MAINZ, Germany – An underground "anomaly" has been discovered in a German town after a filmmaker potentially cracked a code that he believes will lead him to a hidden Nazi treasure.
For decades, a myth has taken root over millions of dollars worth of diamonds and gold bullion, which is rumored to be buried somewhere in Bavaria. Nazi leaders supposedly brought the cache to the "Alpine Fortress" that Heinrich Himmler, head of Adolf Hitler's dreaded "SS" protection squadron, hoped to erect in southern Germany.
It is believed that the Nazi regime intended to use the treasure trove to fund secret "Werewolf" commandos they planned to send behind enemy lines towards the end of World War II.
Legend also has it that Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann, hid a map in an annotated score of the “March Impromptu” by composer Gottfried Federlein. In the musical notes, Bormann is said to have embedded a series of letters, figures and lyrics that provide the exact coordinates of where the treasure is hidden.
In Germany, finders can be rewarded with 3 to 5 percent of a trove's current value, should a person or institution legitimately claim ownership. But they could receive up to 50 percent should no owner be found.
Dutch journalist Karl Hammer made the documents public, following several of his own failed attempts to decipher the code.
After nine months of studying the documents, musician and documentary filmmaker Leon Giesen, 51, is convinced he understands the code and has "a very good theory" about where to find the treasure.
A lyric in the composition that reads "wo Matthias die Saiten streichelt" ("where Matthew plucks strings") prompted Hammer to believe that the line is a reference to Matthias Klotz, a 17th-century violin maker from the small southern German town of Mittenwald.
Giesen, who lives in the Dutch city of Utrecht, continued to put together his own puzzle pieces and stumbled across a bold, capital letter “M” in the score, which reminded him of the same single letter he had seen in the photo of a Berlin railway station.
He began looking for old railway connections from the 1940s and interpreted the lyrics "Enden der Tanz," ("end the dance") as a clue to the former location of a buffer stop for trains.
Following extensive research, which included the evaluation of historic aerial photos taken by Allied forces, Giesen concluded that he had to look for train tracks in the former location of former Nazi military barracks in Mittenwald.
Local authorities recently granted permission to drill three deep holes in a public street in the town.
"Our geophysical survey showed a so-called 'anomaly' deep below the surface and experts excluded that it could be an old aircraft bomb or a big stone," Giesen said.
The initial testing was financed with crowd funding. Giesen performed at a Dutch theater festival this summer, where he sold replicas of the “treasure map” for 50 euros ($65), a piece. Giesen sold more than 700 copies.
Giesen now is seeking to raise more money for a full excavation at the site and hopes that German authorities will allow him to complete the final stages of his hunt.
"If there are boxes with valuable items below the surface they could be booby-trapped, so we need to bring in specialists and meet all safety requirements first," he said.
But while Giesen's endeavor could have been choreographed by thriller author Dan Brown, the Dutch filmmaker says he is not interested in the money or glory.
"People call me a treasure hunter, but the only treasure I am looking for is a good story," said Giesen, who plans to donate any possible reward. "In fact, I feel dirty when I walk around with a metal detector."
The Alpine region near the Austrian border is a mecca for treasure hunters seeking troves said to include tons of gold, boxes with diamonds and bags full of foreign currency. Last year, divers scoured for valuables on the bottom of Lake Walchensee, but only found a rusty bazooka and a few old rifles.
Juergen Proske, a 51-year-old hobby treasure hunter from nearby Garmisch-Partenkirche, said several groups each year visit the area in the belief that they have broken the code.
"The code theory is believed to be historically accurate, but I think the treasure is in a different location," said Proske, who has set off on more than 60 treasure hunts with his high-tech metal detector over the past 15 years. "I have searched myself many times, but so far only found a few old wine bottles."