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!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • 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.