Since the end of WW2, many expeditions and illegal salvage hunts have claimed the lives of at least seven treasure hunters searching for the fabled lost gold of the Third Reich.
Archival reports document the final days of the Second World War, during which the Allies forced Hitler into submission. Those days in May of 1945 saw a number of Nazi leaders head out into the Austrian wilderness and dump what is thought to be lost Nazi gold into Lake Toplitz.
History records many metal crates were submerged under the mud below 103 metres of log-infested lake water, which once served as a Nazi naval base, deep in the forest 61 miles from Salzburg.
But nobody knows what exactly was contained in the mysterious boxes, which were transported to the Toplitz by military vehicles as well as horse-and-wagon.
Some theorists believe they contain gold looted by the SS during their rein of terror across Europe. Others believe they contain documents showing where assets confiscated from Jewish victims were hidden in Swiss bank accounts, according to The Guardian.
Explorers have spent over 60 years trying to recover the fabled artefacts and in 2005 the state company which controls the lake, Bundesforste AG, signed a contract with Norman Scott, an American treasure hunter, who had hoped to solve the mystery.
Irwin Klissenbauer, a director of Bundesforste AG, told The Guardian:
This is a beautiful area. You have heard of Loch Ness. For Austrians this has been a bit like Loch Ness. Lots of people come here. And whether there is gold down there or not, the mystery has been very good for tourism.
I really don’t know if there is anything down there, but we want to resolve the mystery once and for all. The aim at first is to measure the lake. Obviously if they recover anything which has an identifiable owner, under Austrian law we have to give it back.
But amid the explorations, treasure hunters have died seeking their loot, including an unnamed US navy diver who died in 1947 when he became entangled in Lake Toplitz’s many submerged logs and drowned.
Albrecht Syen, whose family run a restaurant on the banks of Lake Toplitz, knows the legends well, and said:
Dozens of local people claim a number of crates were hidden in the Toplitzsee during the last days of the Second World War. Since then there has been repeated speculation that those crates contained the last gold reserves of the Third Reich.
Over the years some treasure hunters have paid with their lives for their carelessness, while trying their luck in this lake, where diving is actually prohibited.
£72 million of bank notes have been discovered in Lake Toplitz on a mission funded by German magazine Stern. The stash of cash was part of a counterfeiting plot called Operation Bernhard hatched by the Nazis to try and destabilise Britain and the U.S.
Other missions have simply thrown up a load of old, sodden logs from the murky depths, as well as a crate of beer bottle lids, dropped down there as an apparent practical joke.
Theorists and hopeful divers alike believe there could be more treasure in the lake, including the fabled Nazi gold, which is said to total millions in notes, as well as the treasures stolen from disenfranchised Jewish citizens.
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