Many people tried to discover the lost Hitler’s treasure. It was recently revealed that the lost gold is lying beneath the waves of the icy Baltic Sea off Poland’s coast.
Nazi officers tired to smuggle three tonnes of stolen gold bars out of Germany in the dying days of WWII on board refugee ship the MV Wilhelm Gustloff.
At today’s gold prices, the bars will be worth £100m.
Third Reich officers were notorious for plundering any treasure, and stored valuable gems, metals and artworks in vaults and banks across their empire.
But the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff never reached its destination as it was sunk by the Soviets – with 9,500 passengers onboard all perishing – in a shipwreck disaster six times worst than the Titanic.
Former professional diver Phil Sayers exclusively spoke to Daily Star Online about the gold believed to be hidden beneath the Baltic at 450m down on the seabed.
The 61-year-old made the claims after meeting a survivor of the sunken vessel who revealed the tragic ship’s incredible secret.
Rudi Lange was the ship’s radio operator at the time of the sinking, and witnessed crates of what is thought to be the Nazi gold being loaded on the Wilhelm Gustloff at port in Poland.
The then 17-year-old was the one who sent the SOS after the liner was torpedoed by Soviet submarine S-13.
Mr Sayers used Lange’s incredible story as the basis of his historical novel Baltic Gold.
The Wilhelm Gustloff was the pride of Hitler’s navy and his flagship.
The 700ft liner was sunk in January 1945 – with more than 9,400 of the 10,600 on board being killed in the sinking.
Originally a luxury cruise ship, it was turned into a hospital ship during World War 2, before being used as part Operation Hannibal – a mass evacuation from Prussia in face of the cruel advance of the Soviet Union’s brutal Red Army in 1945.
While refugees flocked to the docks of Gotenhafen, Poland, and packed onto the ship, Nazi chiefs had other plans of what to load onto the vessel.
Witnesses claim hours before the ship set sail that trucks under armed guard arrived on the docks and loaded boxes full of gold bullion onto the Wilhelm Gustloff.
The gold was stashed in Hitler’s personal suite which doubled as a strong room and was placed under armed guard.
Around 10,000 passengers crammed the decks of the ship only designed to carry 1,500.
The recovery of Hitler’s treasure was overseen by Nazi area commander Erich Koch – who is also rumoured to have smuggled the mythical Amber Room, the eighth wonder of the world, from Königsberg Castle.
However, when the Russian torpedo struck the ship the gold was lost beneath the waves along with the wreck and thousands of men, women and children.
Mr Sayers, who is now managing director of diving support company LHM Healthcare, dived the wreck in 1988.
He discovered the ship had been broken to pieces and completely collapsed, leaving the legendary gold buried beneath thousands of tons of crumpled metal.
The Brit, from Essex, placed a memorial plaque on the ship and returned with a pair of portholes to be placed at a survivors’ museum, which are now located in Kiel, Germany.
When he returned to the surface, he realised one of the portholes had metal bars across it – suggesting it had been the window to the “strong room” where the gold had been stored.
He told Daily Star Online: “We know from first hand accounts a whole load of lorries turned up alongside and transferred a cargo of high security on board on the ship.
“This is all from accounts with survivors on the night before they set sail.
“Rudi Lange went down onto the quayside to have a smoke and just happened to be there when the gold bullion transport arrived.
“He did not know what was being taken on at first, but it was not until 1972 when he met up with another survivor – who was one of the guards who had been tasked with looking after the gold and he revealed what was in those huge cases.”
Soviet warships are believed to have dropped depth charges on the wreck in a bid to clear it from the shipping channel.
Mr Sayers added Polish treasure hunters “blew apart” sections of the wreck in a bid to track down the fortune.
Wilhelm Gustloff now has international war grave status – meaning diving is forbidden within 500 metres of the ship.
But that has not stopped eager treasure hunters, with plunderous pirates attempting to raid the wreck in 2004.
He said: “The Nazi gold bullion was smuggled out of Königsberg. It is a fascinating story which has followed me for the whole of my life.
“Everything the survivor told me I believe to be fact, the smuggled out the gold from East Prussian Reichsbank.”
Mr Sayers added: “Looking at the state of the wreck in 1988, whatever is onboard would be completely lost under a pile of huge metal plates.”