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Metal Detecting UK Home > Nazi Gold > Hidden Treasure in the Mountains of Austria?

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.

National Redoubt - Nazi Gold

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 [1] 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.

Reality

The Allied high command certainly believed the National Redoubt existed [2] and it seems many Nazis did too, but ultimately it was a myth [2][3]. 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[4]:

Photographs Taken at the Merkers Mine in April, 1945

US Generals Merkers Mine in April, 1945, Nazi Gold Treasure Merkers Mine in April, 1945, Nazi Gold Treasure US Generals Merkers Mine in April, 1945, Nazi Gold looted art Treasures
Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar N. Bradley (r) examine a suitcase of German loot stored in the Merkers salt mine (NARA 111 - SC -204515) In a salt mine in Merkers, Germany in 1945, the 90th Division, U.S. Third Army, discovered Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and paintings from Berlin (NARA 111 - SC -205409) General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by General Omar Bradley and Lt. Gen. George Patton, Jr., inspects stolen art treasures (NARA #SC - 204516)
US Generals Merkers Mine in April, 1945, Nazi Gold Treasure US Soldiers Merkers Mine in April, 1945, Nazi Gold Art Treasures US soldiers at the Merkers Mine in April, 1945, Nazi Gold Art Treasures
General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Allied commander, accompanied by General Omar N. Bradley, CG of the 12th Army Group; MG Manton Eddy, CG, XII Corps, and COL Bernard Burnstern, tours German salt mines in which stolen treasure was hidden. 4/12/45. RG 111-SC-204517

Corporal Donald Ornitz examines painting in the Merkers Mine (NARA-111 - SC - 374692)

U.S. Soldiers examine Edouard Manet's 'In the Conservatory,' April 25, 1945 (NARA #SC - 203453 -S)

The Florentine Art Treasure

US Troops Return The Florentine Art Treasure US Troops Return The Florentine Art Treasure
Six trucks with part of the half billion dollars worth of Florentine art treasure, which was taken to Bolsano by retreating Germans, arrives at Piazzo Dei Signoria, Florence, Italy and passes by reviewing stand of American, English and Italian officials. 7/21/45. RG 111-SC-210319 One of the trucks that transported the art treasures to Florence, Italy. The paintings had been stolen by the German Army and recovered by the U.S. Army and returned to the city of Florence. 7/23/45. RG 111-SC-210396

Gold bars are reportedly still found in the fields of Blaa Alm, Altaussee, Austria [*]

Nazi Gold Photo Gallery

[1]i)

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.

[2]'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

[3]'The National Redoubt? It's a romantic dream. It's a myth.' - Lieutenant-General Kurt Dittmar.

[4] Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure By Greg Bradsher

[*] Nazi Millionaires, Kenneth D. Alford, Theodore P. Savas, 2002.

With very special thanks to the National Archives and Records Administration for making these images available. Privacy and Cookie Policy