'Digging Frenzy' for Nazi Treasure Comes to a Halt

Search for jewels, gold, silver rumored to be buried near tree in Dutch town of Ommeren is called off
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2023 12:49 PM CST
Updated May 2, 2023 11:51 AM CDT
Release of Map Sparks Hunt for Nazi Treasure
X marks the spot where authorities searched for the treasure in 1947.   (Netherlands National Archives)
UPDATE May 2, 2023 11:51 AM CDT

The "digging frenzy" is over. A treasure hunt near the Dutch village of Ommeren, prompted by the release of a map that purported to show where Nazi soldiers had buried $20 million worth of loot, has been called off, per Dutch News. A number of digs looking for the treasure all came up empty. The New York Times talks to some of the searchers, who only managed to excavate some iron wire, scrap metal, and a 9mm WWII-era bullet. "The mystery of the treasure will stay intact," says one resident.

Jan 9, 2023 12:49 PM CST

Treasure hunters with shovels and metal detectors descended on a village in the eastern Netherlands following the release of a map showing where Nazi soldiers are believed to have buried a stash of treasure in the final weeks of World War II. The map, with a red X marking where the treasure was supposedly buried in the roots of a poplar tree near the village of Ommeren, was released as part of a research file from the late 1940s when the 75-year period of confidentiality expired, reports Reuters. According to the file, a German soldier identified as Helmut S. said soldiers had buried four ammunition boxes containing diamonds, rubies, gold, silver, and jewelry, worth the equivalent of almost $20 million in today's money, the Observer reports. According to the file, the treasure was looted from a bank in Arnhem in late 1944.

Annet Waalkens of the Netherlands National Archives tells the Observer that authorities found out about the treasure because Helmut S. was "a bit loose-lipped back in Berlin." He gave authorities the map and returned to the Netherlands for one of three unsuccesful searches in 1946 and 1947. Authorities suspect that the soldiers may have returned and moved it—or that it was taken by locals who witnessed the Germans burying it as they prepared to retreat. According to the research file, officials also suspected American soldiers. Waalkens says that during the third search, officials encountered two American officers and noted that the soil in the area had been disturbed. According to the file, of the four soldiers involved in burying the treasure, two didn't survive the war and a third one vanished. It's not clear whether the fourth, Helmut S., is still alive.

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Treasure hunters turned up in the area last week despite the apparently slim chances of finding anything. "Like a lot of people, the news about the treasure made me go look for myself," a 57-year-old man told Reuters. "The chance of the treasure still being here after 70 years is very small I think, but I want to give it a try." Days after the map was released, local officials warned against digging for treasure in the area, citing the risk of encountering land mines or unexploded bombs from World War II, reports DutchNews.nl. Treasure hunters were warned to stay off private land and officials said digging or using metal detectors could only be done with a permit, per Omroep Gelderland. (More buried treasure stories.)

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