While I was visiting VivaMayr Altaussee I have learned a very interesting story about the region. Altaussee has the biggest salt deposits of Austria, which are still mined today. During World War II the salt mines in Altaussee served as a huge repository for art stolen by the Nazis. Art treasures from Austrian churches, monasteries and museums were transferred into the mines for safekeeping, a stock of about 7000 works of stolen art from all over Europe. These artworks were accumulated by Adolf Hitler and were intended for the planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria.
In April 1945, as the Allied troops approached the salt mine, Gauleiter August Eigruber gave orders to blow it up. For this intention he had eight bombs with 500 kg each transported into the tunnels. Hitler countermanded Eigruber’s order, but after the “Führer’s” death the Gauleiter ignored this. The destruction was prevented at the last minute by the local mine administration, the repository officers and the miners. After the occupation of Altaussee on 8 May 1945 by an American infantry unit, the art depot was seized by the U.S. Army (Monuments Men). The entrances were opened again and the rescue work began.
I have visited the salt mines and followed the same route these masterpieces of European art were transported along seventy years ago. I have passed the “Chamber of Inner Light” and the “Chapel of St Barbara” before sliding down into the heart of the mountain for unique sound and light presentation,