Nazi loot sparks treasure hunt in the Netherlands

Muddy holes dot the ground of a Dutch village where a map purportedly showing the location of Nazi loot buried during World War II sparked an invasion of treasure hunters.

“It stimulates the imagination,” notes with amusement Klaas Tammes, president of the foundation that owns the land at the center of attention, in Ommeren, in the east of the country.

The Dutch national archives unveiled in early January a hand-drawn map featuring a red cross that would mark the spot where German soldiers hid their treasure.

According to documents from the archives, eyewitness accounts claim that four ammunition crates filled with jewellery, gemstones, gold coins and music boxes were buried, with an estimated current total value of almost eleven million euros.

Klaas Tammes, president of the foundation that owns the land where Nazi loot dating from World War II is believed to be buried, shows a map on his smartphone on January 14, 2023 in Ommeren, the Netherlands (AFP – Simon Wohlfahrt )

“All kinds of people came to look for” these goods which would have been collected by German soldiers after the bombing of a bank in 1944, told AFP Mr. Tammes, 74, former mayor of the village, in front of his house. built on the remains of a former Nazi headquarters.

But the loot “has not yet been found”, he smiles.

– “Unprecedented interest” –

A few steps from his home, muddy holes still bear witness to the excavations, along a tree-lined path and a shallow ditch, consistent with the drawings on the map.

A muddy hole at the dig site in Ommeren, where Nazi loot dating from World War II is believed to have been buried, on January 14, 2023 in the Netherlands (AFP - Simon Wohlfahrt)
A muddy hole at the dig site in Ommeren, where Nazi loot dating from World War II is believed to have been buried, on January 14, 2023 in the Netherlands (AFP – Simon Wohlfahrt)

Many people armed with metal detectors have flocked to the peaceful village in recent days, leading the municipality to impose a digging ban and prompting the police to send new treasure hunters out as soon as they arrive.

But some persist.

“Our interest was immediately aroused,” says Hendrik Hingstman to AFP.

His father Lammert is one of the many people to have rushed to Ommeren. They hope to obtain a permit to excavate soon.

“This interest was unprecedented for the National Archives”, raises Erwin Tuil, spokesperson for the institution.

Klaas Tames consults archives concerning Nazi loot from the Second World War which was allegedly buried in Ommeren, on January 14, 2023 in the Netherlands (AFP - Simon Wohlfahrt )
Klaas Tames consults archives concerning Nazi loot from the Second World War which was allegedly buried in Ommeren, on January 14, 2023 in the Netherlands (AFP – Simon Wohlfahrt )

Documents from the Dutch Investigation Service (CVO) show at least three unsuccessful attempts to find the treasure in the spring of 1947 following the testimony of Helmut Sonder, a German soldier who was allegedly involved in hiding the treasure.

Several scenarios can explain the failure of these excavations, according to the CVO: the treasure is only the fruit of the imagination of the soldier, although his testimony was considered reliable.

The loot could also have been recovered by people involved in its concealment or by CVO employees.

– “Moved earth” –

Archival documents also refer to a final search in August 1947, during which CVO employees reportedly observed “the disturbed earth”, before being approached by two American officers.

Klaas Tammes observes replicas of coins from a treasure discovered in the region in 2016, on January 14, 2023 at the Baron van Brakell regional museum, in Ommeren, the Netherlands (AFP - Simon Wohlfahrt )
Klaas Tammes observes replicas of coins from a treasure discovered in the region in 2016, on January 14, 2023 at the Baron van Brakell regional museum, in Ommeren, the Netherlands (AFP – Simon Wohlfahrt )

“There is therefore also a chance that the Americans have beaten them to it,” Tuil told AFP.

Mr. Tammes believes the treasure was buried in Ommeren before being recovered after the war. But there is “no proof” of this, he points out, adding that the museum belonging to his foundation has also requested authorization to excavate.

“This story will continue for some time,” he observes.

The wave of treasure hunters remains a source of curiosity for the villagers.

“We see a lot of police acting when people start digging here in the woods,” says Aart van Ommeren, 65, retired.

“It’s nice to be the center of attention for a while,” said Teunis Kramp, 69, a volunteer at the local museum, before adding: “Maybe people will come back for the treasure this summer, but I don’t give them much of a chance” to find it.

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