Feature Nazi Loot

Find out more about the treasure Nazis were hiding in WWII.

Nazi Loot

More from Gwen on Nazi loot in World War II.

The discovery of the Merkers mine in 1945 remains one of the great treasure stories of all time.

General Patton's 3rd Army had received intelligence reports about tons of gold, jewels, and priceless art stored in salt caverns some 200 miles southwest of Berlin.

On April 8th, the army dynamited the entrance.

Inside, G.I.s found the shocking remnants of six years of war and Nazi terror.

Piled high were art masterpieces and the bulk of the reserve from the German Central Bank.

Those reserves included 8,000 bars of gold, 55 boxes of gold bullion, and hundreds of bales of foreign currency. Much of this treasure had been plundered from the museums and central banks of occupied European countries.

Excitement about the discovery was tempered with a grisly realization: Hitler's S.S. had also used the mine to horde gold and jewels taken from death camp inmates, including dental fillings, wedding rings, and personal effects.

One woman's handbag still smelled of her perfume.

Although the Merkers mine was located in an area designated as Soviet-controlled, the American army quickly removed its contents before the Soviets arrived.

Following the war, much of the gold was divided among the Tripartite Gold Commission: France, Britain, and America.

In recent years, Holocaust survivors have sought to claim some of the several million dollars' worth of gold that remains stored at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

Image source: A painting by the French impressionist Edouard Manet, titled "Wintergarden", discovered in the vault at Merkers. 4/25/45, National Archives

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