Of all the theories surrounding lost or hidden treasure throughout human history, there are none more durable in the minds of 21st century audiences than Nazi gold.
It’s widely known that the Nazis looted Europe of much of its precious metals, rare artwork, and other irreplaceable valuables. A significant portion of this stolen wealth has never been recovered, leading naturally to the array of theories about where the fleeing Nazis may have stashed their treasure.
The latest case of “lost Nazi gold” comes from the British press regarding a shipwreck in the Atlantic.
The ship in question is the SS Minden, a cargo vessel used by the Nazis that sank in 1939 in the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland. The ship is believed to have been used to transport gold from South America back to Germany, although this conclusion remains somewhat speculative. (The connections between the Nazi regime and South America are well-established, but the involvement of this specific ship has not been confirmed.) One interesting detail that lends credibility to this notion: The German crew of the ship scuttled it themselves to prevent being captured by the British.
Not only are there other shipwrecks that have been associated with carrying Nazi treasure but one of the big stories last year focused on the efforts of a pair of researchers in Poland who were convinced they had located the fabled “Nazi gold train.” This legend relied on the fact that the Nazis dug many underground tunnels throughout Europe that were abandoned when the continent was liberated near the end of the Second World War. Though train cars were indeed identified underground using radar, experts determined there was no gold or precious stones present. Nonetheless, the publicity surrounding the Nazi gold train generated millions of dollars in commerce and tourism for the Polish town where the site is located.
This current case of lost Nazi loot appears to hold more promise. However, because of the location of the remains of the SS Minden in the territorial waters of Iceland, the team that has discovered the wreck must now secure the permission of the Icelandic government to continue with its recovery efforts, and to even open the treasure chest supposedly found on board. There is also an obvious dispute over how much, if any, of the treasure the finders are entitled to. According to The Independent, the value of the treasure supposedly on board could be £125 million ($165 million)! In total, it is said to have been hauling as much as four metric tons of metal.
In each and every one of these treasure stories, however, there is always the chance that the valuables have already been poached from the wreckage in the intervening seven decades.
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