At this point, if you, as Captain Blazkowicz had found all the gold available so far, you should be carrying eight pieces of gold. If we make the assumption that these gold bars were of standard size bullion, your total additional load would be eight times the 400 troy ounces. This works out to be a fairly hefty 220lb (or 100 kg). While we can marvel at how this additional load doesn’t seem to hamper movement, perhaps something more important to think about is why is there this gold and treasure (we found a chalice) here in the first place. This article discusses why these exist in the game in the first place.
The first thing we can say is that RtCW has hidden gold and treasure because as a homage to Wolfenstein 3D, such things were necessary. Beyond the challenge of finding these secret areas, there was some precedent to idea of where there are Nazis, there might be treasure of gold (but not in a happy leprechaun way!)
From times of the first warrior kings, the king would subject his people to taxes to raise money to pay for his accommodations and lifestyle and, to fight his wars. The Nazis were in a similar situation as money was needed to buy from neutral counties. Their plan was to source gold from two sources: from within the country by taking it from those that “didn’t deserve it”; from outside the country by appropriating it from occupied countries treasuries. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Nazi Treasure within Germany
When I say “those that didn’t deserve it”, I’m referring to the Jewish communities within Germany but even before a community was specifically targeted, there was an attempt to define art into desirable and not desirable. Hitler, as a failed artist, considered himself an art expert and defined a Nazi ideal of art work in Mein Kampf. This ideal split along the lines of classical art (generally pre 20th century) and modern art (broadly modern styles such as Cubism etc). By 1937, offending artwork was removed from German art galleries and displayed in Munich to allow public scorn. After receiving 2 million visitors, the ploy didn’t seem to be working. After trashing such undesirable art, they had a hard time selling it so they instigated a public art burning similar to the previous book burning. This horrified enough outside Germany that more of this art found buyers from outside the country.
Once a country embarks on a process of public art confiscating, it is soon likely to switch its attention to its private collections. The Nazis had a public policy of harassing their undesirable races and the Jews, with prominent rich families, became the ideal group to exploit. While the Jewish oppression began as soon as Hitler gained control in 1933, it was only on February 21st 1939 when an official plan to relieve them of all silver and gold began. This silver and gold was melted down into ingots and sent to the Berlin banks to use as collateral to buy military equipment and food from neutral countries.
While I guess this was slightly tainted gold, it gets quite a bit worse. The Nazis wanted to much more than dispossess the Jews and others of their wealth: what they ultimately wanted to do was remove them from the world. This was done via the plans of removing the ‘undesirables’ and taking them to concentration camps to be murdered by gassing and other less desirable ways – this of course being the Holocaust. Originally, the Nazis were murdering and burying the bodies but after they realized that these mass graves were fowling the water supply, they decided to dig up the bodies and burn them. You would have to wonder who has the bright idea but until that point, the bodies were being buried as-is but on September 26th 1942, someone had the idea that the bodies (both living and dead) could be striped of wedding rings and even gold fillings. These too were melted down and turned into ingots. So, as this game is set in March 1943, it’s possible that this could be some of that gold….
A horrible thought. Let’s try and move on.
Nazi Gold Outside Germany
Moving onto slightly better sources of gold bars, we should also look outside of Germany. Germany occupied many countries within Europe and while the Nazis seemed to get some sort of pleasure in occupying other countries, they were quick to get to the country’s central banks and strip them of their gold. This happened in enough places that an organization named the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg für die Besetzten Gebiete (The Reichsleiter Rosenberg Institute for the Occupied Territories). This rather long named organization we can fortunately abbreviate to ERR. They originally had a mission to collect Jewish and Freemasonic books for German study but in 1940, its aims were changed to collection of any Jewish artifacts of value this seemed to mostly be artwork as that was difficult to hide but plenty of gold was included with that.
Why Gold in Wolfenstein?
So, we have already established that finding gold and treasure is a requirement in any Wolfenstein homage, we still have to ask why we are finding any gold at all. After all, there seems to be an efficient transfer in place from those that have it to those that don’t. What we need to add to the mix is why is there any around outside of this process? To explain this, we have to bring Hermann Göring into the story.
Of all the Nazis in Hitler’s inner circle, perhaps Hermann Göring was the only one that provided any military experience. He flew aircraft during the First World War and won a coveted Pour le Mérite medal after a claimed 22 aerial victories. After the war, he joined the Nazi Party and took part in the failed Beer Hall Putsch. He avoided arrest and was smuggled out of Germany. When the Nazi Party gained control of the German government, Göring was given a ministerial post and created the Prussian police force known as the Gestapo. When Hitler decided to ramp up the Nazi military machine, Göring was given the head post and this allowed him to take the Field Marshal position when it was ‘made available’. When the Second World War started, Göring was able to score a number of quick victories in Poland and France so Hitler promoted him to a special rank that made him the top ranked soldier in the German military. He also became Hitler’s official successor. After military losses in The Battle of Britain, Africa and the eastern front, he lost his standing with Hitler but continued to hold his military ranking. As the war ended, he moved to the western front to avoid surrendering to the Russians but that didn’t save his life as he was found guilty of war crimes at Nuremberg. He avoided being hanged by committing suicide by cyanide capsule smuggled in on the night before his sentence was to be carried out.
Great, you say but what has this to do with anything? Well, Göring had an upper class upbringing and had always enjoyed the finer things in life. When the ERR was created for the collection of Jewish books, it was Göring that expanded its scope to collect quite a bit more. Not only that but he was a frequent visitor to Paris to oversee activities and took the opportunity to skim off his choice of pieces of art. While Göring became the poster child of Nazi plunder, all the other top leaders were doing it to a lesser degree. It is from this action plus the fact that everyone had to hide their stash from everyone else that means that where ever we find Nazi soldiers, we will likely find hidden treasure.
We have so far found one treasure (a chalice) and we will find plenty more later but this still isn’t the gold we are finding. The gold was certainly coming in to Germany from other countries and less savory places and it was also being spent to pay the bills but nearing the end of the war, the German issue wasn’t money to pay for military hardware but their inability to convert this money into hardware. So, at the very end, the gold was moved out of the Reichsbank in Berlin and moved to basically anywhere else. A large piece of that “anywhere else” became the disused mine in Merkers though there were many other theories of where other gold could have gone including leaving the country entirely and heading to places such as South America. Could the gold have been stored in other places such as the locations we are playing in? Well it is possible.
But in Egypt?
This is the weak link in the story. While we could believe that gold bars are being hidden in Germany, can we really believe that someone would “steal” (steal being a relative term here) gold and take it to Africa? I don’t think we can really make a case for that. The next option is that it was taken as part of the expedition to be used to buy favor and anything less locally. This doesn’t seem likely either as all the documentation we have found so far indicates that the Germans aren’t exactly welcome visitors. Certainly, there have been some local mercenaries that might be paid for but this seems like far too much money for that. There doesn’t seem to be large future payments either – at least not as far as we can tell. So, we are left with the only other option which is that this is Nazi plunder. We have to believe that this gold had been found in the village or in the archaeological dig and has been melted down. It is being hidden so this isn’t Nazi policy and is being done by all manner of people from possibly the NCO level to the Major. I guess it’s possible though we have yet to find any smelters capable of melting gold.
As usual, I have very excluded many details from these stories.
More on the Nazi Plunder can be found here.
The full story of Merkers gold hoard can be found here.
More details about Hermann Göring can be found here.
A timeline of the Holocaust can be found here.
Next we are going back to the game. The next level is the one that I think is the best looking one in the Mission Zero series. We are going to enter the archaeological dig!