Hidden Treasure in the Mountains of Austria?
Tales of vast hidden treasures in the mountains of Austria just won't go away, there may be a very good reason for this. As with all great treasure stories there are multiple versions of the same story with varying levels of detail and credibility.
Hidden Nazi Gold In The Mountains of Austria: Version 1
As world war two drew to a close Hitler is said to have ordered his elite soldiers, the notorious elite Schutzstaffel (the SS), to make a last stand in the mountains of Austria, the impenetrable Alps being the perfect base from which to fight a prolonged guerrilla war.
Above: A 1945 U.S. Army map showing the possible extent of the 'National Redoubt' the mountainous area from which the SS and the Werwolves would mount their guerrilla war.
Networks of tunnels  had already been prepared. They had originally been piled high with all the war materials and supplies the SS would need, it was even rumoured that large underground arms and munitions factories had been constructed.
However, supply difficulties and the continued Allied bombing of Germany's industrial centres meant that by the time the end came all the supplies in the National Redoubt were long gone and the SS had been smashed by the approaching Allied and Soviet forces. They would never get to make their last stand in the Alpenfestung (Alpine Fortress).
Hitler's armies had spent years looting the treasuries and museums of the countries they had conquered, wealthy Jews had their possessions, property and art collections confiscated.
The Nazi high command, realising that defeat was inevitable, decided to ensure that the looted treasures would not fall into the hands of the rapidly advancing allies or soviets and hid the gold and art treasures in the tunnels of the national redoubt.
As the saying goes, 'don't put all of your eggs in one basket.' The treasures were split up and hidden in many tunnel systems in the mountains, and although some of these treasure and art caches were discovered by advancing allied troops (such as the Merkers mine treasure), others weren't and remain undiscovered in the Alps to this day.
The Allied high command certainly believed the National Redoubt existed  and it seems many Nazis did too, but ultimately it was a myth . The Nazis had been planning an evacuation of high ranking political and military figures to the redoubt, but the operation was not approved by Hitler.
The national redoubt plan was seized upon by the minister for propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, and tales of its existence became completely blown out of all proportion.
The last stand did happen, but not in the mountains of southern Germany and Austria and it was no where near as effective as Hitler and his Generals would have liked, nor was any kind of continuation government established in the redoubt.
A great deal of the material looted by the Nazis is still missing, that is a fact, the big question is what happened to it. Was it destroyed in allied bombing raids? Is it still hidden in a mine or tunnel somewhere? Many claim that the bulk of the missing art and gold is in Russia, removed by the Red Army under the orders of Joseph Stalin. None or all of these answers may be true.
Nazi Gold Recovered
The largest single cache of gold and art was not found in a secret underground fortress, but in a salt mine near the village of Merkers. It seems that the Merkers salt mine was first used as a store for gold and art in March 1945 when the Germans sought a safe place for the art and wealth of the Reichsbank, away from the non stop bombing and shelling. Other locations had been considered, but were found to be too damp for storing important paintings and the huge quantities of banknotes.
The Merkers treasure was captured by the Americans on the 7th of April 1945. Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton and Omar N. Bradley visited the mine soon after its discovery to inspect the treasure and to ensure its safe removal to another secure location away from the rapidly advancing Soviets, the allies feared the loss of the art and gold to the Russians as much as the Germans did.
The Merkers Mine
Partial list of material recovered from the Merkers mine:
- 8,198 bars of gold bullion
- 55 boxes of crated gold bullion
- 1,300 bags of gold Reichsmarks
- 711 bags of American twenty-dollar gold pieces
- 2.76 billion Reichsmarks
- 20 silver bars
- 40 bags containing silver bars
- 63 boxes and 55 bags of silver plate
- 1 bag containing six platinum bars
Photographs Taken at the Merkers Mine in April, 1945
The Florentine Art Treasure
Gold bars are reportedly still found in the fields of Blaa Alm, Altaussee, Austria [*]
ii) One such underground tunnel network, known as Gallery 16 (located near the village of Redl Zipf, Austria), was used to store the banknote presses used in Operation Bernhard, a Nazi plot to flood Britain with counterfeit Pound notes. Before Operation Bernhard went into full effect the project was shut down and countless millions in forged banknotes were dumped into Lake Toplitz. Banknotes produced by Operation Bernhard were used to purchase essential raw materials from South America and other nations friendly/neutral to the Nazi cause, so eventually thousands of Operation Bernhard banknotes found their way into circulation in the UK, so many in fact that the Bank of England was forced to withdraw Banknotes from circulation and redesign them. Some sources have said that the Operation Bernhard bank notes were the best forgeries ever produced.
'The Redoubt existed largely in the imagination of a few fanatical Nazis. It grew into so exaggerated a scheme that I am astonished we could have believed it as innocently as we did. But while it persisted, this legend . . . shaped our tactical thinking.' - General Omar Bradley
'The National Redoubt? It's a romantic dream. It's a myth.' - Lieutenant-General Kurt Dittmar.
[*] Nazi Millionaires, Kenneth D. Alford, Theodore P. Savas, 2002.