The Untold Truth Of Nazi Gold

There's GOOOOLD in them thar hills! Oh! And ... on a secret train in Poland! And under a 16th century palace at the bottom of a well! And buried in a Bavarian forest! And kept by the Swiss government! And sunk to the bottom of the ocean! And confiscated by the Federal Reserve in New York, smelted, the swastikas swirled away and recast with a US stamp and the words ”United States Assay Office"!

Yes, all of those stories about the various fates of Nazi gold are completely true, the last one reported by The New York Times back in 1997. Despite decades of research and investigation into the whereabouts of the Nazis' renowned trove of gold bars, speculation remains about their "true" fate, which would equal billions upon billions of dollars. Even to this day, would-be prospectors and treasure hunters continue to search. In 2016 Deutsche Welle ran a story about locals in Walbrzych, Poland, southwest of Wroclaw, who privately financed excavation of a site where the supposed "Nazi gold train" might have passed through. The excavation itself cost about $131,000 a day, and the excavators even offered guided tours of the site. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the train could contain up to 300 tons of gold.

But this is just one small facet of the Nazi gold tale. When they lost the war, what happened to their plunder? Split between the victors? Hidden, to be reclaimed later by the Nazis themselves?

The origins and fate of ill-gotten gold

In addition to being keen on conquest, red-and-black color coordination, and holocausts, the Nazis were fond of plundering and hoarding. Hitler, for example, history's most poignant lesson in sensitive art criticism, was obsessed with collecting "degenerate art" from museums and Jewish people (and then creating exhibits, per The New York Times). The gold, though? That was more of a practical, sponsor-the-war-machine tactic.

Germany didn't have adequate natural resources available to sustain them on a multiple-front, extended war effort, per the University of Pennsylvania. And so, Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht — Hitler's financial advisor, basically — advocated a philosophy of autarky, or economic self-sufficiency, which fit nicely with the Nazis' whole world-dominance-through-genetic-superiority thing. Germany had iron to make hand-held weapons, but lacked tungsten or wolfram for tanks and bombers. They also didn't have enough oil, couldn't produce it synthetically, and had to buy it from Romania. Chromium they got from Turkey, and ball bearings from Sweden.

And to support it all? Money. They needed lots and lots of money. But German Reichsmarks weren't accepted worldwide, especially because the financial disaster of the 1920s devalued several currencies. Enter the specie to offset fiat troubles: gold. The Nazis went on a theft binge that started with German troops rolling into Austria, declaring "a triple Sieg Heil to our Führer," and embarking on a campaign that resulted in $19 billion in stolen gold.