Digging begins by HAND for 10 tonnes of Nazi gold hidden in grounds of 18th century palace
Treasure hunters have started digging at the site where they believe 10 tonnes of Nazi gold and other valuables stolen by Himmler’s SS are hidden.
The dig at an old orangery in the palace grounds in the village of Minkowskie is being carried out by the Silesian Bridge Foundation which says it has a war diary written by a Waffen SS officer at the end of the war.
The diary is said to detail the hiding places of the treasures intended for the creation of a Fourth Reich to continue the war.
The dig is the first from among 11 treasure sites mentioned in the diary.
Roman Furmaniak from the Foundation said: “We know we are looking in the right place because the foundation spoke several times to Inge (a woman entrusted with the gold’s safety) before she died and she told us to look here.
“We will dig to a depth of 5 metres. The site was secured by specialists 75 years ago, so we need specialists now to uncover it.”
He added that they may find five French prisoners of war who are said to have been murdered immediately after helping to dig the hiding place.
Last week, the Foundation revealed a letter said to have been written by an SS officer to his lover.
Part of a bundle of documents handed to the Foundation by a mystery Lodge called Quedlinberg, the letter asks the woman to help protect the treasures.
The officer, who signed the letter von Stein, wrote: 'My dear Inge, I will fufill my assignment, with God's will.
“Some transports were successful. The remaining 48 heavy Reichsbank's chests and all the family chests I hereby entrust to you.
“Only you know where they are located. May God help you and help me, fulfil my assignment.”
Prior to the dig starting, the foundation said it had found a bayonet in Inge’s old house.
Furmaniak said: “We know from the Quedlinberg lodge that Inge had a bayonet and two guns.
“She would have hidden them because if the Russians found them it would have been very dangerous for her.”
In 1944, Hitler ordered Breslau to be turned into a fortress that was to be defended to the last soldier against the advancing Red Army.
Being one of the wealthiest cities in the Third Reich, the Germans planned to hide tonnes of gold and other valuables stored in the Reichsbank as well as deposits in private banks.
According to legend, the treasure was stored in the police headquarters and packed into crates before being transported under an SS guard from Breslau towards Hirschberg, today’s Jelenia Góra, and the Sudeten mountains.
Soon after, the trail went dead and the gold has never been seen or heard of since.
One of the theories is that it was stolen on Himmler’s orders to go towards the creation of a Fourth Reich.
Included among the treasures were not only gold but also coins, medals, jewellery and other valuables deposited by wealthy people.
The diary describes one cache as containing 47 works of art of international importance, believed to be stolen from collections in France, including works by Botticelli, Rubens, Cezanne, Carravagio, Monet, Dürer, Rafael and Rembrandt.
Another treasure stash is said to contain religious objects gathered by Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which hoovered up sacred items from around the world in an attempt to find evidence for Hitler’s racial theories.
The Silesian Bridge Foundation has now taken a 10-year lease on the Minkowskie palace and says that it hopes that finding the gold will add to it’s appeal to visitors and that it will be possible to refurbish the palace in the future.
Furmaniak said: “We are described everywhere as treasure hunters. In fact we want nothing for ourselves.
“The goal of the Quedlinburg Lodge and therefore the foundation is to hand these deposits over to their rightful owners in the interests of world heritage as an act of atonement for the Second World War.”
He added: “We are making preparations as we speak to start digging at the other ten sites, where we expect to find much more.”
Excavation work at the site is expected to carry on for most of May.