It sounds like something out of a thriller, but a score of amateur treasure hunters currently scouring the Netherlands are hoping that it's very real. A map dating back to before the end of World War II and believed to have been made by Nazi soldiers who had looted a bank in the summer of 1944 was recently made public by the Dutch National Archive, setting off a treasure hunt seeking millions of dollars worth of gold, diamonds, rubies, and other pieces of precious jewelry.
Reuters reports that the treasure is reportedly stashed in four boxes, buried somewhere in a field in rural Ommeren following an explosion and robbery at a Dutch bank towards the end of the war. When the war ended, the map was taken from a German soldier by a Dutch institute attempting to trace sources of German capital within the Netherlands. It stayed under lock and key for 75 years, after which its legally bound confidentiality lapsed and it fell into the public domain.
As for the treasure itself, it's not in the public domain, no matter how long it's been buried in the ground. As Klaas Tammes, the head of the foundation that now owns the land where the treasure may be buried and the former mayor of Ommeren, put it:
"A map with a row of three trees and a red cross marking a spot where a treasure should be hidden sparks the imagination…Anyone who finds anything will have to report it to us, so we'll see. But I wouldn't expect it to be easy."
Of course, a 75-year-old map doesn't necessarily mean the treasure even exists, let alone is still in its original hiding spot. It wasn't found during attempts to locate it back in 1947 before it was tucked away in the Dutch National Archive. But who can resist a good treasure hunt? Not 57-year-old Jan Henzen, who spoke to Reuters in between his own attempts to find the lost treasure:
"I see groups of people with metal detectors everywhere…Like a lot of people, the news about the treasure made me go look for myself. The chance of the treasure still being here after 70 years is very small I think, but I want to give it a try."
A Dutch Archives spokesperson points out that the treasure may well have already been dug up ages ago, but the hope of striking it rich on buried loot is too enticing to just let it go without a try. Now, the race is on to see who will be the first to find it – the movie rights to their story alone should be worth a fortune.