The search for nearly 18 crates of stolen Nazi gold has begun, but this is no ordinary treasure hunt. Led by Israeli investigative journalst Yaron Svoray, the nearly-$1 billion worth of stolen loot sits at the bottom of Stolpsee, a 988-acre stretch of water to the north of the German capital, Berlin.
Svoray, who has the backing of German authorities, will use sonar and radar equipment to try and locate the gold, which is believed to have been dropped into the lake under the orders of Hermann Goering as the Red Army made its final push for Berlin in March, 1945.
Eckhard Litz, witnessed the disposal of the crates, telling a post-war commission that he saw around 30 concentration camp prisoners unloading them from trucks parked by the Stolpsee. The boxes were then ferried into the middle of the lake, and thrown into its waters.
“When the last case had been thrown overboard, the men returned to shore, were lined up and the last thing I saw were the flashes of the machine guns of the guards as they were killed,” Mr Litz told the commission, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph.
Svoray has spent much of his life tracking anti-Semites and hunting for Nazi treasure. His attempt to find the Stolpsee treasure is not the first. In the 1980s when the lake lay behind the Iron Curtain, the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, used combat divers to hunt for the gold, and two years ago a group of businessmen also went searching for it.
The search has been reignited by a local priest, Erich Koehler, 79, who has researched the legend of the treasure and who was a pastor near the lake during the East German communist regime.
“They didn’t have the technology in the former East Germany to properly examine the lake,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail.
“But there are enough local people still around to know that the gold is there – and the bodies of the poor souls forced to dump it into the water.”
Mr Svoray said that the vast wealth accumulated by Nazi officials during the war has provided him with another reason to find the gold.
“To me it is not just about the treasure, but also about the people who had it taken from them,” he explained. “My goal is to finally earn them a bit of justice.”