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Two soldiers of the 90th Division, U.S. Third Army, remove a crate containing looted historical engravings that were discovered in the Merkers salt mine.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 37467

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    Two soldiers of the 90th Division, U.S. Third Army, remove a crate containing looted historical engravings that were discovered in the Merkers salt mine.
    Two soldiers of the 90th Division, U.S. Third Army, remove a crate containing looted historical engravings that were discovered in the Merkers salt mine.

Above them is a slab with the words "Heil Hitler" written on it.

    Overview

    Caption
    Two soldiers of the 90th Division, U.S. Third Army, remove a crate containing looted historical engravings that were discovered in the Merkers salt mine.

    Above them is a slab with the words "Heil Hitler" written on it.
    Photographer
    Donald R. Ornitz
    Date
    1945 April 15
    Locale
    Merkers, [Thuringia] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Event History
    The Merkers mine treasure refers to the spectacular cache of Nazi loot hidden in the Wintershal AG's Kaiseroda potassium mine in Merkers (Thuringia) Germany. The treasure included much of the gold reserves and a large quantity of the monetary reserves of the Reichsbank in Berlin, which was dispatched to Merkers (about 200 miles from the capital) for safekeeping following the near demolition of the Reichsbank by Allied bombers on February 3, 1945. A second component of the assets stored at Kaiseroda included the loot of the SS Office for Economy and Administration, which operated the concentration camps. Between August 1942 and January 1945, the SS made 77 deliveries to the Berlin Reichsbank of property seized from camp prisoners. This property was then sorted and sold or melted down, with the proceeds credited to Heinrich Himmler and the SS. Though most of the loot had been processed by the beginning of 1945, a significant amount remained at the Reichsbank in March 1945, when it was being evacuated. This unprocessed property, which consisted of gold and silver bars, coins, foreign currency, diamonds, jewelry, cigarette cases and dental gold and silver, was placed in a large number of suitcases, trunks and bags and sent by rail to Merkers. The final component of the Merkers treasure were the hundreds of cases of Museum art, amounting to one-fourth of the major holdings of 14 of the principal Prussian state museums, that were transferred during the last ten days of March. The Merkers mine treasure was discovered by military personnel from the U.S. Third Army, who entered the mine on April 8, after learning about its contents from local civilians. Four days later, Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Eddy and Weyland inspected the mine for one hour in the company of newsmen and Signal Corps photographers. Between April 14 and April 17, the treasure was sent by convoy to Frankfurt am Main, where it was stored in the vaults of the Reichsbank. During the summer of 1945, the Allied currencies found at Merkers and elsewhere were returned to the various countries, and the process of repatriating the works of art was begun. The gold was turned over to the Inter-Allied Reparation Agency in 1946, and later to the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold. The commission began the process of distributing the gold to countries whose central bank reserves had been stolen by the Nazis, but political factors resulted in some of the gold not being restituted until 1996. The non-monetary gold from the SS loot was eventually put in the custody of the Preparatory Commission of the International Restitution Organization (PIRO).

    [Source: Bradsher, Greg. "Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure," Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration (spring 1999, vol. 31, no. 1) http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/appropriation13.htm (20 December 2004).]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Copyright: Public Domain
    Source Record ID: 111-SC-262092

    Keywords & Subjects

    Record last modified:
    2004-12-20 00:00:00
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/pa1127478

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