Nazi Treasure: the Amber Room – Discovery 10pm tonight 21Jun10


The hunt for the most notorious piece of Nazi treasure is on… The infamous Amber Room is the most valuable piece of missing art in the world. For more than 200 years these lavish wall panels, made entirely from carved amber, gems and gold, were the pride of the Russian czars – that is, before the Nazis looted the treasure in 1941. I pick up the story where it was last seen – in the medieval fortress in the city of Koenigsberg, (a city now called Kaliningrad, fondly known as the corridor of crime, a good place to go if you’re into trafficking people, guns, drugs, stolen cars or have a penchant for having your eyes stabbed out with a pencil)… onto Nazi hideouts across Europe to an underground German fortress, into secret Czech mine-shafts, and even drilling deep beneath a medieval castle used by the SS…. There’s some sneek peek video on the Solving History Page on the Discovery Site… But could there be a Swiss Connection? A number of our sources told us that the Amber Room would most probably have been hidden along with numbers to secret bank accounts… At first I didn’t realise the complexity and complicity of the Swiss involvement, but read my Dispatch below to see what I found out…

Wealth From Murder and Theft
The Nazis had a sick penchant for plundering every nation they invaded, most famously for their gold reserves and art. Germany began the war with reserves in the Reichsbank of around $208 million, of which some $97million represented gold already stolen from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Danzig. The total amount of gold looted by the Nazis during the war itself, not only from the defeated nations, such as Belgium, Holland and Hungary, but from Jewish and other victims, is now estimated at $580 million. The gold came from governments and civilians, including Jews murdered in concentration camps, from whom everything was taken down to the gold fillings of their teeth. Of this about $400 million (worth $4 billion today,) went to Switzerland either to the Swiss National Bank’s own account or through their banks to other nations. I’m ashamed to say, that I didn’t know that much about the Swiss connection during the war so I’ve been doing a bit of digging.

Nazi Gold Trading
The Swiss accepted some $280m ($2.8 billion today) on their own account and the rest went directly to the accounts of other countries (Portugal, Spain and Sweden, Turkey, Argentina) in payment for goods and raw materials. Most of it has never been recovered. The Bergier commission (an investigation set up by the Swiss Government) says 76% of Nazi gold transactions went through Switzerland and the volume of trade between Swiss private banks and war-time Germany was at least three times higher than earlier estimates indicated. The Swiss returned only $58 million in gold, keeping gold valued by a Swiss historian at $350 million ($3.5 billion at today’s prices!).

Sinister Swiss Accountants
They also kept most of an estimated $250 million to $500 million in liquidated German assets — even some from German Jews. Half of this was supposed to go to stateless victims, who finally got about $28 million. In 1962, Swiss banks began “finding” “lost” bank accounts, finally returning $9.5 million to rightful owners in the early 1970s. Pressed again in 1996, they suddenly “found” another $32 million in 1996. In the past few years, they have now apparently located $46.8 million in 5,600 “dormant” accounts opened by “foreigners” before May 1945. They are still a long way short of “finding” all the missing accounts.

Aiding the Enemy
The Swiss National Bank, as well as the Bank for International Settlements (based in Switzerland) openly carried out gold transactions between neutral central banks and the Reichsbank during the war, thus facilitating the Nazi war effort. The US War Department, Treasury Department, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Justice Department all accused the Swiss of also engaging in direct production for Nazi Germany and providing protection for their investments. Swiss shipping lines furnished Germany with a large number of boats for the transport of goods. Switzerland also allowed an unprecedented use of its railways to link Germany and Italy for the transport of coal and other goods. Switzerland provided Germany with arms, ammunition, aluminum, machinery and precision tools, as well as agricultural products. Swiss convoys carried products from Spain across France through Switzerland to Germany. This collaboration continued even as the Germans retreated and the threat of invasion evaporated. As late as early 1945, Switzerland gutted an agreement it had just reached with the United States to freeze German assets and to restrict purchases of gold from Germany.

An Amber Room Connection?
In the making of this film, we focused mainly on investigating the Amber Room, but the research in Nazi looting and especially the little known complicity of Switzerland, has truly helped to inform our wider understanding of these events. I’m obviously not saying that the Amber room in held in Swiss bank vaults (although anything is possible – and it seems very possible that the Amber Room could be hidden with numbers to Swiss bank accounts), but there is still a huge amount we don’t know about what happened during the war. The Nazi legacy, including the complicity of others and the location of some of their plunder, still remains unsolved.

A few more video links: (From the Discovery US Site for Solving History)
Mysterious nazi cargo:
Exploring Nazi Tunnels
Nazi Gold Hoard

Some Questions answered and previous discussions on my blog: Read here

4 Responses to “Nazi Treasure: the Amber Room – Discovery 10pm tonight”

  1. Ashley Knibb Says:

    Olly

    Saw the episode on Monday, but only just managed to get round to writing on here..

    As ever, a great report and very interesting. There is still loads of Nazi treasure out there to be found which was taken during the war and tracking that down would be cool.

    Sometimes we forget some of the more recent mysteries which deserve our attention also, like the Amber Room’s disappearance.

    Look forward to the next episode mate.

    On a paranormal note, my team investigated the UK’s Peterborough Museum at the weekend and had one of the most active investigations ever.

    Drop me an email if you are interested, have the time and want to know more!

    Laters

    Ashey

  2. Tan Says:

    Hi, Olly
    I am surprise that not many people asking question about the Amber Room, since is was the best one yet. Maybe they just don’t know where to start asking because is so many unanswered question. Anyway, just check-in as promised, we in the US miss your show and waiting for the new one. Take care and stay safe, Tan.
    PS. This one for Ashey, I do love the paranormal stuff too. Been watching Ghost Hunter every Wednesday on SYFY and Ghost Adventure every Sunday on Travel channel. Did you ever run into Ghost Hunter International (GHI)? They investigate all over the world, you can check them out at http://www.syfy.com/ I think some of them do base in UK.

  3. Ashley Knibb Says:

    Tan

    Sorry Olly to borrow your site to communicate to others !!

    I do watch GH and GHI, not forgetting Ghost Adventures of course. Never ran into them though, although would be good to have them join us for an investigation!

    My team have been hard at work investigating though! We have a feature in Ghost Voices Magazine which covers our reports on investigations. We also post an episode on our website for each investigation. Just head to http://www.farsightfiles.co.uk, then select Farsight TV, then click ‘On Deman’ then select Farsight Files… Enjoy !

    Again sorry Olly, didn’t mean to hijack your site to advertise my own honest !!

    Watching the latest episode of Mystery Investigator righ now though – Hitlers Mummies, interesting stuff! I would love to investigate some locations you have access to.

    Ash

  4. pauline Says:

    wished yr programme could hv been longer than an hour.
    hv u thought of finding out the actual burial ground of shi huang ti (1st emperor of china?)
    be interesting..with the mercury river & booby traps
    if you can survive the meks, am sure you survive whatever shi huang ti has to ‘throw’ at you.

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