One of the criminal acts of Hitler and the Third Reich was to confiscate the riches of the countries they were occupying. It was not the worst of the atrocities, but it was up there. By confiscating the food and money of these countries, the Nazis left the people in those countries broke and starving. Even as the Third Reich began to know they were losing the war, there was hope that they would go into hiding, re-group, and rise again. If that was going to happen, they were going to need money, and the only way to insure that was to begin mass confiscation and hiding of the riches of these nations.
Lake Toplitz was located in a very remote area of Austria, southeast of Salzburg. In modern day Austria, the area is appropriately called The Dead Mountains. Basically, if you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all, Lake Toplitz is a good choice. During the war, the lake’s remoteness made it the perfect place for the Nazis to test weapons…including torpedoes. It was also one of the places the Nazi elite fled to when it came time to make their last stand. That fact, in and of itself, makes it a logical place to hide funds for a future comeback of the Third Reich.
In 1945, Hitler’s Germany had only a few more weeks before their horrific reign ended, found themselves stuck in the middle, being crushed by the Russian tanks coming in from the east, and the Americans and British from the north. As their fronts collapsed, the Nazis made several efforts to hide their stolen wealth and treasure. The practice of hiding the wealth is well known, because a lot of that hidden wealth has already been discovered in mines, underground bunkers, and hastily buried fortifications.
Everyone seemed to be looking for the buried treasure left by the Nazis. At one time, a pair of treasure hunters announced they found the location of a buried German armored train in the hills of Poland. Their claim seemed possible, so a search was held. In the end, it was determined that the “train” was nothing more than an ice covered rock formation. Still, the possibility of a treasure train is very real. Unfortunately, the big news about the “train” caused such a stir that another find was all but lost to the world.
There had been stories about plunder the Nazis may have hidden in the cold, deep waters of Lake Toplitz, as the Allies closed in. Reports came out that the lake held iron boxes full of counterfeit British currency and the printing plates to make more…a part of Hitler’s Operation Bernhard, which was a plan to wreck the British economy by flooding the world with fake bank notes. That report turned out to be true, when dive crews recovered several chests stuffed with counterfeit cash in 1959. The divers reported there were more chests stuck in the mud, but they were too deep to recover. More stories about Nazi plunder at the bottom of Lake Toplitz surfaced. The nephew of one German officer made the claim that the Nazis sank chests loaded with gold into the lake. Plates from the lost fabled Russian Imperial Amber Room, which had also been rumored to be on the Nazi gold train in Poland, are also thought by others to be on the bottom of the icy lake. Along with treasure there are stories of weapons components, ammunition, rocket fuel, and maps showing the locations of even more stolen Nazi loot.
There have been many attempts to salvage treasure from the bottom of the lake over the years, with most of them ending in death. The lake is deep and cold, and has many tangled trees and branches that can trap a person. In 1983 the Austrian government declared the lake had been completely searched and anything of value removed. That turned out to be a fake story designed to discourage treasure hunters. Biologists studying the lake have turned up more boxes of counterfeit currency, rocket parts, weapons, mines and even a torpedo since the government report. Later, photographs from a submerged bunker surfaced, showing boxes with Cyrillic lettering. These are what led to the speculation that the boxes might contain panels from the Amber Room. The exact location of the bunker has been hidden from the public.
I expect that people will continue to try to find the treasures, even though claims will most likely be laid upon them immediately after they are located. The people who find them will probably only get the recognition for the find, rather than the right to keep the treasure. Maybe with an attorney who is good enough, they will walk away with a finders fee.