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TOPIC: Short of a few bucks? How about 2.5 Billion in WW2 treasure?

Short of a few bucks? How about 2.5 Billion in WW2 treasure? 8 years 8 months ago #4303

  • Kanacki
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With the world in a grip of recession it is nice to dream a little of fortune and glory.

Things are bad in the states but perhaps not as bad as Greece which so broke that kids only go to school for a half a day because there is no money for teachers or books.

Perhaps Greece needs to look into its not so distant past and recover some its WW2 Treasures?

As World War II was beginning, the Germans installed a puppet government in Athens. The new government had jurisdiction over both the German and Italian zones. The government in Greece had, as counselor to the military governor, an SS officer by the name of Dr. Max Merten. Merten was in charge of civilian affairs in the Salonika-Aegean area. It is in this area that most of the Greek Jews lived.

Dr. Merten made sort of a deal with the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, a city in northern Greece. He would keep them from the death camps in return for their gold, jewelry and other valuables. The Jews had no choice, so Merten assembled a substantial treasure. Estimates on the value of this treasure are up to 2.4 billion dollars.

After he had secured the belongings of the Jewish people, he had them sent off to the camps. His betrayal almost completely wiped out the Jewish community. Of the approximately 80,000 Jews in the area, it is estimated that only 5,000 survived.

Merten did not particularly want to share his booty. He assembled a treasure made up of gold coins, gold bars, diamonds, precious stones and religious artifacts. In 1943, he loaded the treasure onto a boat and had the ship scuttled in the Messinina Gulf, off the Peloponnese coast, between the towns of Pylos and Kalamata. The treasure is said to be under 262 feet of water in an area that the current Greek military uses for a testing ground.

Merten returned to Greece in 1957 and was recognized by one of the surviving Jews. He was tried and convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 25 years. After only serving 8 months, Prime Minister Kostantinos Karamanlis freed him in a general amnesty. Dr. Max Merten died in 1970, in Germany. He never returned to Greece.

In 1999, an anonymous man entered the offices of the Salonica Jewish community. He claims that he was Merten’s cellmate in 1958 and knows the location of the treasure. The officials there referred him to the leader of the Central Jewish Board of Greece, Moses Costantinis.

Mr. Costantinis was skeptical at first, but as the man continued providing information, he decided that there was some evidence that supported the story. The two made a deal, the anonymous man would finance, organize and execute the search; the treasure would be returned to the Jewish Community and he would get the film rights.

The search began and in August of 2000 the diving permits expired and the search was halted.

According to Greek law, the Greek Government will get 50% of the treasure, the Jewish community will get 25% and the person, or people that find the treasure will get 25%, which could equate to 600 million dollars.

Has the treasure been secretly recovered? Or was the whole story a hoax?

Kanacki
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Re: Short of a few bucks? How about 2.5 Billion in WW2 treasure? 8 years 8 months ago #4322

  • WhiteFeather
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B) I'm thinking this one sounds like a bedtime story that never really went down the way it was discribed. The main item I am questioning is why the ship would be sunk in over 250 feet of water if he intended to recover it after the war? At that time deep water recovery was all but unknown and 265 feet was not accessable to the average person even with help. If he were to hide a wreck it would have likely been done in water the technology of the day would be availabe to recover. Why send it down where you could not have a hope of recovering it? I think that if a ship was scuttled in that area it was a decoy and the real treasure would be elsewhere within reach of the recoverability if the day. Think about it..... :unsure:
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Re: Short of a few bucks? How about 2.5 Billion in WW2 treasure? 8 years 8 months ago #4324

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Ha ha... yeah, I was thinking the same thing W.F. I think this one is a stretch... Either the story has been retold over and over with the location and depth getting deeper and deeper each time the story is told... or its just a completely fabricated story that no one could disprove at that time... at that depth!
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Re: Short of a few bucks? How about 2.5 Billion in WW2 treasure? 8 years 8 months ago #4333

  • Kanacki
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Excellent observations

Like with all treasure legends one must shift through the fiction to get at the facts.

Another point in question is the sole source is an unknown man who was in jail with Dr Merten and waited 29 years after his death to tell the story?

Who ever was this mysteryman was he was not the man that was in jail wih Dr Merten? clearly this information was third or fourth hand?

Dr Merten if he had been involved in hidding this alleged treasure. Would'nt he have bargain his knowlege of the treasure against his sentence?

And yet Dr Merten was a real person and Nazi who betrayed the Jews.

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Re: Short of a few bucks? How about 2.5 Billion in WW2 treasure? 8 years 8 months ago #4334

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Here is another source from the new york times.

ATHENS, July 30 -- Any other tale so thick with intrigue involving a Nazi war criminal and treasure hidden in the depths of a blue-green sea might simply have been dismissed, particularly if it originated from a prison inmate known only as Phantom X.
But the prospect of 50 sealed chests heavy with gold coins and jewels valued at as much as $2 billion is enough to make a believer out of almost anyone -- including an international diving team, the Greek government and this country's senior Jewish council.
After months of dispute and delays, Greek and French divers are hoping to plunge this week into nearly 300 feet of water off the southwest Peloponnesus, near Kalamata, on an expedition to salvage what they hope is just such a fortune.
The wealth was reputedly stripped from Jews sent to labor and death camps and then stashed at a secret underwater location by Dr. Max Merten, who was Hitler's senior administrator in Salonika, in northern Greece, during World War II.
But even before an ounce of gold has been brought to the surface, the mere prospect of such a fortune has set Greece's notorious bureaucracy in motion and sent a long line of claimants jostling for their stakes.
"The situation is crazy," said Gregoire Koulbanis, a 40-year-old Swiss diver of Greek descent who is to lead and film the expedition. "Such chaos, delays and state of hysteria, I've never witnessed in my 20-year career."
Mr. Koulbanis, who gained fame on some of the most daring expeditions of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the late oceanographer, says he was told of the treasure 10 months ago by a 63-year-old man he refuses to identify but whom the Greek media are calling Phantom X.
The man, who is in prison for a string of felonies, says he learned of the treasure when he shared a Greek prison cell with Dr. Merten in 1958. The former Nazi officer fled to Germany after World War II, but returned to Greece that year supposedly to check up on his fortune. He was arrested, tried for war crimes and jailed in Athens, according to the Greek Foreign Ministry and the Central Jewish Council, which represents this country's 3,000 Jews.
Dr. Merten, the informant claims to have been told, stowed 50 cases of gold he intended to return to after the war. A Nazi submarine, he says, ferried the treasure from northern Greece to the southern Peloponnesus. From there, Dr. Merten commissioned a fishing boat named Sofia to carry the cases to a designated site and sank the vessel.
A presidential decree in 1959 allowed Dr. Merten to return to Germany, where he practiced law and died in 1976. It remains unclear whether he had ever tried to retrieve the treasure again.
The current expedition, which was supposed to take place over the weekend, is now scheduled for Friday after being put off by local officials in Kalamata. They said the summer holiday season had left them too short-handed to oversee a multimillion-dollar search by 30 divers and crew members.
Mr. Koulbanis, the head of the expedition, attributes the delays to "outrageous demands" by the local authorities and a swamp of bureaucracy, despite having gained approval for the dive from Foreign Minister George Papandreou this month.
The Kalamata authorities say they want extra assurances that the state will get the 50 percent share it has claimed if the fortune is found.
"This may prove the biggest treasure to surface from this part of the Greek sea," says Christos Vrillias, a senior local official responsible for protecting state property. "We have to safeguard the state's interests, to the fullest."
In that effort, the Kalamata authorities demand that a special statecommittee climb aboard the search vessel to monitor every inch of the dive by video-link from the deep.
They also want coast guard vessels to be placed on alert, a team of archaeologists ready to appraise the fortune, which is to be handled byGreek divers only, and Finance Ministry experts to store whatever is recovered in special vaults at the National Bank of Greece. Since theoperation may sweep through a military shooting range, Greek Air Force units will also be at the ready.
Holocaust survivors argue that at least part of the treasure is rightfully theirs, particularly since much of it appears to have been taken from thefamilies of 9,000 Jews who were later rounded up on Dr. Merten's orders to work at Nazi labor camps in Greece.
"I alone had to pay him 1,000 gold British sterling in hope of winning my father's release from one of those camps," said Andreas Sefihas, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Council in Salonika. Some 50,000 Jews, 95 percent of Salonika's Jews, eventually perished in Nazi death camps.
But the Greek state's claim may leave Greece's 1,950 living Holocaust survivors with less than a 25 percent share, with the remaining 25 percent going to the man who says he knows where the treasure can be found. The agreement was negotiated by the informant's lawyer, Alexandros Lykourezos, a leading criminal attorney whose clients have also included the most notorious men wanted for war crimes in Bosnia.
The Jewish council plans to contest the state's 50 percent claim, calling this an extraordinary case. But before a single coin is handed over to the Central Jewish Council, says Emmanuel Gounaris of the Greek Foreign Ministry, it must prove that the fortune had been owned by Jews.
"This isn't restitution," said Mr. Sefihas, head of the Jewish council. "It's a denial of history."
As for the diving team, Mr. Koulbanis says, "All are here on their own time, at their own expenses." Their payment will come from the profits Mr. Koulbanis hopes to make from documentary film rights, which he has worked out with a French company, called Timing.
Mr. Koulbanis has said he is confident that the treasure lies in Greek waters. But despite all the careful planning, legal wrangling and deal-making that has led up to the dive, Mr. Gounaris, who is head of the commission responsible for reviewing underwater explorations, warned that "should the treasure be found beyond Greece's six-mile territorial waters, or within international waters, different laws apply."
Appeared in the New York Times On the Web - July 31, 2000


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