The Kammersee Affair by John Holt

THE KAMMERSEE AFFAIR

cover Kammersee

Lake Toplitzsee is located in the Austrian Salzkammergut, the Austrian lake district.Kammersee It is approximately 718 metres above sea level, approximately 1920 metres long and 388 metres wide, at its widest part. It is one of the deepest lakes in the region, extending down to a depth of 103 metres. The water temperature of the lake is abnormal. Kammersee2Its basic temperature is about 5.8 degrees Centigrade, which is about 1.8 degrees Centigrade warmer than other lakes of this type. The name Toplitzsee probably comes from the Czech word “Teplice” which means “Warm spring.”

From the middle of 1943, until the end of the war, the German Navy had established and operated a secret marine testing facility on the lake. The facility had been set up to test dynamite, explosives, underwater torpedoes, mines and rockets. Using a primitive device, the scientists had even succeeded in launching a rocket from under the surface of the lake.Men

As the end of the war in Europe drew to a close, orders were given that numerous items, including weapons, documents, and counterfeit money, were to be destroyed. Large quantities, of these items, were subsequently packed into wooden crates, and then placed into the dark murky waters of the lake.

documents

Several hundred documents were destroyed in this way. Torpedoes and crates of ammunition were disposed of in a similar manner. Large quantities of counterfeit money, and the printing presses that produced the forged notes, were also deposited into the lake. Rumours began to spread regarding buried treasures, and hidden gold bullion.

Over the years following the War extensive searches have been carried out, but no gold bullion has ever been discovered.

* * *

In August 2005 I stayed at Lake Grundlsee, a mile or two from Toplitz.

This is the background and the inspiration that led to my first novel “The Kammersee Affair”. It is a story of the search for hidden nazi gold, but it is much more than that. It is the story of two men, an American GI, and an SS Major. It is a story of murder, blackmail and revenge.

The story begins in the summer of 1955. Two college friends are at the lake.

The lake was flat and calm with barely a ripple. Its dark waters glistened, reflecting the moonlight as though it were a mirror. A myriad of stars shone brightly in a cloudless sky, their shimmering light dancing across the surface of the water. Around the perimeter of the lake were tall conifer trees. Slender, and majestic, they grew, stretching high into the air, competing with each other for the available natural light. Surrounding the lake were sandy, gravely, banks of earth, which extended down to the water’s edge. Beyond, the land gently rose up, the slope gradually growing steeper and steeper, climbing up high along the limestone face to the side of the mountain. In the moonlight the white limestone glowed eerily, contrasting with the blackness of the shadows of the trees.

* * *

A young man sat by the water’s edge. He was in his middle twenties, tall, and slim, with light brown hair. Lying next to him was a discarded oxygen tank, and a diving mask. He sat contemplating the stillness of the lake. A stillness that was momentarily disturbed by a fish as it rose to the surface for air, or to catch an insect. There was no sound, other than the gentle rustle of the trees, and crickets chirping. Or perhaps the gentle lapping of the water as it met the shore. Nearby, a frog croaked, and splashed into the lake. Overhead an owl hooted and then settled down for the night.

The young man stared at the water, and thought of the series of dives that he and his friend had made that day. Over the past few days they had gradually worked their way across a section on the northern shore. Today they had been concentrating on a section to the northeast. The area consisted of a large clearing which gently sloped down to the edge of the water. It was reasonably accessible, and looked promising, and they had just started to investigate the area that day. They had achieved a depth of twenty metres, down to one of the shallower shelves that lined the perimeter of the lake. Even at that depth it was still quite dark. Visibility was made even more difficult by the swirling undercurrents stirring the sediment in the lake.

Fritz Marschall knew that neither he, nor his friend, should really have been there. They, like many others before them, had been attracted to the lake by the many rumours that had been circulating. They had been drawn to the area by tales of hidden treasure, and buried gold. They were only rumours, and there wasn’t an ounce of proof, or a shred of evidence to back it up. But still the rumours persisted, and the attraction was still irresistible.

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