The hunt for Nazi fortunes had begun before the WWII was over. The coalition intelligence services had information about the Germans plunder in the conqueredEurope, and had made, far in advance, preparations for recovering it. After collapse of the Third Reich, the investigation was extensive but, as facts indicates, far from being adequate for this monumental task. The theft was enormous; thousands, if not hundreds of thousands individuals had opportunities to stole whatever valuables they could put their hands on; at the end of the WWII there were about 600,000 SS troops, each of which was a potential suspect. It comes as no surprise therefore that in spite of all efforts, only a fraction of the fortune was recovered.
In most contemporary literature on the subject the emphasis is on the property of Jews, confiscated in the period of German occupation. This, however, was just a part, and not the biggest one, of all plunder, that took place in the occupied Europe. Government reserves of the conquered countries went to the German coffers as well to foot the giant bill of military expenses. No surprise therefore, that a part of it landed into the private hands, particularly after the war was over and some money and gold remained in possession of those who was responsible for their safekeeping and distribution. Impressive evidence of it the reader can find in the fascinating book Nazi Millionaires by Kenneth Alford. As he states in one of examples, “A reasonable estimate of the loot hidden by Josef Spacil (a high-ranking SS officer under investigation) is $25,000,000.” “…single jeep and trailer load was valued at approximately $600,000 – only a silver of the whole all of it buried in the scenic region of Zell am See.”
Numerous others, of lesser stature than Spacil, took part in stealing outside the framework of the government sponsored robbery. SS officers, as well as some regular soldiers, grabbed whatever was accessible, Jewish or not, and stashed it in safe places, hoping to use it when the war was over. For instance, according Money Week (by Simon Wilson, “The Return of Nazi Gold”) the Nazis seized about 600,000 important works (paintings and artifacts), of which about 100,000 are still missing. These are items valued thousands, or hundreds thousands, or millions dollars.
Some American investigators were heavily involved in the ‘extracurricular activity’ during investigations: many valuables and artifacts, confiscated by intelligence personnel, later disappeared and never been accounted for. Another words, they were stolen by the US Army personnel. We can still lament “O tempore, o mores!” How better American soldiers are than the SS looters?”
According to the Swiss Bank estimates, the total value of what they received of Nazi treasure in today’s evaluation is about $6-7 billion dollars. All sources though point out that the total value of it remains unknown. And rightly so. Looting by so many individuals is hard, if not impossible, to calculate.
Not only Western powers were after the Nazi treasure. Soviets did the same, but apparently on a much larger scale. As their Western counterparts, they put hands on anything they could fish from the ruins of the Third Reich: scientists and engineers, who worked on nuclear projects, engineers, who worked in the fields of optics and rocket development, even military officers and any other personnel, whose talent and experience was of use in the Soviet military build-up.
Soviets took away almost all equipment and machinery from the factories in their occupied German territory; brought the whole technology to theSoviet Unionand re-assembled it for production. Little is know though, about their marauding of Eastern Europe: the black market of the formerSoviet Unionin the post-war era was flooded by goods, brought by soldiers and officers from the ‘liberated’ countries. However, due to secretive nature of the communist regime, almost nothing has been published so far about the Soviet hunt for the Nazi’s hidden treasure. No doubt that this hunt was massive, thorough and brutal, as everything they did in politics and finance. For the Soviets money was of crucial importance: foreign currency was in short supply and badly needed for the army of spies, employed all over the world, and for support of communist movements.
We do not know how much stolen treasures the Soviets recovered. What known is, that they used the former SS members turned informants, to trace those who kept their fortunes in the Swiss banks secret accounts. Withdrawal from these accounts was easy: whoever knew the account number and associated password could do it, no question asked.
In the middle of 1960s, when support for the Cuban style revolutions inLatin Americabecame the first priority of the Soviet government, the KGB sent a few groups of agents to the region to find these account holders and obtain their account numbers. It is still a secret how many of them the KGB agents tortured and killed, and how much money they extorted. What known is that one of the groups took the money and disappeared, and has never been found. These agents may still be alive, in their late 60’s or early 70’s.
Then novel Contra-ODESSA is about this group. Although a work of fiction, it nonetheless is based on a true story. Greed, love, adventure and geopolitics are the themes, around which the plot of the novel develops.