Every decade or so, as with the search for the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot Sasquatch and Poncé De Léon’s El Dorado, there is a new search in Bavaria or across the border in Austria for ‘buried Nazi treasure’. The latest adventure, involves a Dutch documentary filmmaker and journalist, Leon Giesen, 51, who was led to the Bavarian town of Mittenwald, close to the Austrian border after cracking a mysterious code he claims to have found in a music score.
Historically, the idea of Nazi gold has long been popular in the public imagination because of books and movies like The Odessa File and Raiders of the Lost Ark. This Nazi cache is supposedly hidden in an underground redoubt of a thirty-mile-square network of Bavarian caves connected by tunnels that was built by an army of prisoner-of-war slave laborers captured in battle during the early stages of World War 2. It was here in Bavaria that, under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler, the powerful leader of Hitler’s shock troops, the S.S., planned to build an Alpine Fortress, a fancy national redoubt that would last for a thousand years. As the secret lair for the leadership of Nazi Germany, they would use it as a headquarters while they conquered the world, or, if defeated, a location for a last suicidal battle where they could stage a final gotterdammerung.
Beyond the fantasy, however, the reality of defeat hit home so that, in April 1945, the Wehrmacht infantry and Reischbank officials approved a plan to store at least part of the reserves of the German Reichsbank at Einsiedl, a small town on the southwest shore of Lake Walchen. Actually, most of these assets were handed over to the Allies, but over 100 gold bars, scores of sacks of dollars and Swiss francs and billions-worth of confiscated Jewish art went missing, according to the investigative journalist Frederick Forsythe.
Leo Giesen’s theory, was that a composer, Gottfried Federlein, gave the autographed score of his March Impromptu to Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann. This gift for the Führer was then altered by Bormann as he scribbled letters, figures and runes on the score, forming a secret code showing the coordinates of the hidden Nazi treasure. Bormann then gave the score to one of his agents, a military chaplain, who was, in turn, to pass it on to a friend in Munich. The score and its carrier disappeared, however. Well, that was until it showed up 58 years later in the possession of another Dutch journalist Karl Hammer Kaatee. After wasting ten years attempting to crack the code, Kattee went public last December gaining all kinds of attention.
The filmmaker Giesen then stepped in. The score, he told Der Spiegel, contains a schematic diagram of the train tracks that ran through Mittenwald in the 1940s, and that the rune and fragmented sentence “Enden der Tanz” (“end the dance”) at the end of the score means the treasure can be found at the former site of the buffer stops. And that a single line added to the score by Bormann which reads “Wo Matthias die Saiten Streichelt” (“where Matthew plucks strings”) is a reference to the town of Mittenwald and its most famous son Matthias Klotz, who founded the town’s violinmaking tradition.
At this point in March 2013, local authorities granted permission for the undertaking in “a bid for clarity,” and before too long, the story was making headlines in local papers. “The Hunt for Nazi Gold,” the Garmisch-Partenkirchner Tagblatt called it. Even though the holes made in the ground have since been filled, the traces left by drills and blue markings are still visible below the usual layer of autumn leaves. No treasure was located, but the drilling crew did manage to locate a large quantity of unidentified metals. “Geologists call it an anomaly, a substance that doesn’t belong there,” says Giesen, who told Der Spiegel that he is now looking for new investors to help dig this metal up.
“It’s like a treasure map that can’t be deciphered,” says Jürgen Proske, a very dubious local historian from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and a hobby archeologist who has located Wehrmacht paraphernalia and a wine cellar from 1940 in the mountains around Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. “It could be a treasure chest, but it could just be a manhole cover.”