An old map believed to reveal the exact location of a secret Nazi treasure trove has sparked a frenzied search – and annoyed locals – in a small village in the Netherlands, where amateur treasure hunters have arrived in droves.
A map of the looted treasure was made public by the Dutch National Archive last week and published online after being kept secret for 75 years.
The map was part of several documents declassified under the country’s official secrets act and became public on 3 January as the National Archive celebrated its annual Open Access Day.
It is said to point to the location of ammunition boxes full of looted diamonds, rubies, gold and silver and is believed to be buried near the hamlet of Ommeren that falls under the municipality of Buren.
In its press statement announcing details about the documents that were declassified, the National Archives had revealed that even though it is “a real treasure map”, there had been failed attempts in the past to find the treasure.
“A real treasure map this time, from the archive of the Nederlands Beheersinstituut, contains the clues to a never-found Nazi treasure that is said to be buried near Ommeren,” the statement said.
“It has been searched for several times in vain.”
According to archives adviser Annet Waalkens, the map includes red crosses that show where four boxes of treasure worth millions of dollars are buried.
“There are brooches, necklaces, silver and gold coins, rubies, diamonds, lots of valuables,” she told CBS News.
With treasure hunters descending upon Ommeren, the Buren municipality has been forced to issue public updates to notify residents if officials are taking crowd control measures.
On Monday, 15 people were given a warning by the police. Up to 100 people including some coming from the UK have been spotted hunting, mostly at night, armed with shovels, reported The Telegraph newspaper.
In an update on the same day, the Buren municipality, in its official website, issued the following: “Today no one has been found in the area looking for the Nazi treasure. We continue to monitor the situation closely, for now there is no reason to take any measures.”
Petra van Dee, 42, an Ommeren resident, told the BBC that the Dutch National Archive should not have released the information as it has left her family feeling vulnerable.
“I cannot sleep. One of the holes they dug in my garden came up to here,” she said, gesturing to her chest.
Another resident named Sander said: “I moved here for the peace and tranquility. Now the whole world knows about us.”
Klaas Tammes, a former mayor of Ommeren, told CBS News that people from all over the Netherlands had started pouring in.
“I have already seen people from all over the Netherlands. Yesterday somebody from Drenthe [Dutch province] with a divining stick said he had found the spot, but it was under the asphalt, so that was inconvenient,” he was quoted as saying.
“I get it, but I really think it will be hard to find. On the other hand, being the president of the foundation which owns this land, I am also a bit afraid, knowing that people will start digging haphazardly. I hope it won’t get out of hand.”
“I see groups of people with metal detectors everywhere,” 57-year old treasure hunter Jan Henzen told Reuters last week as he took a break from his own search.
The treasure is believed to have been looted after an explosion at a bank in August 1944.