- GRUNDLSEE, Austria (AFP)
- An American-sponsored underwater search for Nazi documents believed to
have been dumped in an Austrian lake was abandoned earlier than expected
Sunday, a participant said.
- The organizers of the hi-tech operation, US television
channel CBS, had hoped to uncover documents and gold that the Nazis were
said to have hidden in Lake Toplitzsee in central Austria at the end of
World War II.
- But the hopes surrounding a lead box that was brought
up from the deep Friday were dashed when it was discovered it contained
nothing but old beer bottle caps, witnesses said.
- "We think it had been planted there as a hoax for
divers from an expedition in the 1980s to find," lakefront resturant
owner Albrecht Syen, who helped organize the search effort, told AFP.
- Other than beer bottle caps, the expedition has produced
a bundle of counterfeit British banknotes, printed by the Nazis as part
of a plan to increase inflation in Britain. Several boxes had already been
found in the lake during previous probes.
- The search had been expected to last until July 15. Syen
emphasized that the CBS team may have been keeping some finds secret.
- CBS's Austrian spokeswoman Jutta Fuhrmann resigned last
week, saying that the company was not providing her with the information
she needed to answer press enquiries. CBS has since told the press that
the results of their expedition will be unveiled in a documentary scheduled
to be broadcast in October.
- The World Jewish Congress also financed the expedition,
and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles had been charged with the
study and preservation of any documents that were found.
- The operation was launched on the basis of eyewitness
accounts from 1945, which recalled frantic operations by the Nazis to dump
material in Lake Toplitzsee, including armaments and unidentified trunks,
before the Allies arrived to liberate Austria.
- Researchers had spoken of finding documents relating
to secret Nazi bank accounts or to victims of the Holocaust.
- The hi-tech mission started in early June and involved
the services of Oceaneering Technologies, a US company specialising in
underwater investigations including work on the Titanic.
- The team used a remote-controlled underwater robot, guided
from a mobile pontoon on the water's surface and equipped with two cameras,
which spent hundreds of hours underwater taking pictures of the lake floor.
Divers took the plunge last Tuesday to investigate what the robot had filmed.
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