During World War II, Nazi Germany systematically looted occupied Europe. After the war ended, the Allies attempted to locate the art, gold, and other items in order to return them to their proper owners. How successful were they? Does any of this Nazi treasure remain lost today? Or did it escape into the clutches of ODESSA?
The Chaos Book Club
Today is Day 6 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:
So, during World War II, Germany conquered much of Europe. While occupying this enormous territory, the Nazis looted on an unprecedented scale. Public and private collections of gold, silver, jewels, paintings, ceramics, and other items were stolen and transported to the Museum Jeu de Paume in Paris. After examination and cataloging, the plunder was forwarded to Germany.
Some of these items were intended for the never-built Führermuseum, which was a planned museum complex for Linz, Austria and a fascinating story in its own right. Other things were appropriated by officials or traded for wartime funds. Initially, most of the plunder was stored in Paris or Munich. However, as defeat became inevitable, the Nazis began to hide artwork and other relics in salt mines, tunnels, caves, and castles. This protected them from bombing raids while also keeping them hidden from the advancing Allied forces.
The Formation of ODESSA
At the same time, Nazi officials were growing increasingly worried. The war was coming to an end and it was only a matter of time before they would be tried for war crimes. Out of this fear sprouted ODESSA (Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen). ODESSA was an organization formed by SS officers in 1946. Its purpose was to help fugitive SS members escape to sympathetic countries in South America and the Middle East (this network may have even helped Hitler fake his death and escape Germany). There is some debate about whether ODESSA was a single, centrally-planned organization or a series of loosely-connected groups. Regardless, it’s believed that as many as 10,000 SS members escaped in this fashion.
But ODESSA wasn’t just used for escape. Scholars believe it was also used to move Nazi plunder out of Germany. This plunder may have been intended to fund a sort of “Fourth Reich” consisting of remote Nazi colonies in other countries. Regardless, over 100,000 objects remain missing today. Although a large portion of this sum consists of low-value items, many important and valuable objects have yet to be found.
Nazi Treasure, Odessa, & Chaos
His face betrayed his steady voice. There was something else driving him, a reason he didn’t want to share. I considered pressing him on it but ultimately, decided to forget it. “Aren’t you worried I’ll steal the treasure?”
“I doubt you could, even if you wanted to. We believe that ODESSA supplied Hartek with nearly half a ton of gold.”
The staggering figure swirled in my brain. “How do you plan to conduct a treasure hunt under New York anyways? The moment the news gets out…and it will…you’ll have a full-fledged riot on your hands.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll be taking one step deeper into the mysterious world beneath New York City. But not to visit the tunnels. Instead, we’ll be looking at the denizens who reside there…the legendary Mole People. I hope to see you then!
Chaos Book Club
- October 17: Chaos has Arrived!
- October 24: The Story of Chaos
- October 25: The Great Train Robbery?
- October 26: Is Treasure Hunting Immoral?
- October 27: What was Operation Paperclip?
- October 28: Nazi Treasure & ODESSA?
- October 29: Do the Mole People Exist?
- October 31: FDR’s Lost Subway Car?
- November 1: Do Alligators Live in New York City Sewers?
- November 2: The Mysterious Minamata Disease?
- November 3: Die Glocke & Nazi Wonder Weapons?
- November 4: Buildering: The Art of Climbing…Skyscrapers?
- November 5: The Strange Case of Red Mercury?
- November 6: The Island of Stability?
- November 7: The Nazi Atomic Bomb?
- November 8: The Nth Country Experiment?
- November 9: Why did America really bomb Hiroshima?
- November 10: New York’s Forgotten Subway Tunnel?
- November 11: Alfred Ely Beach’s Last Secret?
- November 12: The Strange Science of Superconductors?
- November 13: What’s Next for Cyclone Reed?