High in the Austrian Alps, Lake Toplitz looks like a perfect setting for The Sound of Music. A high altitude deep water lake (338 ft) located sixty-one miles from Salzburg, Lake Toplitz is surrounded by cliffs and thick forests. At a depth of sixty feet, the lake water contains no oxygen. However, the lake bottom may hold Nazi treasure.
In May of 1945, 21-year-old Ida Weisenbacher helped S.S. soldiers dispose of the boxes. “It was five o’clock in the morning, we were still in bed when we heard the knock on the door,” says Weisenbacher. “Get up immediately. Hitch up the horse wagon, we need you.”
The truck carrying the boxes couldn’t reach the lake’s shore, so the S.S. used a wagon belonging to the Weisenbacher family. “A commander was there. He told us to bring these boxes as fast as possible to Lake Toplitz,” says Weisenbacher.
Three wagon loads of boxes were taken to the lake and dumped. Each was labeled and numbered. “When I brought the last load, I saw how they went on to the lake and dropped the boxes into the water. The S.S. kept shoving me away, but I saw the boxes were sunk into the lake.”
Since the end of World War II, several attempts have been made to locate those mysterious wooden boxes. In 1959, divers discovered boxes filled with counterfeit British currency. These banknotes, a mix of five, ten, and fifty pound notes, had a combined face value of seven hundred million pounds.
The counterfeit notes were part of Operation Bernhard, a German plan to flood world markets with forged British banknotes and destroy the British economy. The forged notes were produced at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by Jewish prisoners.
Several searches have been conducted at Lake Toplitz, including an extensive mapping survey in 2000. This expedition used a deep water submersible. Several more boxes tied to Operation Bernhard were discovered and mapped on the lake bed. The expedition recovered some boxes, and preserved the contents.
Aside from the counterfeit British notes and normal wartime debris (bombs, artillery shells, guns), Lake Toplitz has yielded no gold. Maybe there is no Nazi gold for the lake to surrender. Maybe die hard Nazis or unknown treasure hunters secretly recovered the treasure. Or maybe the treasure still remains in Lake Toplitz, waiting to be found.
Who really knows?