An expedition in the best Indiana Jones style has been formed in Germany to recover lost artworks valued at 500 million pounds that were looted by the Nazis during the WWII.
Works by Monet, Manet, Cezanne and other artists, as well as sculptures, rugs and tapestries believed to be buried in an old silver mine on the Czech-German border, 90 minutes driving from the city of Dresden.
Paintings form the bulk of Hatvany's collection, owned by Baron Ferenc Hatvany, Jewish-Hungarian industrial leader and patron of art.
Some of his paintings still hang on museum walls today, but his property is in dispute with his heirs. They were hauled from banks of Budapest by the Red Army soldiers when the city fell to the Soviets in 1945.
Most of Hatvany's collection, between 250 and 500 pieces, was stolen on the orders of the Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann, who was in Hungary in 1944 and instituted the policy of arresting Jews to then release them in exchange for properties. He also sent some 400,000 of them to Auschwitz, where they were gassed upon arrival.
Viennese historian Burkhart List, 62, says he has acquired documents from the old Wehrmacht archives that report on a massive shipment of Hatvany's collection to two underground galleries, which would be found at 6,000 or 4,500 feet deep in the Erzgebirge Mountains.
With the permission of the mayor of nearby Deutschkatherinenberg, Hans-Peter Haustein, a neutron generator was deployed inside the mountain to test the secret chambers. The artifact revealed that 180 feet below the ground, there are jobs not detailed on maps and that seem to be the work of man, unnatural.
List says: "In the winter of 1944-1945 records indicate that a mysterious transport arrived from Budapest and that it was encrypted as top secret. One of the photos provided by the archives was of the Sonnenhaus, a large building that stands in front of the Fortuna mine where I believe the art is located. It shows a large contingent of the SS. There had been no military or logical sense to be here on a secret mission, unless they discovered that inside the chambers the climate was ideal for storing art”.
So far, scans have yielded only one Schmeisser machine gun, a Nazi gas mask, plastic explosive detonators and a security key.
Mayor Haustein, who is also a Member of Parliament for the liberal FDP party in Berlin, says: “The question is not what we find, but when. I have seen evidence and heard eyewitness testimonies over the years about the SS presence in the village. That material is here”.
The Sonnenhaus is already attracting visitors who come for the opening of the mountain in May to try to open the secret chambers which are only accessed at the moment by Radar.
Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.