One Man's Quixotic Hunt for Sunken Nazi Treasure in Frigid Lake

IDF Man Aims To Solve a Stubborn Mystery of Holocaust

History Sleuth: Yaron Svoray wants to get to the bottom — literally — of the story of the Nazi treasure in this German lake.
Maximilian Kiewel
History Sleuth: Yaron Svoray wants to get to the bottom — literally — of the story of the Nazi treasure in this German lake.

By Maximilian Kiewel

Published November 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

It’s cold this winter morning at Stolpsee Lake. It’s February 2013, and ice is floating on the lake, an hour’s drive north of Berlin. Reeds and trees are covered in snow. Yaron Svoray, 60, stands on the lake’s shore, dressed in a thick winter jacket, looking thoughtfully over the water.

He has been waiting nearly six years for this moment. The former paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces and son of a German Jew pins his eyes on the dark water and optimistically says: “Today, we are going to find the treasure. I officially announce that we are going to solve the 70-years-old Stolpsee mystery.”

Only a few kilometers away, in the small town of Himmelpfort, Erich Köhler, 79, sits in his kitchen and smiles. He has been living in the area for 40 years, first as a priest in the former German Democratic Republic: now he’s a historian. “Svoray is just the latest guy trying to find the treasure,” Köhler says. “Maybe he’ll actually do it.”

Köhler has been researching the legend of the Stolpsee treasure for decades. Again and again he’s heard the story, about how of trucks rumbled to Crab Bay and how SS guards forced haggard female prisoners from the nearby Ravensbrück concentration camp to unload heavy boxes from the trucks. The SS guards were evidently in a hurry, knowing the Soviet Red Army was approaching Berlin,”Köhler says.

The prisoners hoisted the boxes into two inflatable boats, rowed to the center of the Stolpsee and threw them overboard, people told Köhler. When they were done, the exhausted inmates returned to the shore and were lined up. “People I spoke with remembered that water was dripping down from their stripy concentration camp uniforms,” says Köhler. “Then the prisoners were apparently all shot.”

Murdering the witnesses

The only thing for sure is that the legend of the Nazi treasure is hard to believe. A cloak-and-dagger operation during the last weeks of the Second World War? Mysterious boxes dumped in an icy lake close to Berlin?

Köhler feels the story is true but has his own theory about the boxes. While some believe the crates contained gold and platinum looted from Carinhall, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering’s nearby country home, Köhler thinks the Nazis were trying to dump files from Ravensbrück.

In support of that theory, Germany had thoroughly documented the Holocaust, but the paperwork for Ravensbrück is oddly scanty.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.