A hand-drawn map with a red letter X purportedly showing the location of a buried stash of precious jewelry looted by Nazis from a blown-up bank vault has sparked a modern-day treasure hunt in a tiny Dutch village more than three-quarters of a century later.
Wielding metal detectors, shovels and copies of the map on cellphones, prospectors have descended on Ommeren — population 715 — about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Amsterdam to try to dig up a potential World War II trove based on the drawing first published on January 3.
“All kinds of people have been spontaneously digging in places where they think that treasure is buried — with a metal detector,” says local resident Marco Roodveldt.
It is not yet clear if authorities could claim the loot if it was found, or if a prospector could keep it.
So far, nobody has reported finding anything. The treasure hunt began this year when the Dutch National Archive published — as it does every January — thousands of documents for historians to pore over, including the map, which includes a sketch of a cross section of a country road and another with a red X at the base of one of three trees.
Photos on social media show people digging holes more than a meter (three feet) deep, sometimes on private property, in the hope of unearthing a fortune.
Dutch authorities using the map and the testimony of a German soldier went hunting for the loot in 1947. The first time, the ground was frozen solid and they made no headway. When they went back after the thaw, they found nothing, says National Archive researcher Annet Waalkens.
After the unsuccessful attempts, the German soldier said “he believed that someone else has already excavated the treasure,” she adds.