Nazi Gold: The Merkers Gold Treasure
Late on the evening of March 22, 1945, elements of Lt. Gen. George Patton's Third Army crossed the Rhine, and soon thereafter his whole army crossed the river and drove into the heart of Germany. Advancing northeast from Frankfurt, elements of the Third Army cut into the future Soviet Zone and advanced on Gotha. Just before noon on April 4, the village of Merkers fell to the Third Battalion of the 358th Infantry Regiment, Ninetieth Infantry Division, Third Army. During that day and the next the Ninetieth Infantry Division, with its command post at Keiselbach, consolidated its holdings in the Merkers area.(1)
During April 4 and 5, displaced persons in the vicinity interrogated by the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) personnel of the Ninetieth Infantry Division mentioned a recent movement of German Reichsbank gold from Berlin to the Wintershal AG's Kaiseroda potassium mine at Merkers. In all of these instances they quoted rumors, but none stated their own knowledge that gold was present in the mine. But just before noon on April 5, a member of Military Intelligence Team 404-G, attached to the 358th Infantry Regiment, who was in Bad Salzungen, about six miles from Merkers, interviewed French displaced persons who had worked in the mine at Merkers. They told him they had heard that gold had been stored in the mine. The information was passed on to the G-2 (intelligence section) of the Ninetieth Infantry Division, and orders were issued prohibiting all civilians from circulating in the area of the mine.(2)
Early the next morning, two military policemen guarding the road entering Keiselbach from Merkers saw two women approaching and promptly challenged and stopped them. Upon questioning, the women stated that they were French displaced persons. One of the women was pregnant and said she was being accompanied by the other to see a midwife in Keiselbach. After being questioned at the XII Corps Provost Marshal Office, they were driven back into Merkers. Upon entering Merkers, their driver saw the Kaiseroda mine and asked the women what sort of a mine it was. They said it was the mine in which the German gold reserve and valuable artworks had been deposited several weeks before and added that local civilians and displaced persons had been used for labor in unloading and storing the treasure in the mine.(3)
By noon on April 6 the women's story had reached Lt. Col. William A. Russell the Ninetieth Infantry Division's G-5 (civilian affairs) officer. He proceeded to the mine, where interviews with displaced persons in the area confirmed the women's story. They told him that works of art were also stored in the mine and that Dr. Paul Ortwin Rave, curator of the German State Museum in Berlin as well an assistant director of the National Galleries in Berlin, was present to care for the paintings. Russell then confronted mine officials with this information, and they stated they knew that gold and valuable art were stored in the mine and that other mines in the area were likewise used for storing valuables. Russell also questioned Werner Veick, the head cashier of the Reichsbank's Foreign Notes Department who was also at the mine, and Rave. The latter informed Russell that he was in Merkers to care for paintings stored in the mine. Veick indicated that the gold in the mine constituted the entire reserve of the Reichsbank in Berlin.(4)
With this evidence, Russell requested that the 712th Tank Battalion be ordered to proceed to Merkers to guard the entrances to the mine. Elements of the Ninetieth Division Military Police were also deployed about the entrances, and arrangements were made for generation of power and electricity at the mine so that the shafts could be entered for examination the next morning. Later that afternoon, after it was learned that there were at least five possible entrances to the mine at Merkers and that one tank battalion would not be sufficient to guard them all, Russell requested reinforcements. That evening Maj. Gen. Herbert L. Earnest, the Ninetieth Infantry Division's commanding general, called the 357th Infantry Regiment then at Leimbach and ordered that its First Battalion proceed to Merkers to relieve the Ninetieth Division Military Police and reinforce the 712th Tank Battalion.(5)
Russell also that afternoon told a XII Corps G-5 officer what was going on at the mine site, and word was passed on to the Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy. He immediately called Patton and informed him of the capture of the German gold reserves at Merkers. Patton, who had been burned on so many rumors, told him not to mention the capture of the gold until they definitely confirmed it.(6)
As the evening ended, with the anticipation of what they might find the next day, there must have been excitement. All involved knew that they had perhaps stumbled upon something important, something that political and military leaders expected to find somewhere in Germany--its gold reserves. The Allies, through their intelligence and diplomatic sources, knew that the Nazis had looted hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold from many central banks of Europe, and despite sending much of it to neutral countries in payment for war goods, they still had a considerable quantity.(7) If, indeed, they had captured the Reich's monetary reserve, the war might be ended sooner, as the Germans would be less able to procure essential war-making materials.
Throughout most of the war, the bulk of the German gold reserves was held at the Reichsbank in Berlin. In 1943, however, some gold bars were shipped to numerous branches of the Reichsbank. During late 1944 and early 1945, as American bombing of Berlin increased and the Allies pushed toward the city from the east and west, more of the gold reserve was dispersed to branch banks in central and southern Germany. Also, early in 1945, a large quantity of Reichsmarks were dispatched from Berlin to branch banks.(8)
The dispersal of Reichsbank assets went into full swing in February 1945. On February 3, 937 B-17 bombers of the Eighth Air Force dropped nearly twenty-three hundred tons of bombs on Berlin, causing the near demolition of the Reichsbank, including its presses for printing currency. Following the bombing, Walter Funk, president of the Reichsbank and Reich minister of economics, decided to send most of the gold reserves, worth some $238 million, and a large quantity of the monetary reserves to a mine at Merkers, about two hundred miles southwest of Berlin, for safekeeping. Space in that mine, like all of the other salt and potassium mines in Germany, had been requisitioned by the government because firms found it necessary to store materials and continue armament production underground because of the bombings.(9)
On February 11 most of the gold reserves, including gold brought back from the branch banks to Berlin for shipment to Merkers, currency reserves totaling a billion Reichsmarks bundled in one thousand bags, and a considerable quantity of foreign currency, were transported by rail to Merkers. Once the train reached Merkers, the treasure was unloaded and placed in a special vault area in the mine designated Room No. 8.(10)
In addition to the shipment to Merkers, it was decided to send a substantial quantity of currency and staff to the Reichsbank branch in Erfurt in early February. The currency and upwards of ten employees were sent packing to Erfurt. Among them were Veick and Otto Reimer, chief cashier in the Reichsmarks Department. Once there they began circulating money to other branch banks as well as sending some of it back to Berlin when the need arose. Currency was also taken out of the Merkers mine and redistributed to branch banks and to the Reichsbank in Berlin as needed.(11)
The Schutzstaffeln's (SS) Office for Economy and Administration, which operated the concentration camps, also wanted their loot held by the Reichsbank to be sent to Merkers for safekeeping. From August 26, 1942, until January 27, 1945, the SS made seventy-six deliveries to the Reichsbank of property seized from concentration camp victims. This stolen property was received for a holding account in the name of "Melmer," named for SS Capt. Bruno Melmer, who made most of the deliveries. Gold jewelry was sold abroad; gold of some fineness was sold either to the Prussian Mint or to Degussa, a large German industrial firm that engaged in the refinement of precious metals. Securities, foreign currency, and similar items were purchased by the Reichsbank. Much of the miscellaneous jewelry was sold through the Berlin Municipal Pawn Shop. Once the transactions took place, the proceeds were credited to the account of "Max Heiliger," codeword for Heinrich Himmler and his SS. By early 1945, much of the loot had been processed, but a significant amount still remained with the Reichsbank.(12)
The confiscated property on hand in March 1945 consisted of all kinds of gold and silver items ranging from dental work to cigarette cases, diamonds, gold and silver coins, foreign currencies, and gold and silver bars. The gold and silver bars were placed in 18 bags, and the remainder of the loot was placed in 189 suitcases, trunks, and boxes and, along with other items, were sent by rail to Merkers on March 18. The shipment was under the control of Albert Thoms, head of the Reichsbank's Precious Metals Department. Once the SS loot arrived, it was stored in Room No. 8 along with the gold and currency.(13)
To protect the nation's art treasures, the Reichminister for Education decided in March to ship them to mines for safekeeping. The first shipment took place on March 16, 1945, when forty-five cases of art from the Kaiser-Freiderichs Museum were shipped from Berlin to Ransbach, about nine miles from Merkers, for storage in a nearby mine. Rave, who had been sent with the shipment, found that the mine was unsuitable for a deposit, and therefore it was decided that subsequent shipments would go to Merkers. Between March 20 and March 31 the Germans transported one-fourth of the major holdings of fourteen of the principal Prussian state museums to Merkers. Rave was ordered to stay at Merkers and watch over the collection.(14)
As the Third Army moved toward Merkers, the Reichsbank officials decided to remove the entire reserves, including the art works, back to Berlin, but they were hampered by the speed of the American advance and the partial shutdown of the Germany railway system due to the Easter holidays. By April 1, bank officials had given up all hope of moving the gold and concentrated on the Reichsmarks, which were in short supply in some parts of Germany. On April 2, Reichsbank officials at Erfurt received orders to get the Reichsmarks at Merkers and distribute them to other places in the Reich, and three bank officials, Thoms, Reimer, and Director Frommknicht, arrived at Erfurt to assist in the distribution. Late that day Thoms, Reimer, Veick, and a man named Kaese set out for Merkers. They were joined the next morning by Frommknicht and seven other Reichsbank employees. They loaded about 200 million Reichsmarks and some fifty packages of foreign currency unto a two-and-one-half-ton truck. That afternoon Kaese drove off with the Reichsmarks destined for Magdeburg and Halle and the foreign currency for Berlin.(15)
Then the Germans, with the help of some twenty Polish workers given to them by mine officials, began the process of taking the rest of the currency out of the mine. They took a considerable sum to Bad Salzung and loaded it into one railway car. At 7 p.m., learning the Americans were fast approaching, they stopped their work. On their way back to their hotel they learned that a bridge over which the train was to pass had been blown up. The currency was brought back to Merkers, and they decided to put it back in the mine. They were unable to get workers to take the currency back into the mine that night, so they waited until the next morning.(16)
Early the next morning, April 4, the Germans and their Polish workers started taking the currency back down into the mine, knowing that the Americans would soon be arriving. Because Frommknicht had the key to the vault, and he and Thoms had left Merkers to make their escape, the others had to leave the currency near the shaft elevator. Meanwhile, some American soldiers appeared on the scene, but they did not appear too interested in the work, believing this was some routine mine operation. Veick and Reimer, with their Polish workers, continued taking the currency back down into the mine. Meanwhile, Frommknicht and Thoms, after burning some papers, headed for Erfurt. While they were walking along the road, American vehicles overtook them, and they ran for the forest. Frommknicht got away, but Thoms was captured by American soldiers. Within the week he would be brought back to Merkers for questioning.(17)
The Americans Enter the Mine On the morning of April 7 military personnel interrogated civilians to obtain information on storage of Reich property in the mine. Also that morning, new entrances to this mine and to other nearby mines were found by the Americans at Leimbach, Ransbach, and Springen. Guards were immediately placed at these entrances. Later that morning, General Earnest directed that a company of the First Battalion of the 357th Infantry Regiment be posted to guard the main entrance of the Merkers mine. This company was reinforced with tanks from the 712th Tank Battalion, tank destroyers from the 773d Tank Destroyer Battalion, and Jeeps mounting machine guns for antiaircraft defense. Reinforced rifle companies were also ordered to guard entrances at Kaiseroda and Dietlas. Around 11 a.m. another entrance to the mine was found at Statinfsfeld by the First Battalion. Accordingly, a tank destroyer company was dispatched to guard this entrance.(18)
At 10 a.m. Russell, the assistant division commander, and two other Ninetieth Infantry Division officers, Signal Corps photographers, Rave, and German mining officials entered the mine. The elevator took them to the bottom of the main shaft twenty-one hundred feet beneath the surface. In the main haulage way, stacked against the walls, they found 550 bags of Reichsmarks. Moving down the tunnel, the Americans found the main vault. It was blocked by a brick wall three feet thick, enclosing a portion of the mine at least one hundred feet wide. In the center of the wall was a large bank-type steel safe door, complete with combination lock and timing mechanism with a heavy steel door set in the middle of it. Attempts to open the steel vault door were unsuccessful. That afternoon Veick told Russell the gold was all in one room behind the vault door. Word soon reached General Eddy, and he called Patton to inform him that the mine had been entered and that a significant amount of Reichsmarks found, but that the gold, if it existed, was behind a steel door. Patton ordered Eddy to blow the door. Eddy summoned army engineers to the mine, and arrangements were made for blasting an entrance in the vault the following morning.(19)
Meanwhile the Ninetieth Infantry Division was continuing on the offensive and needed all of its forces. So at 5 p.m. the 357th Infantry Regiment was ordered to move out and join up with the division's other units, with the exception of the First Battalion, which was to pass to division control and to continue guarding the mine, and Third Battalion guards were to be relieved by elements of the First Battalion. By that evening three companies of the First Battalion were guarding the entrances at Merkers, Kaiseroda, Leimbach, Springen, and Dietlas, with the assistance of one platoon of heavy machine guns and two sections of light tanks. The Merkers, Dietlas, and Kaiseroda factory areas were guarded by a perimeter defense, and special guards were placed on essential operating installations such as electric plants, transformers, and elevator mechanisms.(20)
Early on April 8 Earnest, Russell, a public affairs officer, photographers, reporters, and elements of the 282d Engineer Combat Battalion entered the mine. They would be joined several hours later by Eddy, his deputy chief of staff, and a G-5 officer. One of the engineers who inspected the brick wall surrounding the vault door thought it could be blasted through with little effort. Therefore the engineers, using a half-stick of dynamite, blasted an entrance though the masonry wall. The Americans entered the vault, so-called Room No. 8, which was approximately 75 feet wide by 150 feet long with a 12-foot-high ceiling, well lighted but not ventilated. Tram railway tracks ran down the center of the cavern. On either side of the tracks, stretching to the back of the cavern, were more than seven thousand bags, stacked knee-high, laid out in twenty rows with approximately two and a half feet between rows. All of the bags and containers were marked, and the gold bags were sealed. Baled currency was found stacked along one side of the vault along with gold balances and other Reichsbank equipment. At the back of the cavern, occupying an area twenty by thirty feet, were 18 bags and 189 suitcases, trunks, and boxes. Each container bore a packing slip showing the contents and a tag bearing the name "Melmer." It was obvious that it was SS loot. Within days it would be confirmed that it was, and within ten days, the Americans would learn the extent of the loot and the identity of Melmer.(21)
In order to examine the contents, some of the seals on the bags were broken, and a partial inventory was made. The inventory indicated that there were 8,198 bars of gold bullion; 55 boxes of crated gold bullion; hundreds of bags of gold items; over 1,300 bags of gold Reichsmarks, British gold pounds, and French gold francs; 711 bags of American twenty-dollar gold pieces; hundreds of bags of gold and silver coins; hundreds of bags of foreign currency; 9 bags of valuable coins; 2,380 bags and 1,300 boxes of Reichsmarks (2.76 billion Reichsmarks); 20 silver bars; 40 bags containing silver bars; 63 boxes and 55 bags of silver plate; 1 bag containing six platinum bars; and 110 bags from various countries.(22)
General Eddy, after learning how extensive the mine was and the significance of its treasure, around noon called Lt. Col. John H. Mason, commanding officer of the 357th Infantry Regiment, and told him that the order of the previous day withdrawing his regiment from the Merkers area, minus the First Battalion, was countermanded. He ordered him to hold any movement and that his regiment, minus the Second Battalion, which had been assigned to be the Ninetieth Infantry Division's reserve, was to guard the mine area. At that time the Third Battalion guard had already been relieved by elements of the First Battalion, and the Third Battalion had started to move. The battalion returned to Merkers, and Mason moved his command post from Leimbach to Merkers. Mason then provided for the defense of the Merkers area and the various mine entrances with his First and Third Battalions, elements of the 712th Tank Battalion, and the 773d Tank Destroyer Battalion and numerous antiaircraft guns.(23)
While the treasure was being reviewed on April 8, in other tunnels Americans found an enormous number of artworks. Late that day, Capt. Robert Posey, a Museum, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) officer, and Major Perera, G-5, Third Army, arrived to inspect the artworks and the gold and currency. Perera interviewed Veick about the circumstances surrounding the transfer of the treasure to Merkers and obtained from the XII Corps personnel a copy of their inventory. Perera and Posey then set out for the Third Army headquarters at Frankfurt, arriving there at 10 p.m. Shortly thereafter they made their report to Lt. Col. Tupper Barrett, G-5, Twelfth Army Group.(24)
On April 8 Patton learned that in addition to the paper money found the day before, his soldiers had found a significant quantity of gold, and he also learned that the press had found out about the Merkers mine and had published stories about the capture of the gold. Patton called Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of the U.S. Twelfth Army Group, and told him that owing to the amount of the seizure and the fact that it had been made public, he believed it was now a political question and requested that Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), commanded by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, be asked to send somebody to take it over.(25) Colonel Bernstein Becomes Involved The person who would take over the Merkers operation was Col. Bernard D. Bernstein, deputy chief, Financial Branch, G-5 Division of SHAEF. In October 1942, when he was commissioned a colonel, Bernstein was the assistant general counsel at the Department of the Treasury, handling foreign funds matters. Late on the morning of April 8, Bernstein, at SHAEF headquarters at Versailles, read a front-page story in the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune about the discovery of the gold and other treasures at Merkers. He immediately called Barrett to see if he had any information on the subject. He was advised that Barrett was forward at Third Army and would be telephoned immediately about the matter.(26)
Barrett, who had arrived at Frankfurt at 10:30 a.m., learned that Perera and Posey had gone in search of information about the report that the Americans had uncovered the gold reserve, large stocks of foreign currency, and art treasures. About 11 a.m. Barrett received a message that Bernstein was trying to reach him and wanted to know about the validity of press stories concerning the discovery of the treasure at Merkers. Barrett tried unsuccessfully to reach Bernstein, but he did reach Perera, who said the discovery had not yet been verified. And Bernstein, after not being able to reach Barrett, conveyed the information about the Merkers treasure to Brig. Gen. McSherry, deputy chief of staff, G-5, SHAEF, at the advance headquarters at Rheims, France, who thereupon told Bernstein to go to Merkers immediately to look into the matter. Not long afterward, McSherry called him and said that Eisenhower wanted him to take control of the matter.(27)
Just before noon, Bernstein telephoned Barrett and told him about the newspaper stories concerning the Merkers treasure and that SHAEF had received a message from the War Department asking several questions about the treasure. Bernstein asked whether he should fly to Frankfurt, stating that McSherry wanted him to. Barrett told him that he would phone him back when he received another report from Perera and would then recommend whether he should come or not. Shortly thereafter, Barrett reached Perera by phone and was informed that Perera had just received confirmation that the mine contained more than one hundred tons of gold, much foreign currency, billions of German Reichsmarks, and valuable paintings. Perera said that the XII Corps finance officer, at the direction of General Eddy, was placing a heavy guard around the treasure, making a preliminary inventory, and taking protective custody, pending instructions from higher authority. Perera said that only one Reichsbank official from Berlin (Veick) was present with the treasure and that he did not believe it was necessary for Barrett to visit the site until he could return to Frankfurt with a full verbal report that night. Perera also did not think it necessary for Bernstein to come immediately, since he could get pertinent information from the Reichsbank official and the treasure was under sufficient protection at present.(28)
Barrett phoned Bernstein at 12:40 p.m. and reported on his conversation with Perera. An hour later Barrett talked to Col. R. L. Dalferes, G-5, Third Army, reporting his conversations with Bernstein and Perera, and stated that if McSherry wanted Bernstein to come and this matter was so important, he felt Bernstein should come. Dalferes agreed. Barrett reached Bernstein at 4:30 p.m. and said that Dalferes agreed that Bernstein should get to Frankfurt by air. Barrett then gave him a preliminary report of the contents of the mine, based on telephone information received from Perera that afternoon, and also informed him that guards had been placed and the preliminary inventory was being made by the XII Corps finance officer.(29)
Perera called Barrett at 6 p.m. and gave him summary figures and said that he would return to Frankfurt that night with the preliminary inventory. Thirty minutes later Barrett was informed that Bernstein had left and would arrive at Frankfurt that evening, but at 9 p.m. Barrett learned that Bernstein's plane was stopping at Rheims for the night and he would come the next morning. At 10 p.m. Perera and Posey arrived at Frankfurt. Perera informed Barrett that the principal items in gold and currency at Merkers were 8,198 standard gold bars, 711 bags of twenty-dollar gold pieces, 1,763 bags of other gold coins, various bags of foreign currency, and 2.76 billion Reichsmarks. Perera gave Barrett the inventory, providing fuller details about the Merkers treasure. Perera said Veick told him how and why the treasure was at Merkers and what he was doing there. Posey reported that the art in the mine was very important and that it consisted of the most valuable pieces from various Berlin museums.(30)
By the time Bernstein's transportation could be arranged, the pilot told him it was too late to go to Frankfurt, but he would fly him to Rheims. Bernstein agreed. Once there Bernstein met with McSherry, who told him that Eisenhower had discussed the matter with General Crawford, assistant chief of staff, G-4 (supply and maintenance), SHAEF, and Eisenhower wanted Bernstein to go to Merkers immediately and check the contents and arrange for the treasure to be taken from the mine to a more secure location, thereby relieving combat units for tactical missions. The two then discussed the details and problems involved.(31)
On the morning of April 9, Bernstein and McSherry, at General Crawford's office, met with Crawford, Maj. Gen. Lucius Clay (who had just been named as Eisenhower's deputy in military government in Germany), and Lt. Col. Carl L. Morris, G-4, SHAEF. Crawford said that Eisenhower wanted Bernstein and Morris to go to Merkers and transfer the treasure to a location further to the rear for the purpose of releasing combat units and to facilitate an accurate examination. Bernstein was ordered to be responsible for taking over the treasure, and Morris was directed to coordinate the actual movement, including taking treasures from the mine, locating a suitable new location, arranging for trucks, and providing for the security guards on the road and the permanent guards at the new location. Bernstein and Morris were ordered to report to the Third Army's chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hobart Gay, to receive instructions. Crawford suggested the use of Fort Ehrenbreitstein at Coblenz for the storage of the treasure. They talked about the possibility of Frankfurt being used as the depot for the loot since it was to be the headquarters of Eisenhower's staff and the headquarters of the U.S. Group Control Council when they got to Germany. Finally, it was left to Bernstein and Morris to use their discretion as to where the treasure would be placed.(32)
With those instructions, Bernstein and Morris flew to Frankfurt. After arriving, they lunched with Barrett and discussed the Frankfurt Reichsbank building as a storage facility for the Merkers treasure. Bernstein and Morris then met with Dalferes to formulate plans for taking over responsibility for the administration and movement of the treasure. From 1:30 until 2:30 p.m. Bernstein and Morris met with Gay and Patton to discuss the treasure and its movement. Then Morris quickly discussed the movement problem with Brig. Gen. Muller, G-4, Third Army, and the latter contacted Colonel Perry, his transportation officer, to assist in any way possible in this move.(33)
Gay then prepared a letter to General Eddy stating that Eisenhower had designated Bernstein to take over the contents of the mine at Merkers and that Bernstein would be responsible for making a complete inventory of the entire contents of the mine; arranging with the Third Army for the movement of the treasure to other areas when and if deemed advisable; and making decisions as to who would be allowed in the mine. Eddy was instructed not to allow Allied units or separate individuals to be in the area surrounding the mine except upon his written permission. Eddy was further informed that responsibility for guarding the mine and its contents remained with the Third Army, which in turn was delegated to XII Corps.(34)
Bernstein, Morris, Barrett, Perera, and Lt. J. S. Feary, G-5, Twelfth Army Group, then made an inspection of the Reichsbank building to determine the suitability of its use for storing the treasure. They then drove to Fort Ehrenbreitstein in Coblenz to determine if it was a possible storage area. They discovered the fort was already full of archives and art taken from area museums and public buildings and that no suitable areas remained to accommodate the volume of material found at Merkers. Bernstein was convinced that the Reichsbank building was the most suitable storage site.(35)
Early on April 10, Bernstein and his party again inspected the Reichsbank building. They agreed that it had adequate storage and office space. At 9:45 a.m. Bernstein called McSherry and said that he favored the Reichsbank site and expressed his need for certain specialized personnel to augment the G-5 team for the purpose of taking over and accounting for the material. He gave McSherry a brief statement of the contents of the Merkers mine, outlined his tentative plan for the movement of the treasure, and told McSherry that he and Barrett would soon leave for Merkers. McSherry approved the tentative plan and proceeded to requisition the Reichsbank building and obtain the services of Third Army engineers for rehabilitating the building to the extent necessary to provide adequate security and protection from the weather. It was agreed that Morris and Feary would be left behind at Frankfurt to arrange for the engineers to put the building in shape.(36)
Bernstein, Barrett, and Perera visited Gay at 11:30 a.m., and Bernstein informed him of his intention to transfer the treasure to the Reichsbank at Frankfurt and that they would soon be leaving for Merkers. Bernstein also said that Morris was working with General Muller on transportation and other details required for the movement. Then Bernstein instructed Feary to work with Morris to assist in arrangements for trucking, labor, security for the Reichsbank building, and other related matters. At 1:30 p.m. Bernstein and Barrett set out for Merkers, some eighty-five miles from Frankfurt.(37)
Bernstein and Bartlett arrived at the 357th Infantry Regiment Command Post in Merkers at 5 p.m. on April 10. Accompanied by Mason, they went on a tour of the mine to see the vault containing the gold, currency, and art treasure. That evening Bernstein interviewed Veick and Reimer about the gold, currency, and other valuables, as well as any records relating to the gold. Veick provided detailed information about the transportation of the Reichsbank treasure to Merkers and the currency transactions during March and the first days of April. He said he did not know that much about the gold, but Thoms did; "He knows all," Veick said. Reimer told Bernstein that "the records of the sale of the gold are with Thoms."(38)
Bernstein, that evening, drove to Patton's headquarters. Patton told Bernstein that he was very glad Eisenhower was taking responsibility for the gold. Bernstein told him that he wanted to move the Merkers treasure to Frankfurt as quickly as possible and that under the Big Three arrangements at Yalta, the Merkers part of Germany would be taken over by the Russians after the war and that they certainly needed to get the treasure out of the area before the Russians got there. Astounded at what Bernstein told him, not knowing about the postwar arrangements, Patton said he would do everything possible to facilitate Bernstein's mission.(39)
On April 11 Bernstein returned to Merkers, and that morning, after arranging with Mason for setting up a command post at the mine building for the G-5 officers, he and Rave made an inspection of the art treasures. Later that day Lt. George Stout, USNR, MFAA Officer, G-5, Twelfth Army Group, and the SHAEF MFAA chief, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, reported for duty, with the expectation that they would handle the art matters. After Posey's earlier visit to Merkers, he had notified Webb of the treasure and recommended Stout, former chief of conservation at Harvard's Fogg Museum and considered America's greatest expert on the techniques of packing and transporting, be sent to the mine to provide technical guidance. Webb and Stout arrived at Merkers only to find that they needed Bernstein's permission to see the art. Bernstein showed them his letter from Gay authorizing him to decide who went into the mine and the need for Eddy's permission for Allied personnel to inspect the mine. Bernstein agreed to let Stout view the works of art, but he denied Webb access.(40)
Meanwhile, on the afternoon of April 10, Morris left Frankfurt and drove to XII Corps headquarters at Meningen. The next morning he discussed the move of the treasure with the XII Corps Chief of Staff, G-4, and G-5. He also discussed with Gay and Patton the security requirements for the move as well as for the Frankfurt area in the event of a major attack. He then set out for Merkers, arriving at 11 a.m. and proceeded to discuss the physical problems of the move with Mason. Then he joined Bernstein and Bartlett to inspect a nearby salt mine, where they found German air force clothing.(41)
That evening Bernstein learned that personnel he had requested were at Frankfurt. He decided that six of them would remain at Frankfurt. The others would report for duty at Merkers: Lt. Col. Omer Claiborne, G-5, SHAEF Mission to France and chief, Currency Section for France; Lt. Comdr. Joel H. Fisher, chief, Foreign Exchange and Property Control Section, Financial Branch, G-5 SHAEF; 1st Lt. William A. Dunn, Financial Branch, U.S. Group Control Council; Lt. Col. William S. Moore, commanding officer, European Civil Affairs Division's Currency Section for Germany (Twelfth Army Group), and six of his men; and Mr. Maurice St. Germain, civilian officer of Guaranty Trust Co., New York, Paris Office, an expert gold trader.(42) The Generals Enter the Mine Also that evening Bernstein received a message that Patton had called directing him to be at the main entrance of the mine the following morning at 9 a.m. Bernstein immediately ordered that arrangements be made to see that the mine and shaft equipment was functioning properly and that German civilians were available for questioning if needed. The next morning, April 12, Bernstein was at the mine very early to ensure everything was prepared for Patton's visit. But 9 a.m. came and went, and there was no Patton, for he was still at his headquarters at Hersfeld greeting Eisenhower and Bradley. They, with Patton and Eddy and members of their staffs, flew to Merkers. Arriving at the mine about 10:30 a.m., they were joined by Brig. Gen. Otto P. Weyland, commander of the XIX Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force. Bernstein met them at the mine entrance and took the generals and several German officials into the mine, and they descended by elevator.(43)
As the jittery elevator descended with ever-accelerating speed down the pitch-black shaft, with a German operating the elevator, Bernstein was concerned about their safety. So was Patton. Looking at the single cable, Patton said if the cable snapped "promotions in the United States Army would be considerably stimulated." General Eisenhower said "OK George, that's enough. No more cracks until we are above ground again."(44)
The generals entered Room No. 8 and looked around in awe at the captured gold. They then inspected the SS loot. Eisenhower was moved by the experience. "Crammed into suitcases and trunks and other containers was a great amount of gold and silver plate and ornament obviously looted from private dwellings throughout Europe" he wrote. "All the articles," he noted, "had been flattened by hammer blows, obviously to save storage space, and then merely thrown into the receptacle, apparently pending an opportunity to melt them down into gold or silver bars." Later Patton would write that he saw "a number of suitcases filled with jewelry, such as silver and gold cigarette cases, wrist-watch cases, spoons, forks, vases, gold-filled teeth, false teeth, etc." acquired by "bandit methods." Eisenhower was very interested in learning what was in the mine. Bernstein informed the generals that some of the treasure had come from victims in the concentration camps; how the treasure had come to be shipped there; and estimates as to its value. He also told them he was planning to take an inventory of everything and to move the treasures to Frankfurt. Eisenhower and the other generals concurred with Bernstein's plans.(45)
Bernstein also showed the generals the art treasures, plates the Reichsbank used for the printing of the Reichsmark currency, and the currency itself. While they were looking at the latter, a German official said that they were the last reserves in Germany and were badly needed to pay the German army. "I doubt," Bradley interjected, "the German Army will be meeting payrolls much longer." Near the end of the inspection, Bradley said to Patton, "If these were the old free-booting days when a soldier kept his loot you'd be the richest man in the world." Patton just grinned. With that said, the one-hour inspection concluded, and the party, which had included newspapermen and Signal Corps photographers taking numerous photos of the inspection, returned to the surface.(46)
Later that evening Bradley, Eisenhower, and Patton dined together. Among the things they discussed was that when word first reached Patton about the gold discovery, he had ordered a censorship stop on the discovery. "But why keep it a secret, George?" Bradley asked. "What would do with all that money?" Patton said that his soldiers were of two minds. One view was that the gold be cut into medallions, "one for every sonuvabitch in Third Army." The other view was that the Third Army hide the loot until peacetime when military appropriations were tight and then dig it up to buy new weapons. Eisenhower, looking at Bradley and laughing, said "He's always got an answer." The evening did not end on a happy note. Just about midnight the three learned that President Roosevelt had died.(47)
Top of Page
The tour completed, Bernstein interviewed Albert Thoms, who explained how and why the gold, currency, and other items got to the mine. He also gave some estimated values for the gold and said "the gold and silver was not stolen." "The silver and gold articles in cases," he said, came from the economic department of the SS." He said that there were no records at Merkers relating to the gold. Later that afternoon, and during the course of the next several days, Bernstein and his men interviewed a dozen bank, mine, and other officials. During these interviews they learned about the German policy of storing files and treasures and goods of all kinds and descriptions in mines and tunnels. They also learned the names of various mines.(48) Moving the Treasure While the tour was being conducted, Morris was hard at work facilitating the coordination of the move. He arrived at the Third Army advanced headquarters during midmorning and met with the deputy chief of engineers to obtain the service of engineers for supervising German operators at critical points throughout the mine installation during the forthcoming operation. He also met with Colonel Perry, the transportation officer, to discuss the transportation requirements and with the Third Army provost marshal to discuss security measures.(49)
On the twelfth, MFAA Officer Stout talked to Rave at the Ransbach mine, who explained that the forty-five cases of art there could not be inspected as the mine elevator was not working. Stout returned to Merkers and made a spot-check of some of the boxes and crates of artwork. He found that in addition to the crated items, some four hundred paintings were lying loose. He had seen enough to know that he needed proper packing materials and that the art constituted great wealth. The next afternoon he returned to Ransbach to prepare the items there for the move. Upon his return to Merkers, Bernstein told him that the art convoy would leave on the sixteenth.(50)
At 1:30 p.m. on April 12, Fisher, Claiborne, St. Germain, Dunn, Moore with his staff arrived from Frankfurt at the mine. Bernstein assigned Moore the responsibility for marking the money containers in the mine, preparing inventories at the time of the removal of the money from the mine, and with technical advice from Claiborne, making arrangements for the transfer of the currency and gold. Fisher was assigned the responsibility for preparing inventories of all other mines in the immediate vicinity and to analyze all the testimony developed in interrogations to date with a view toward finding further gold and currency deposits as well as gathering financial and property control intelligence information.(51)
That afternoon St. Germain, with the assistance of Barrett, inspected the mine and made an estimate of the situation and after consulting with Mason, outlined a plan for operations. During the day, under the direction of Moore, four teams were organized to make an inventory of the contents of the mine based on the information shown on the tags. Two teams worked on the gold bullion and coins, and two worked on the other loot. While the contents of the mine were being inventoried and prepared for the move, army engineers began preparing the area for the move. Also that day thirty-two ten-ton trucks from the 3628th and 4263d Quartermaster Truck Companies were made available for the move. Morris visited Mainz and arranged with the Truck Company commanders to report at the mine property at Merkers early the following morning.(52)
At 7:30 a.m. on April 14 the thirty-two trucks plus wreckers arrived at Merkers. Also arriving that day was Colonel Walker, commanding officer of the 474th Infantry Regiment, who inspected the mine and the areas surrounding the mine for the purpose of organizing his security guard to take control of the convoy upon its exit from the mine property.(53)
The move began at 9 a.m. Jeeps and quarter-ton trailers were lowered into the mine, as well as ten officers of the 357th Infantry Regiment, Bernstein's people, and scores of soldiers, medics, tank crew members, and other support personnel, to not only move the treasure from the vault to a shaft to the trucks but also to record in great detail at each step what was being moved and loaded on the trucks. The treasure was taken out of the vault and loaded onto the trailers by two crews of fifty men each in alternating shifts. The gold on trailers attached to the Jeeps were then driven to Shaft No. 2, where the trailer was detached and sent to the surface by the elevator. Shaft No. 1 was used for loading currency bags and miscellaneous objects. Here the material was unloaded from the trailers into mine carts and sent up the elevator. The treasure, stored in over eleven thousand containers, was inventoried again upon reaching the surface, It included, among other things, 3,682 bags and cartons of Germany currency, 80 bags of foreign currency, 4,173 bags containing 8,307 gold bars, 55 boxes of gold bullion, 3,326 bags of gold coins, 63 bags of silver, 1 bag of platinum bars, 8 bags of gold rings, and 207 bags and containers of SS loot. Once the inventory was completed, the treasure was loaded onto the trucks. Working nonstop, the job was completed at 6 a.m. the next morning. During the evening of the fourteenth a continuous air patrol was begun over the area, and it would continue until the move was completed.(54)
At some point on April 14 Bernstein met with Stout, Dunn, and Bartlett to discuss the arrangements for the movement of approximately four hundred tons of art stored in different parts of the Merkers mine. It was agreed that loading would begin at noon on April 16. But the loading would actually begin earlier, for at midnight on the fourteenth, Bernstein ordered Stout to prepare three truckloads of art, which were to be mixed in with the gold to make the loads lighter. Stout, between 2 and 4:30 a.m., complied with Bernstein's order, complete with an inventory.(55)
Also on the fourteenth, Morris flew to Frankfurt to confer with transportation officers about procuring trucks to be used for the shipment of the art to Frankfurt. Morris made arrangements on April 15 with the Third Army provost marshal to obtain one hundred POWs to be used in loading the art treasure the next morning. The following morning, Morris flew back to Merkers to assist in the move.(56)
On April 14 Bernstein found time to write Gay, proposing an operational plan to search for other Nazi gold and foreign exchange assets after the move of the treasure from Merkers. The Merkers treasure discovery, he observed, "confirms previous intelligence reports and censorship intercepts indicating that the Germans were planning to use these foreign exchange assets, including works of art, as a means of perpetuating the Nazism and Nazi influence both in Germany and abroad." "In order to prevent further transfer or movements of Germany's foreign exchange assets and works of art to more secure places in southern Germany or in neutral countries such as Switzerland and Sweden," Bernstein wrote "it is essential to locate and protect these assets."(57)
At 6 a.m. on April 15, just as the loading of the trucks had been almost completed, Colonel Walker and Lieutenant Colonel Whitney with elements of their 474th Infantry Regiment arrived at the mine to assume command of the convoy as it cleared the property area. The trucks were completely loaded--actually overloaded by approximately 10 percent--by 7:45 a.m. By 8 a.m. one truck had broken down in the mine's factory area and was placed under strong guard until it was repaired.(58)
The convoy, code-named TASK FORCE WHITNEY, set off for Frankfurt at about 8:30 a.m., escorted by five platoons from the 474th Infantry Regiment, elements of the 785th and 503d Military Police Battalions, two machine-gun platoons, an antiaircraft platoon with ten mobile antiaircraft guns, four wreckers, one ambulance, and an air cover of observation planes and P-51 Mustang fighters. While Bernstein accompanied the convoy, Claiborne and St. Germain traveled to Frankfurt by car to make arrangements for receiving and storing the gold and currency within the Reichsbank. Morris flew to Frankfurt to arrange for additional personnel to assist in the unloading. The convoy arrived at Frankfurt around 2 p.m., and the unloading commenced at 3:45 p.m. Two infantry companies cordoned off the Reichsbank while each item was unloaded and moved into the vaults of the bank. The operation was completed at 1 p.m. the next day, April 16, and Bernstein returned to Merkers to supervise the movement of the artworks.(59)
At 8 a.m. on April 15, a platoon of the First Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, under the direction of Stout, assisted by Dunn, started moving the four hundred unpacked pictures. Once the pictures were aboveground, they were placed in an adjacent mine-owned building and wrapped in long German army sheepskin coats Stout had found in a neighboring mine. They now awaited arrival of the trucks the next day.(60)
On April 16 at 7 a.m. the convoy arrived. The move commenced once again, under the watchful eye of Morris, who arrived back at Merkers around 9:30 a.m. The move was accomplished by 357th Infantry Regiment personnel, assisted by the one hundred POWs who arrived with an escort of guards later in the day. The move went quickly, in part because some of the art had been moved to the surface the previous day. Besides the Merkers treasures, a few art objects in forty-five cases were removed from the Ransbach mine and added to the convoy. The move was completed at about 8:30 p.m. With this phase of the operation completed, the 357th Infantry Regiment's Third Battalion took leave of Merkers and rejoined their Ninetieth Infantry Division comrades. The First Battalion would remain at Merkers, under Corps Control, until the treasure's disposition had taken place.(61)
On April 17, at 8:30 a.m. the art treasure convoy, named TASK FORCE HANSEN, moved out from Merkers, having approximately the same strength security guard as the gold convoy with the exception that fewer aircraft were used. The convoy consisted of twenty-six ten-ton trucks loaded with art, two loaded with POWs, and two empty for use in the event that a transfer of loads became necessary. The art convoy arrived at Frankfurt at 2:45 p.m., and an hour later the unloading and storing of the artwork began, supervised by Stout, assisted by the newly promoted Captain Dunn. The unloading was completed at 10:30 p.m., and at 11 p.m. Colonel Walker and the Ninety-ninth Battalion 457th Infantry Regiment departed, and the POWs were sent on another assignment.(62) Disposition of the Treasure That afternoon, as the loading was taking place, McSherry visited the Reichsbank and directed that a tentative inventory be prepared of the gold, silver, and currency. This inventory was completed at 10 p.m. and handed to McSherry. The next day, April 18, Eisenhower cabled the War Department with a rough estimate of the Merkers find. Two days later, Eisenhower's chief of staff sent the Combined Chiefs of Staff a preliminary inventory of the Merkers treasure. It indicated that the value of the gold, silver, and currency was over $520 million. In his cover letter he pointed out that a large quantity of the loot appeared to have been taken by the SS from victims and suggested that proper agencies be contacted to send representatives to review the loot in terms of being evidence in war crimes proceedings.(63)
Sometime after noon on April 17 or 18, Bernstein, now back at Frankfurt, learned that his colleagues had uncovered in the Merkers find a series of account books belonging to Thoms's Precious Metals Department, which Thoms had earlier informed Bernstein had been sent back to Berlin. In interrogating Thoms on April 18, Bernstein asked him to explain the books. Thoms indicated that the books were a running inventory of the gold bars and gold and silver coins held by the Reichsbank for its own account and the account of others. The books also provided specific information about each bar held at either Merkers or Berlin. Bernstein believed the books should be useful as a checklist against which the discovery of the Reichsbank gold could be controlled and might assist in the location of all of the Reichsbank gold.(64)
On April 18 Bernstein sent McSherry a detailed report of the activities that had taken place during the preceding two weeks. He concluded by observing that "the Germans hid their assets in mines and other secret places in Germany, presumably with the intent of maintaining a source of financing of pro-Nazi activity." "Many of these caches," he continued, "have not yet been uncovered and should be ferreted out as soon as operations permit." He observed that it was "necessary that some procedure be established for analyzing and utilizing the property and records found in the Merkers area and those uncovered in the future." "Intelligence reports," he wrote, "indicate that just as the Germans secreted assets and valuable property within Germany, they also made elaborate arrangements for secreting assets in neutral and other nations of the world." "Every step should be taken," he urged, "in Germany to obtain information of the assets secreted both inside and outside Germany so that these assets cannot be used to perpetuate Nazism or contribute to the rebuilding of Nazi influence."(65)
Beginning on April 14, Bernstein attempted to get someone to support his plan for a full-scale reconnaissance of Germany for other caches of loot. He contacted senior officers at XII Corps and Third Army for assistance, but no real help was forthcoming. Despite the lack of assistance, Bernstein, with a small reconnaissance party in Jeeps, left Frankfurt on April 19 in search of more loot. During the next two weeks his teams covered nineteen hundred miles, checking Reichsbanks all over American-occupied Germany and following up every lead regarding the whereabouts of gold. Of all the places visited by the reconnaissance parties, only three actually yielded recoveries of the so-called Reichsbank gold in the amount of $3 million. During May and June American soldiers found Reichsbank gold valued at about $11 million. Altogether the Americans had recovered 98.6 percent of the $255.96 million worth of gold shown on the closing balances of the Precious Metals Department of the Berlin Reichsbank.(66)
In mid-August experts from the United States Treasury Department and the Bank of England completed the job of weighing and appraising the gold, gold coin, and silver bars that had been captured. The total value of the gold found in Germany was placed at $262,213,000. Also weighed and appraised was $270,469 worth of silver, as well as a ton of platinum. Eight bags of rare gold coins had not been appraised, nor had the SS loot.(67)
During the summer of 1945, Allied currencies found at Merkers and elsewhere by the Americans were returned to various countries, and the process of restituting the artworks found at Merkers and elsewhere in the former German Reich began.(68) The gold found at Merkers was in early 1946 turned over to the Inter-Allied Reparation Agency and eventually turned over to the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold (TGC) for distribution to countries whose central-bank gold had been stolen by the Nazis. The TGC began the process of getting the gold returned to most countries as quickly as possible. However, cold war factors resulted in some of the gold not being restituted until 1996.
During the summer, efforts were made to ascertain the value of the SS loot found at Merkers, and discussions begun about its disposition. Within several years non-monetary gold, including that taken from victims of Nazi persecution, was given to the Preparatory Commission of the International Restitution Organization. Bernstein turned over the reports about the SS loot that he and his colleagues had produced as well as information contained in the records of the Precious Metals Department to war crimes prosecutors for use in connection with their preparations for the trials at Nuremberg. One of the counts on which Walter Funk was found guilty related to his dealings with the property taken from concentration camp victims by the SS and deposited in the Reichsbank.(69)
Conclusion The accomplishments of recovering, moving, and managing the Merkers treasure by Colonels Bernstein, Barrett, Morris, Moore, Mason, and their colleagues may or may not have shortened the war. But they did block the Nazi leaders from further use of their looted gold and property of victims of their persecution. Their actions also ensured that the central banks of Europe would receive back at least some of the gold the Nazis had seized and that some funds would be available for restitution to individuals.(70)
The story of the Merkers treasure still continues. During the summer of 1948, most of the records of the Reichsbank's Precious Metals Department were microfilmed by the U.S. Army and, interestingly enough, turned over to Albert Thoms, who was working for the successor bank to the Reichsbank. These records have subsequently disappeared in Germany, and there has been a search for them the past two years in the belief they would shed light on how much non-monetary gold (e.g., dental gold) was melted down and mixed with the monetary gold (i.e., central bank gold) and thus indicate how much restitution still should be made to victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs.(71)
At an international Nazi Gold conference held in London in December 1997, several countries agreed to relinquish their claims to their share of the remaining 5.5 metric tons (worth about sixty million dollars) still held by the Tripartite Gold Commission (TGC) and donate it to a Nazi Persecution Relief Fund to help survivors of the Holocaust. Almost all of the claimant nations similarly agreed to such a policy during the course of 1998. Early in September 1998, in a ceremony held in Paris, the TGC announced its task was completed and went out of business. Thus, the Merkers story ends on a noble, selfless, just, and moral note, as upwards of fifteen countries were willing to forego receiving gold stolen from their nations by the Nazis and allow it to be used as compensation for victims of Nazi persecution.
Top of Page
1. File 390-INFANTRY(358)-0.3 "A/A Report-358th Infantry Regiment Mar-May 45," World War II Operations Reports, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1917-, Record Group 407, National Archives at College Park, MD (hereinafter cited as RG ___, NACP).
2. Col. B. Bernstein to Brig. Gen. F. J. McSherry, Report of developments in removal of Treasure from Kaiseroda at Merkers, Germany, Apr. 18, 1945 (hereinafter cited as "Bernstein Report"), file SHAEF/G-5/1/13, Financial-Germany-Discoveries of Gold and Other Valuables, Numeric File, August 1943-July 1945, Secretariat, G-5 Division, General Staff, SHAEF, Records of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331, NACP; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations--Merkers-Herringen-Frankfurt Areas in Germany 9 April to 22 April 1945" File 105, Special Report on Discovery and Disposition of German Gold, Numeric-Subject Operations File 1943-July 1945, Historical Section, Information Branch, General Staff, G-5 Division, SHAEF, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331, NACP.
3. "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
4. "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Earl F. Ziemke, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946, Army Historical Series (1975), p. 228; Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting, Nazi Gold: The Story of the World's Greatest Robbery-and Its Aftermath (1984), pp. 11-12; John A. Busterud, "The Treasure in the Salt Mine," Army 47 (March 1997): 48.
5. File 390-0.3 "A/A Report--90th Infantry Division April 45," file 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt--357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45," and file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal--357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45," World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
6. Col. Bernard Bernstein, memorandum, Apr. 12, 1945, file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, 1945-1950, Finance Advisor Records of Subordinate Agencies, Office of the Finance Division and Finance Advisor, Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.) (OMGUS), RG 260, NACP; George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It, annotated by Col. Paul D. Harkins (1989), p. 271.
7. William Z. Slany, U.S and Allied Efforts To Recover and Restore Gold and Other Assets Stolen or Hidden by Germany During World War II: Preliminary Study, Department of State Publication 10468, May 1997; Sidney Zabludoff, Movements of Nazi Gold: Uncovering the Trail, World Jewish Congress Policy Study No. 10, 1997; Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Nazi Gold: Information from the British Archives, History Notes No. 11, 2d ed., January 1997.
8. "Bernstein Report," RG 331; interrogation of Walter Funk by Maj. Hiram Gans, June 4, 1945, "Interrogation of Dr. Walter Funk & Other Nazi Big Wigs," Interrogations and Reports Pertaining to German Financial Matters 1945-1946, Records of the External Assets Investigation Section, OMGUS, RG 260; "Statement of Dr. Werner Veick, Merkers, Germany, 10 April 1945," Appendix IV "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 260; "Statement of Albert Thomas [sic], Merkers, Germany, 12 April 1945," File 940.401 "Shipment No. 1" Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
9. Roger A. Freeman with Alan Couchman and Vic Maslen, The Mighty Eighth War Diary (1993), pp. 432-433; "Funk Interrogation," RG 260, NACP; Sayer and Botting, Nazi Gold, p. 10; "Joint Statement of Ernst Funtmann, Walter Ponicke, Dr. Woldemar Mayer, Hand [sic] Richter, George Peters, Dr. Beil, Rathke, Kurzel, Engert, Boerner and Dr. Rudolph; Merkers, Germany, 12 April 1945," appendix VI, "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 260; "Bernstein Report," RG 331; "Thoms Statement April 12, 1945," RG 260, NACP.
10. Lt. Col. R.T.T. Barrett to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, "Temporary Duty of Lt. Col. Barrett to Third Army Area, 7 April 1945 to 18 April 1945," Apr. 19, 1945 (hereinafter cited as "Barrett, Temporary Duty"), file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260; R. A. Nixon to Col. B. Bernstein, "Report on Recovery of Reichsbank Precious Metals," Sept. 6, 1945, file 940.92 "Overall Gold Report," ibid.; "Veick Statement," RG 260; "Thoms Statement, April 12, 1945," RG 260; file 390-3.3 G-3 Jnl File 90th Infantry Div 5-10 Apr 45, World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP.
11. "Statement of Otto Reimer, Merkers, Germany, 10 April 1945," appendix IV, "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations"; "Veick Statement;" "Barrett, Temporary Duty," all in RG 260, NACP.
12. "Signed Statement by Albert Thoms on Handling of SS Loot by Reichsbank, 29 May 1945," file 940.304 "SS Loot-Melmer Loot"; various reports contained in file 910.304 "Melmer Deliveries"; and D. W. Curtis to Maj. S. L. Klepper, "Memo on SS Loot," Sept. 10, 1945, File 940.401 "Shipment No. 1," Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, all in OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
13. "Veick Statement"; "Thoms Statement, April 12, 1945"; "Barrett, Temporary Duty"; and various reports contained in file 910.304 "Melmer Deliveries," Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260. Brig. Gen. C. L. Adcock to Chief of Staff, "Gold coins from the Frankfurt Reichsbank" and "Estimated value of the SS collection of gold, precious stones, etc.," Aug. 13, 1945, file 123/2 "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures," Classified General Correspondence, Records of the Secretary, General Staff, Records of European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, Records of U.S. Army Commands, 1942-, RG 338, NACP (hereinafter cited as "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures").
14. "Report made to MFA and A Officer Third Army, Apr. 11, 1945, by Dr. Paul Ortwin RAVE, Assistant to the Director, Prussian State Museums, of their holdings at the Wintershal-Kaiseroda Mine at Merkers, and at Schact Ransbach, bei Hattorf," file 940. 401 "Merkers Mine," Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP; Col. B. Bernstein to Brig. Gen. McSherry, "Report on Contents of Mines in Merkers Area," Apr. 18, 1945, "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures;" Col. R. L. D [Dalferes], GSC, AC of S, G-5, "Report on Works of Art Depot at Merkers, Germany," Apr. 9, 1945, file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP; "Statement of Dr. P. O. Rave, Merkers, Germany, 10 April 1945," appendix VI, "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Busterud, "The Treasure in the Salt Mine," p. 50.
15. Hugh Trevor-Roper, ed., and Richard Barry, trans., The Goebbels Diaries: The Last Days (1978), p. 321; "Reimer Statement," "Veick Statement," and "Thoms Statement, April 12, 1945," RG 260, NACP; Col. Bernstein to Chief of Staff, Third United States Army, "Discovery of German Hidden Assets," Apr. 14, 1945, "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
16. "Colonel Bernstein's Interrogation of Albert Thomas [sic], Apr. 18, 1945," file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS; 260; "Veick Statement," RG 260, NACP.
17. "Colonel Bernstein's Interrogation of Albert Thomas, 18 April 1945," File 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS; "Veick Statement;" and "Thoms Statement, April 12, 1945," all in RG 260, NACP.
18. File 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45" World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; file 390-3.9 "Field Orders & Field Messages--90th Infantry Division Apr 45," RG 407; "Bernstein Report," RG 331; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
19. Capt. L. F. Murray to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, "Report of Investigation of Alleged Discrepancies in Currency and Coin Found in Mine at Merkers, Germany," May 7, 1945, file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, 1945-1950, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Busterud, "The Treasure in the Salt Mine" p. 48; Sayer and Botting, Nazi Gold, p. 12; Patton, War As I Knew It, pp. 271-272.
20. "Bernstein Report," RG 331; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331; Lt. Col. William E. DePuy, Infantry, Comd, First Bn 357th Infantry Regiment to Commanding General, 90th Infantry Division, Apr. 7, 1945, file 390-3.3 "G-3 Jnl-90th Infantry Div 5-10 Apr 45," World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP.
21. Capt. L. F. Murray to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, "Report of Investigation of Alleged Discrepancies in Currency and Coin Found in Mine at Merkers, Germany," May 7, 1945, file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1979), pp. 407-408; ? to Col. B. Bernstein, Finance Division, US Group CC, "SS Loot and the Reichsbank," May 8, 1945, file 910.304 Melmer Deliveries, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
22. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations;" "Barrett, Temporary Duty;" "List of Money, Gold Bullion found in salt mine H-66850, Merkers, 8 April 1945" submitted by George L. Blossom, Col., Finance Dept., Finance Officer, 12th Corps. This document is appendix I in "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
23. Memorandum, Capt. Max G. Kocour, 357th Infantry Regiment, Apr. 8, 1945, File 390-3.3 "G-3 Jnl File-90th Infantry Div 5-10 Apr 45"; file 390-3.9 "Field Order #61--90th Infantry Division--9 Apr 45"; file 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45"; file 390-0.3 "A/A Report-90th Infantry Division April 45"; and file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal--357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45," all in World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; Capt. L. F. Murray to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, "Report of Investigation of Alleged Discrepancies in Currency and Coin Found in Mine at Merkers, Germany," May 7, 1945, File 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260; "Bernstein Report," RG 331; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
24. Busterud, "The Treasure in the Salt Mine," p. 50; Sayer and Botting, Nazi Gold, p. 13; "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 2760, NACP.
25. Patton, War As I Knew It, pp. 272-273.
26. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; oral history interview of Bernard Bernstein by Richard D. McKinzie, July 23, 1975, New York, NY, p. 113, Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, MO. In this interview Bernstein reported he had read about the story in the Stars and Stripes.
27. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260, NACP; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 113, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
28. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
29. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
30. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260, NACP.
31. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 113, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
32. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 114, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
33. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260; "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
34. Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay to Commanding General, XII Corps, "Letter of Instruction," Apr. 9, 1945, file 940.401 Shipment No. 1, Central Files of Federal Exchange Depository, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
35. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260, NACP; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 114-115, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
36. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260, NACP; "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 114-115, Truman Library. 37. "Barrett, Temporary Duty," RG 260, NACP.
38. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; file 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45" World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 115-117, Truman Library; "Veick Statement" and "Reimer Statement," RG 260, NACP.
39. File 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45" World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 115-117, Truman Library.
40. "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War (1995), p. 333.
41. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations" and "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; file 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45" World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 118, Truman Library.
42. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; St. Germain had worked with Colonels Barrett and Claiborne at Guaranty Trust Company before the war. Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 121-122. Truman Library.
43. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; file 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45" and file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45," World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 118, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Busterud, "The Treasure in the Salt Mine," p. 49; Patton, War As I Knew It, p. 276; Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story (1951), p. 540.
44. Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 119, Truman Library; Charles R. Codman, Drive (1957) p. 281.
45. Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 119-120, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 407; Patton, War As I Knew It, p. 276.
46. Bernstein, Oral History Interview, pp. 119-121, Truman Library; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 540.
47. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 541.
48. "Thoms Statement, April 12, 1945," RG 260; "Bernstein Report," RG 331; Col. Bernard Bernstein, memorandum, Apr. 12, 1945, file 940.401 Shipments No. 1, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
49. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
50. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, pp. 334-335.
51. "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
52. File 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45" and file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45," World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations" and "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
53. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
54. File 390.INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt-357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45," file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45," and memorandum, Lt. Col. John H. Mason to Col. Bernstein, Apr. 13, 1945, "Removal of Gold, Currency, and Art Treasures from Merkers Salt Mine Procedure," File 390-INFANTRY (357)-3.22 "Memorandum-357th Infantry Regiment" World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; "Bernstein Report" and "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331; "Exhibit A' Register of Shipments Received at Reichsbank Building Frankfurt A/M Germany," an attachment to Edwin P. Keller to Lt. Gabell, "Accounting Records," July 16, 1946, File 940.40 Shipments, General, Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
55. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 335.
56. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP.
57. Col. Bernstein to Chief of Staff, Third U.S. Army, "Discovery of German Hidden Assets," Apr. 14, 1945, "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
58. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; file 390-INFANTRY(357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45" World War II Operations Reports, RG 407, NACP.
59. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Ziemke, The U.S. Army Occupation of Germany, p. 230; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331, NACP; unsigned memorandum, Apr. 16, 1945, File 940.401 "Cage Sheets," Central Files of Foreign Exchange Depository Group, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 124, Truman Library.
60. File 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt 357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45" and file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45," World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP; Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 335.
61. File 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.3 "A/A Rpt 357th Infantry Regiment Jan-May 45"; file 390-INFANTRY (357)-0.7 "Journal-357th Infantry Regiment Apr 45"; memorandum, "Loading Plan for Art Objects," 1st Lt. W. A. Dunn to Col. Bernstein, Apr. 14, 1945, file 390-INFANTRY (357)-3.22 "Memorandum-357th Infantry Regiment"; and file 390-0.3 "A/A Report-90th Infantry Division April 45," World War II Operations Reports, RG 407. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations" and "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
62. File INRG-474-INF1-0.1 Command, Organization and Mission-Task Force Hansen, 474th Infantry Regiment, April 45, World War II Operations Reports, RG 407; "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations" and "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
63. "G-4 Functions in ETOUSA Operations," RG 331; cable, Eisenhower to Somervell, Apr. 18, 1945, "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures," RG 338; Lt. Gen. W. B. Smith to the Secretaries, Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee, Apr. 20, 1945, "Gold bullion, currency, and other property discovered by the Third Army near Merkers," File CCC-Germany-123, "Disposition of Bullion and Other Property Discovered by Third Army," Geographic File 1942-1945, Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, RG 218, NACP.
64. "Bernstein Report," RG 331, NACP.
66. Col. B. Bernstein to Brig. Gen. McSherry, "Report of Contents of Mines in Merkers Area," Apr. 18, 1945, File SHAEF/G-5/1/13, Financial-Germany-Discoveries of Gold and Other Valuables, Numeric File, August 1943-July 1945, Secretariat, G-5 Division, General Staff, SHAEF, Records of SHAEF, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331; "Bernstein Report," RG 331; R. A. Nixon to Col. B. Bernstein, "Report on Recovery of Reichsbank Precious Metals," Sept. 6, 1945, "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures," RG 338, NACP.
67. Col. B. Bernstein to Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, "Value of Gold and Silver Bullion and Coin Held by Commanding General USFET at the Reichsbank Building in Frankfurt," Aug. 19, 1945, "Value of Gold and Silver Bullion and Coin Held by Commanding General USFET at the Reichsbank Building in Frankfurt, Volume 1-Report" Foreign (Occupied) Area Reports 1945-1954, Records of the Operations Branch, Records of the Administrative Services Division, RG 407, NACP.
68. Brig. Gen. R. B. Lovett to Commanding General, Western Military District, "Return of Looted Works of Art to Owner-Nations" Sept. 15, 1945, "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures," RG 338, NACP; Lucius D. Clay, Decision in Germany (1950), pp. 308, 309.
69. Brig. Gen. C. L. Adcock to Chief of Staff, "Gold coins from the Frankfurt Reichsbank" and "Estimated value of the SS collection of gold, precious stones, etc.," Aug. 13, 1945; Brig. Gen. C. L. Adcock to Chief of Staff, "Evaluation of captured looted materials held in Reichsbank by Finance Division, G-5 USFET," Aug. 24, 1945; and Brig. Gen. C. L. Adcock to Chief of Staff, "Proposed Use of Property of SS Troops," Sept. 7, 1945, "Captured Gold Bullion and Art Treasures," RG 338, NACP. Clay, Decision in Germany, p. 309; Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 132, Truman Library.
70. When Bernstein left military service in 1945 he was awarded the Legion of Merit. His citation, in part, reads: "Colonel Bernstein's wise and energetic action in organizing control of vast sums of bullion and currency hidden by the Germans, and in instituting an examination of seized enemy financial records, was a material contribution to the success of the Supreme Commander's mission in Germany." Bernstein, Oral History Interview, p. 176, Truman Library.
71. The records that were microfilmed, contained on some seventy reels, are available at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. For information about what was and was not microfilmed, when the unmicrofilmed records may have disappeared, and related information, please see The Whereabouts of the Records of Deutsche Reichsbank (in particular the Precious Metals Department, the Foreign Exchange Department, and the Securities Department), after the collapse of the Reich (1945) and after the conslusion of the liquidation of the Reichsbank (1976). A Research Report compiled by the Bundesarchiv with the assistance of the Deutsche Bundesbank (August 1998). A copy of this report is located in the library at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.