer
to $600 million.
So, what was found at Merkers
isn't all of it.
Not even close.
This of course means one thing
there's more out there.
So now, the real mystery begins.
Where else did the Nazis
hide their stolen treasure?
The discovery of
250 Million dollars
in stolen Nazi loot
in Merkers, Germany, in 1945
inspires a military
treasure hunt
that lasts long after the end
of World War II.
The U.S. and our allies
continue to occupy the area
for many months after the war.
There's a lot of work
to be done
helping displaced people,
shoring up infrastructure,
cleaning up dangerous unused
ammunition and explosives,
and trying to track down
more of what the Nazis stole.
The overall quantity of treasure
that was discovered
at the Merkers mine
is believed to be less than half
of the total amount of treasure
that Nazi Germany looted
during the Second World War.
Remember, this wasn't
their gold to begin with.
They took it from governments,
banks, everyday citizens,
all of whom deserve
to have it returned.
It's estimated that about 90%
of what was found at Merkers
was eventually returned
to its rightful owners.
But where
did they hide the rest?
After the salt mine,
we know a few things
about where the Nazis like
to keep their stolen treasure.
It's a remote location.
It has cold low-oxygen
ideal for preservation,
and it's a facility
that's already
in use for something.
So, trucks coming and going
wouldn't have been seen
as suspicious.
And they don't have to build
a bunch of new stuff.
There's already electricity,
and plenty of storage space.
Among the first possibilities,
a Nazi weapons testing facility
in Austria near Lake Toplitz.
Soldiers descend on the area
in May of 1945
and begin interviewing
potential witnesses.
Ida Weisenbacher
provides a personal account
in which she details the way
that German troops
arrived at her home,
and how they got a truck
stuck in the mud,
and they needed assistance
transferring crates
that carried something on board,
onto a horse-drawn cart
so that they could move them
toward the lake itself.
Ida described seeing
possibly hundreds
of sealed Nazi crates,
and they take the crates
up the mountain
in multiple trips.
Ida says she witnesses
all those crates
get dumped into Lake Toplitz.
Ida, of course, has no idea
what's in these crates.
But the Allies suspect
it might be Nazi treasure.
Lake Toplitz sits at the edge
of the Austrian Alps,
an ideal site
for covert operations.
It's so remote
and hard to reach.
The Allies would never spot it.
It's over a mile long,
a quarter of a mile wide
and it has a depth
of up to 300 feet.
This area is known
as the Dead Mountains.
It's inaccessible
and frozen over
for five months of the year.
When it is accessible,
its only entrance
is a steep dirt path.
Let's just say
it's a pretty good place
for the Nazis to hide anything.
These same conditions
make it a difficult place
to search.
First off, it's very hard
to get equipment
in and out of there.
An underwater search
of a 300-foot-deep lake
requires a lot of machinery.
Even just sending in
divers is gonna be difficult.
'Cause keep in mind,
this is the mid-1940s.
At this point, the first
SCUBA apparatus, the Aqua-Lung,
has only just been invented
by Jacques Cousteau.
And there's no such thing
as a dry suit,
which is what divers today
use to keep warm
in cold temperatures.
The Navy spends
two years devising a plan
to explore
the 300-foot-deep lake.
In 1947, they're finally ready.
They go down about 60 feet,
and then they have to stop.
They've encountered
an impenetrable wall of wood.
Toplitz is surrounded
by a forest,
so over the years
trees have fallen into the lake,
creating this wooden barrier
about 60 feet down.
It's very, very
difficult to operate
in that environment.
The divers are challenged
just to get beyond it
to see what's on
the other side of it.
And that could easily hide
things of great value.
The divers then begin
swimming along the barrier
hoping to find the crates
that may have fallen on top.
But sadly,
they don't find anything.
Whatever was in
those crates was heavy enough
to sink past that barrier,
which implies possibly
Nazi gold.
And the fact that these crates
sunk to the bottom
of Lake Toplitz
means it's extremely difficult
to pull them back out.
After one of their
divers drowns in 1947,
the Navy calls off the search.
The Navy finally decides,
this is basically
an impossible task.
But that's not gonna stop
others from trying
to explore Lake Toplitz.
And it doesn't stop people
from dying either.
There's a string
of suspicious death
associated with Lake Toplitz.
These begin
soon after World War II ends.
In 1946, two men,
Helmut Mayer and Ludwig Picher,
are both found murdered
near the lake.
During the investigation
into this murder,
it is ultimately revealed
that the two men
had once worked
at Lake Toplitz during the war.
You have to wonder,
did they come back
knowing there was something
worth retrieving from that area?
They certainly had
the background
to know what might
be down there.
And if so,
were they killed because of it?
In the 1950s
there are several more deaths.
In 1952, a French civilian
is found dead at the lake.
And during the investigation
into his death,
the bodies of two other people
are found,
and those two people
have both been shot in the head.
This is getting kind of creepy.
One death, that's one thing.
But this is a string
of murders around a lake
that supposedly has Nazi gold
at the bottom.
As these stories start
to spread through the press,
more and more people
really do believe
that there is something
secret and valuable
hidden at Lake Toplitz,
and maybe someone's guarding it.
In 1959, an expedition
sponsored by German magazine
Der Stern,
tries to finally
solve the mystery.
By this time, diving technology
has improved substantially,
so it's slightly less dangerous
to dive the lake.
It's not without risk,
but the Der Stern divers
are able to stay there for more
than five weeks at the site.
And eventually,
they reach the bottom.
What they see
is truly remarkable.
The crates are down there.
This is incredible!
And they're able to bring
15 of them up to the surface.
But when they pry
the crates open,
they don't find gold.
They find paper money,
millions of British pounds
700 million, to be exact.
The reason that the Nazis
dumped all of this
British paper currency
into Lake Toplitz was because
it was all counterfeit.
Back in the 1940s
Adolf Hitler started a plan
called Operation Bernhard
to flood Great Britain
with fake currency
to drive up inflation
and basically wreck
the British economy.
Operation Bernhard
was never fully realized.
And now, thanks to
the Der Stern divers,
we now know what happened
to at least some
of those counterfeit bills.
But is there more to uncover?
The Der Stern divers reported
that there were more boxes
at the bottom of the lake,
but because of all the money
already spent on this mission,
they were told to leave
those boxes alone.
Those 15 crates, though,
linked them directly
to Operation Bernhard,
and they also established
the truth
of the Ida Weisenbacher
personal account.
In the decades since,
several expeditions,
some very well-funded ones,
are mounted to try to recover
the rest of the crates.
They find some Nazi artifacts.
Some divers report
seeing aircraft
and other weapons down there,
but so far,
no stolen Nazi treasure.
Unless we figure out
some technology
to go and drain Lake Toplitz,
it doesn't look to me
like anybody's ever
going to figure out
exactly what's down there.
And so, we're gonna have
to live with this mystery
for a long time to come.
In the immediate aftermath
of the war,
the U.S. government
is determined
to find more
hidden Nazi treasure.
From 1945 until 1948,
all branches of the American
are involved in trying to
discover looted Nazi treasure.
And one of the elements
of the American military
that's involved in this search
is the O.S.S.
The O.S.S., the Office
of Strategic Services,
is the precursor
to today's CIA.
But in 1947,
it's an unexpected agency
that makes a breakthrough.
When we think
of government agencies
and important investigations,
we don't think of the U.S.
Department of the Treasury.
But as it turns out,
a Treasury agent
by the name of Emerson Bigelow
is searching for Nazi treasure.
And in many ways,
a Treasury agent
is the right person
to go sniffing around this idea
of looted Nazi gold.
In 1947 Bigelow sends a memo
to his superiors claiming
to know what happened
to a large chunk
of the stolen Nazi gold.
His memo is so incendiary
that it really just gets swept
under the rug.
And it isn't until
50 years later
when it gets declassified
that this bombshell
finally comes to light.
The Bigelow memorandum
is ultimately revealed
in a 1997 documentary,
and what he found
was that a very, very large
quantity of money
went into a bank account
that was owned by the Vatican.
Bigelow's theory
begins in Croatia.
In World War II, the Nazis
set up a puppet government
in Croatia called the Ustasha.
They're in power from 1941
till the end of the war in 1945.
Let's be clear
they're put there
by the Nazis, for the Nazis.
The Ustasha are just
as vile as the Nazis.
They participate in the same
form of racist terrorism
that's fueled
by a distorted view
of both Roman Catholicism
and Islam
something they called
Croatian Nationalism.
Like Hitler, they want to purify
the blood of the country
by mass-murdering Jews,
Serbs, and Roma.
It's estimated that they kill
hundreds of thousands of people.
And the Ustashe extorted gold,
and jewels, and other valuables
from people who they threatened,
saying that, "If you do not
give this to us,
you could be shot,
you could be otherwise killed."
And so, people who had
the gold, gave it.
They were killed
as well as the people
who didn't have the gold,
but that was the Ustashe method.
The stolen gold
is sent to Germany's Reichsbank
to be melted down into bars
and coins.
According to Bigelow's report,
towards the end of the war,
the Ustasha make efforts
to hide this money,
and they also help German Nazis
hide some of theirs.
When Bigelow talks
to intelligence agents,
they tell him
that 350 million Swiss Francs
have been taken
out of the country.
That money would be worth
$1.5 billion today.
But more eye-popping
than the amount
is what happened to it.
According to Bigelow's sources,
that transfer of wealth
was overseen by officials
with the Vatican.
Bigelow's sources
claim they have proof.
Some of it was discovered.
About one-third of it
was confiscated
by British authorities
at a checkpoint
on the Austria-Switzerland
It traveled up from Croatia
into Austria,
and Bigelow's sources
believe it was ultimately headed
for a Swiss bank account
owned by the Vatican.
Meanwhile, according to
the Bigelow memo,
approximately 200 million
Swiss Francs' worth of gold
did get through to a Vatican
bank account in Switzerland.
Bigelow's research ends there.
But in 1997,
investigative journalists
Mark Aarons and John Loftus
pick up where he left off.
Mark Aarons has made
a name for himself in Australia
for hunting down former Nazis.
And John Loftus
is a former prosecutor
with the U.S. Department
of Justice's Nazi-hunting unit.
In that capacity,
Loftus has access to CIA files.
As they dig deeper,
more shocking evidence emerges.
The CIA documents prove
that this gold
is directly linked
to these high-ranking
Croatian priests in Rome,
one of which has
a Vatican association,
who are involved in getting
this looted Nazi gold
into Swiss bank accounts.
But that money
doesn't stay in there for long.
They claim some of the Nazi gold
was used
to relocate
Croatian Nazi officials.
Aarons and Loftus' research
seems to blow the lid
off of a three-part scheme
involving the Vatican,
the Nazis, and the Swiss banks.
So, when they publish
their research in 1998,
what do they call the book?
"Unholy Trinity."
Many top-ranking Nazis
are put on trial
and executed in Nuremberg
after the war.
But the Ustasha
are notably absent.
Almost the entire
Ustasha hierarchy
just walks away scot-free.
Their leader, Ante Pavelic,
aka the Butcher of the Balkans,
is actually received
as an honored guest
at the Vatican for two years
after the war.
Other high-ranking Ustasha
escape to relative luxury
in South America,
and that's where
some of the gold went.
It paid for passports,
places to live,
food to eat, et cetera.
If this is true,
this money goes back
into the hands
of the Nazi puppets
who stole it in the first place.
According to Aarons and Loftus,
the conspiracy
doesn't end there.
Just when you thought
you couldn't be more disgusted
by this whole affair,
it gets worse.
The authors present evidence
that the CIA
not only knew about it,
but they helped make it happen.
In 1998,
the U.S. Congress
passes the Nazi War Crimes
Disclosure Act,
which requires the release
of any government records
pertaining to Nazi
war criminals.
As a result,
over 300,000 pages of documents
linking the U.S. Army
and the CIA to this
have been disclosed.
And now, declassified
Army Intelligence reports
states that by the summer
of 1947,
the U.S. forces
were actively supporting
the people-smuggling operation.
The CIA wanted Nazis to escape
Europe for two reasons.
Some of them
were advanced scientists
that could help
the U.S. military.
Others could be planted in areas
that faced the growing threat
of Communism.
They placed high-ranking
former Nazis
in various
South American countries
with a mission to quell
any potential
Communist uprisings there
and install
U.S.-friendly leadership.
One of the most notable examples
is Operation Condor,
where Nazi war criminal
Klaus Barbie is used
to help overthrow the government
of Bolivia.
The influx of ex-Nazis
into South America
is known as the "ratline."
According to Bigelow,
Aarons, and Loftus,
this ratline operation
was paid for.
It was financed by the very gold
that had been looted
by the Ustasha
on behalf of Nazi Germany
that then ultimately
made its way
into Vatican bank accounts.
But here's the thing.
Whatever wasn't spent
on this nefarious scheme
should still be sitting
in the Vatican's bank.
This could be hundreds
of millions of dollars in gold,
which we'll probably never
be able to recover.
Unsurprisingly, the Vatican
denies every last bit of this.
This is, of course, a denial
coming from an entity
that has a document policy
by which they destroy everything
every 10 years.
One thing we know
if history tells us anything,
it's that money can corrupt
even the most seemingly sacred
Perhaps someday,
some long lost document
will show what happened
to all that gold
that made its way
to Switzerland.
But until then, it's part
of the significant tally
that remains lost.
By 1948, 3 years after
the end of World War 2
the United States government
begins to slow down efforts
to locate any additional
stolen Nazi goods.
But a global army
of amateur treasure hunters
picks up the mantle,
and in 2015,
one team announces
a breakthrough.
September 4th,
Lower Silesia, Poland.
Researchers Piotr Koper
and Andres Richter
claim that they know
where to find
a massive cache
of Nazi treasure.
Koper is Polish,
Richter is German.
Together, they release
an announcement that they have
received a deathbed confession
from a former German officer
who knew the whereabouts
of a train
laden with Nazi gold
that was on its way
through Poland
and back to Germany,
but it never made it
to its destination.
During the war, Hitler orders
that 330 tons of gold
will be loaded onto a train
and moved west
to a more secure location.
If this story is true,
this would represent
a giant chunk of the gold
that we think is still missing.
According to Koper and Richter,
the planned route of the train
was from Breslau
to somewhere in Germany,
but at some point
the train was diverted and sent
near the city of Bydgoszcz.
The question is,
where did it go from there?
The pair starts by looking
for potential hiding spots
along the train route.
Hitler is many things,
but he's not shortsighted.
And by 1943, he sees
how the tides of the war
are starting to turn.
Allied air raids are increasing,
and they're taking a toll
on Hitler's war machine.
So, he starts making plans
for worst-case scenarios.
This is the beginning
of Project Riese,
Hitler's attempt to fortify
and move his operations
Project Riese was
a German construction project
during the Second World War
that sought to establish
this very extensive
underground bunker network
in the Owl Mountains in Silesia.
The Nazis excavate
a massive labyrinth of tunnels.
Though it's never finished,
some suspect the purpose
is to create
an underground headquarters
and miles of underground
safe from Allied bombers.
Koper and Richter
zero in on a location
near the Project Riese tunnels.
It's a widely held belief
in Poland
that this Nazi gold train
could have entered
Project Riese locations,
and then ended up
where Koper and Richter
are actually looking.
At some point in 2015,
Koper and Richter went
without a license and used
ground-penetrating radar
to do a readout of a site
along the Bydgoszcz rail line.
And they believed
that this showed
an underground structure,
which they believed
was the correct density
to be a train.
Encouraged, the researchers
share their evidence
with the local press.
As Koper and Richter's
claim sort of gets out,
the Polish government,
both local and national,
are forced to respond.
And by and large,
they seem to support
the assertion that the train
is there.
Polish Deputy Culture
Minister Piotr Zuchowski
throws the weight of
the government behind the claim,
saying that there's
a 99% probability
that a train
more than 300 feet long
was found in the Owl Mountains.
Later, it's also revealed
that Koper and Richter
have made a pretty sweet deal
with the Polish government,
saying basically, "Hey,
if you support the excavation,
we'll give you
90% of the profits."
It's an astronomical figure
if it pans out.
This, of course,
ignites a media circus,
and the hunt is on.
Before they can dig,
the Polish Army
is sent in to secure the area.
All of Europe was littered
with munitions after the war,
and in this area in particular,
it was a hotspot
of German activity.
So, before there can be
any digging,
they have to perform a UXO,
or unexploded ordnance search.
Then, they clear-cut
the area of its trees.
Finally, they scan
and probe the area
to certify that there are
no dangerous explosives below.
On August 15th, 2016,
Koper and Richter, along with
a large group of volunteers,
officially begin digging.
This team consisted
of about 60 people.
They had a geologist,
they had engineers,
they had laborers,
of course Koper and Richter.
The cost of this dig amounted
to about $130,000,
and it was all funded privately.
After one week of digging,
the team halts their work,
finding no evidence of a train,
train tracks, or any other
manmade objects,
at least not to a depth
of 60 feet.
They found that this GPR anomaly
turned out to be a natural
geologic formation.
Koper and Richter
didn't give up,
because at this point,
they claimed to have found
many other anomalies,
but they simply didn't have
the funds to excavate them.
Richter eventually
leaves the team,
but Koper continues to search
for the Nazi gold train.
In 2021, he announces
he's found new evidence
of a train at the bottom
of a lake in a Polish village.
Additional site analysis
is ongoing,
so hopes of recovering
this particular stash
of Nazi gold aren't over yet.
By 2016, most searches for
stolen nazi plunder
are helmed by amateur
Among them, German
treasure hunter Jurgen Proske,
who's working on
a unique approach.
Proske's taken
a different method
for looking into
looted Nazi gold,
whereas others are more consumed
by trying to find additional
hordes or deposits of gold
that are undiscovered out there.
What Proske is doing,
is he's looking at the records
associated with hordes that have
already been discovered
to determine
if anything was overlooked.
He turns his attention
to a story
that unfolds in 1945
at Mittenwald, Germany,
right near the Austrian border.
There, on April 20th, 1945,
Nazi Colonel Franz Pfeiffer
and six officers
gather at a German
military base.
this is Hitler's birthday.
The Allies are closing in,
and Pfeiffer is given
one final mission
to hide a stash of Nazi gold.
The Nazis consider this gold
their last best hope
for preserving
the future of the regime.
The aim is to hide it
until they can return to power
and a new Reich can be formed,
which will be funded
by the gold.
Pfeiffer swears
his men to secrecy,
then orders 365 sacks of gold
loaded onto a convoy of trucks.
The order itself comes
from Reichsfuhrer-SS,
Heinrich Himmler.
Himmler orders several
truckloads of looted valuables
to be transported to the area
where Pfeiffer is in command.
The Nazi's first plan
is to hide it
in this bowling alley
that was abandoned.
So, they bring it all there,
and they deposit it
in the building.
Then, days later,
Allied forces are approaching.
They have to go back, take it
all out of the bowling alley
and find someplace else
to hide it.
It's clear they're gonna
have to move this stuff
much farther away.
So, they choose
a new destination
a lodge up in the mountains
outside of a little town
called Einsiedl.
The lodge is owned
by a man named Hans Neuhauser,
who lives there with his wife
and son.
And Hans basically has no choice
but to let the Nazis in
and do whatever they say.
After unloading
the gold at Neuhauser's lodge,
the Nazis next use mules
to move it
further into the mountains.
In the span of just 24 hours,
the Nazis had dug pits,
and they deposited gold
into these, and then
covered them back up.
And it's none too soon,
because the Allies
arrive on scene
three days later.
The freshly dug pits
are easily spotted
by the Allied soldiers.
In total, 12 tons
of gold bullion is unearthed,
valued at nearly three-quarters
of a billion dollars today.
So, they recover this gold.
It's another great true story
of buried Nazi treasure
that continues to inspire
treasure hunters today.
Most treasure hunters
use this story as evidence
that other undisclosed locations
of Nazi gold may exist.
But not Proske.
Proske decides to keep looking
into this story.
What if the Allies
never found all the treasure?
Is there any evidence to suggest
that some of this
did in fact get left behind?
Sure enough,
Proske finds that evidence.
In 2016, amongst
a collection of antiques,
Proske finds the diary
of a former Nazi officer,
and in it, this guy claims
to have taken
some of the Einsiedl gold
and put it in his own
secret hiding spot.
The diary says that
about $7 million of Nazi gold
was stolen by this officer
and hidden somewhere nearby.
Remember, this is gold
the Nazis stole
that this officer
then stole from them.
According to the diary,
the officer hid the gold
near the base of a steep hill.
On top of the hill
is a flat area with a hut.
To Proske, this is like
a pirate treasure map
that's gonna lead him
right to the gold.
There's just one problem.
The story in the diary
doesn't end after the war.
It continues.
Several years later,
the officer goes back
to this location
to dig up the gold.
When he returns,
he can't find it.
He lost it.
The ensuing years
have changed the landscape,
so it looks very different
from when the officer
first buried it.
If that isn't karma,
I don't know what it is.
So, what does this say
to Proske?
It says maybe that gold
is still out there
waiting to be found.
And Proske has something
the officer didn't
a metal detector.
So far, Proske has
made dozens of trips
to this area looking
for the Nazi gold.
And he's found
several promising leads.
He's found grenades,
a Nazi helmet, ammunition
all things which indicate
activity in the area.
And this isn't a place
that had any active fighting
during the war.
These artifacts mean
that maybe one or more Nazis
were up to something
in this area.
Maybe hiding gold.
So far,
Proske hasn't found any gold.
But like any good
treasure hunter,
he's still at it.
In 2019, decades after the
end of world war 2
a new lead to the location
of lost Nazi treasure emerges.
A Masonic lodge in Quedlinburg
in Germany decides
that they want
to atone for their associations
with Adolf Hitler and the
National Socialist Third Reich.
They have hung onto a large
quantity of documents
relating to the Nazi
time period,
including a diary
that was maintained
by a former SS officer
who wrote under
the assumed name Michaelis.
They decide to give
all this memorabilia
to the Silesian
Bridge Foundation,
a Polish-German
antidiscrimination cooperative,
as sort of an apologetic
At first, the Silesian
Bridge Foundation
accepts all this stuff.
Just, "Thank you very much."
It's just a nice way to accept
and heal some of the wounds
from the past.
But when they start
to read the diary,
they realize this gesture
could be worth much more.
It immediately becomes clear
why the author used a pseudonym,
because the diary details
11 different locations
that Himmler himself picked out
to hide Nazi treasures.
Many of these locations
are thought
to include gold coins,
metals, jewelry
items that were deposited
with Nazi police
for safekeeping
as Allied forces approached.
One of these locations
is described
as having 47 valuable pieces
of art from artists
to include Botticelli
and Rembrandt.
The Silesian Bridge
decides to go
and inspect some
of these locations,
and they choose
as their starting point
the biggest horde of them all,
and it's a location
that is supposedly warehousing
28 tons of Nazi gold.
It's hidden in an abandoned
called Hochberg Palace.
The foundation
puts together a search team
led by their president,
Roman Furmaniak.
The location
actually makes sense,
because Hochberg Palace
has a special reputation
as a Nazi hangout
during World War II.
During the Second
World War, the German military
maintained a network
of bordellos
some for the common soldiers,
some for the officers.
And during World War II,
Hochberg Palace
was what they called
an offizieres bordelle,
meaning an officers' bordello.
It's not all that far-fetched
to assume
that there might have been
some hidden treasure here.
People are constantly
coming in and out
of this location,
so Furmaniak actually obtains
eyewitness accounts of people
who said they saw treasure
being stored in the palace.
Unfortunately, since the war,
this site has severely
making it dangerous to explore.
The team starts
carefully searching the area.
They use
ground-penetrating radar
to sweep the area
for safety purposes,
and in the process,
may have actually revealed
the hiding spot.
The diary says the gold,
48 crates of it,
are buried 200 feet down
at the bottom of a well.
This well would have been
encased in metal.
And in their initial scan,
the team discovers
what appears to be
a large metal casing.
by this promising find,
the foundation hopes
to begin digging soon.
It takes time to coordinate
these big search efforts
like this.
You have to work
with the government,
you have to work with
local authorities.
There's always the danger
of unexploded ordnance,
so you have to coordinate
with the military as well.
They're only just now
beginning this excavation
at Hochberg Palace,
and who knows what they'll find.
Can you imagine $1.7 billion
worth of Nazi gold
being returned to its victims?
I hope it happens.
The world is watching.
In addition to their research
at Hochberg Palace,
the Silesian Bridge Foundation
hopes to explore the other
10 sites in the diary
one by one.
Each brings a fresh chance
to fully recover
the missing treasure.
And perhaps, one day,
more will be found.
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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