Lake Toplitz (Toplitzsee)

Lake Toplitz (Toplitzsee)


Location: 98 km (61 mi) from Salzburg  Map


Description of Lake Toplitz

Lake Toplitz or Toplitzsee is a small mountain lake in the Styrian part of the Salzkammergut in the municipality of Grundlsee, at the southern foot of the Dead Mountains and is 718 m above sea level. A. The outlet of the Toplitzsee is the Toplitz, which drains via the Traun into the Danube. The myth that surrounds the lake is that gold and art treasures were sunk in the lake at the end of the Second World War. To date, however, only boxes of counterfeit money have been found. The Toplitzsee, which is owned by the Austrian Federal Forests, is a popular destination for excursions because of its beautiful location.



Lake Toplitz and the Nazis

Naval Experimental Station
From 1943 to 1945 there was a test station of the Chemical-Physical Research Institute of the Navy (CPVA) at Toplitzsee. The work of the CPVA at Toplitzsee mainly consisted of testing explosives and weapons. The physical processes during use were measured and partly supported by theory. The undisturbed conditions required for this could not be guaranteed by the sea and a deep lake was sought as a location. During the first attempts at the Pulvermaar and the Attersee, the underwater blasting caused major damage to the fish population and the CPVA came into conflict with the local fishermen and the Reich Ministry for Food and Agriculture. These locations were therefore no longer an option. Since the fish stocks of the Toplitzsee were not used at the time and the lake is very deep and isolated, an experimental station was set up on the north-west shore in spring 1943. The official office of the CPVA was the Villa Roth in Gößl.

The first series of tests were started in September 1943 to investigate the short-range and long-distance effects of explosives in underwater explosions. The explosives were delivered via the train station in Bad Aussee and stored in an ammunition bunker on the bank. A raft with oscillographs and other measuring devices was in the lake for the measurements. The first experiments were carried out with trinitrotoluene with less than 10 kg. Later, torpedo heads weighing 300 kg were also used. The largest charge of 4000 kg of Schiesswolle 18 was detonated on June 30, 1944. The detonation of such a large charge for test purposes was a rarity even during wartime. Therefore, Gauleiter August Eigruber and high-ranking naval officers came to the Toplitzsee. Among them Friedrich Brandes, head of the CPVA, and Rear Admiral Wilhelm Rhein. On July 31, 1944, the explosives investigations at Toplitzsee were completed.

After the explosives investigations were completed, work on the Ursel project began in the summer of 1944. It was a planned underwater missile for defensive use. In the event of an attack with underwater bombs, the missiles should allow the submerged submarine to escape. The charge was intended to create a hole of about 5 m² in a destroyer's hull and was fixed with 15 kg of explosives. A length of 1.8 m, a caliber of 15 cm and a weight of 80 kg were specified as dimensions. The rocket parts were manufactured by WASAG and delivered to Gößl via Bad Aussee. Presumably fewer than 50 launches were carried out in the Toplitzsee.


End of the war at Toplitzsee

At the beginning of April 1945, the order was issued to close the CPVA office. Equipment, documents and explosives were destroyed in Villa Roth and by the lake. Measuring devices from the experimental station were also sunk in the lake. The remaining explosives were detonated on the shore. The remaining equipment, such as the propellants of the underwater rockets, were burned. At the end of April/beginning of May, a transport by Aktion Bernhard traveled from the Redl-Zipf concentration camp to the Salzkammergut. The transport carried crates of counterfeit British pound notes, which were dumped in the lake. It is no longer possible to determine today why the Toplitzsee was chosen as the place of sinking. They were probably ordered to continue to Bad Aussee, where they found out about the only military station in the area, the naval research station at Toplitzsee. Due to the large amount of counterfeit money, burning was out of the question and it was decided to sink the crates. Since the road was not passable for trucks due to the snow conditions, residents of Gößl transported the crates to the lake with their horse and cart. There are such contradictory statements about the actual sinking process that it can no longer be reconstructed.


Although the population knew about the sinking of crates in the lake, little importance was attached to the action. With the emergence of rumors about the relocation of large fortunes to the Ausseerland, interest in Toplitzsee increased again. It was speculated that there were tangible assets, jewellery, gold, currency, platinum etc. in the boxes and the newspapers picked up the subject again. For example, the lake is said to contain gold from the Rommel treasure that SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Otto Skorzeny brought from Italy. It was speculated that files from the Reich Security Main Office or Heinrich Himmler's diaries were lying in the lake. Rumors also arose that various deaths in the post-war years up to 1950 were connected with the search for hidden treasures. Most reports are exaggerated or entirely made up. However, some starting points for their emergence can be proven. A cassette with gold was found at Villa Kerry in Altaussee, which was buried in the last days of the war. The staff of the Naval Experimental Station received silver plates and platinum wire as their last pay. Some sailors hid the silver plaques in the rafters of the Gasthaus Veit and picked them up after the war ended.

In the summer of 1959, on the initiative of Stern journalist Wolfgang Löhde, divers brought the first boxes of counterfeit money to light. Seven boxes of counterfeit pound notes with a pseudo value of around DM 12 million and a box of files from the SS counterfeiting workshop have been recovered.

The many tree trunks that do not rot in the lake make diving extremely difficult and dangerous. On October 6, 1963, a diver drowned in the lake while on an unauthorized treasure hunt. The diving company was run, among other things, by a right-wing extremist former member of Wilhelm Canaris' intelligence service and had primarily political backgrounds. The lake was mapped during the four-week search for the diver's body and its recovery. The dives to salvage war material that were subsequently carried out on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior should have lasted until the spring of 1964, but were not resumed after the winter break for cost reasons. From that time on, the lake was closed to any underwater activity by the responsible authorities. The diving ban lasted until 1983.

1983 dives were undertaken by Hans Fricke and employees with the GEO submersible. They also only found boxes of counterfeit money and war relics.

In 2000, another team from the American diving company Oceaneering examined the seabed for three weeks. The only yield: a box full of crown corks (bottle tops) that five regulars' table brothers had sunk in the lake in 1984. The Austrian Federal Forests, as the owner of the lake, allowed a US company to carry out a detailed search for the years 2005-2008. Another search operation, which was to be led by the American Norman Scott, was approved by the Austrian Federal Forests at the end of March 2009. The lake would have been examined for any war relics, but before each find was salvaged, the water experts in Scharfling would have had to carry out an environmental compatibility test. The project, postponed several times, was finally canceled by the diving team in 2009.

In 2012, the Austrian Federal Forests considered having the lake scientifically dived and mapped again.

As on all lakes in the inner Salzkammergut, there was also a hermitage for timber drift at the outlet of the Toplitzsee, since very large amounts of water could be stored there with relatively little means. The average lifespan of a wooden hermitage was 30 years. In order to reduce the large consumption of wood due to the frequent new buildings, the Toplitzseeklause was rebuilt in 1865 with stone blocks. After the end of the drift, the hermitage fell into disrepair and the wooden parts were reconstructed in 1977. In addition to the Seeklause on Lake Hallstatt, it is the only functioning Seeklause in the Salzkammergut and is a listed building.

Because of its beautiful location, the Toplitzsee is a popular destination and is crossed as part of the 3-lake tour to visit the Kammersee with the source of the Traun. The eastern shore can be reached with a Plätte, the typical ship of the inner Salzkammergut. The fisherman's hut on the west bank is run as a catering establishment.



A memorial stone by the lake commemorates the first meeting between Archduke Johann of Austria and his future wife Anna Plochl.

In 1959, the film Der Schatz vom Toplitzsee was shot at the lake with Gert Fröbe. The lake is also mentioned in the James Bond film Goldfinger from 1964 with reference to the treasure allegedly hidden there.

In the film Top Secret from 1971, the Toplitzsee is one of the two main locations, but is called Fintersee in the film.



The Toplitzsee is cut into the mountains of the Dead Mountains like a fjord. In the north are the Gößler Wand and the Beerenkogel (1194 m above sea level), in the south the steep flanks of the Black Forest rise up. The banks are steep, only on the west side near the outflow and on the north-east side at the transition to the Kammersee they are flatter, otherwise rocks dominate. The lake, stretching from southwest to northeast, has a length of 1.9 km and a maximum width of 400 m. The surface is about 54 ha, the average depth is 62 m. The lake basin shows steep slopes except for the northeastern area. Only from a depth of about 80 meters does the gradient gradually decrease and a relatively large bottom zone with a maximum depth of 103 m spreads out. The water volume is 33.7 million cubic meters.

There is no footpath along the lake. The company Schifffahrt Grundlsee operates a shipping connection between the west and east banks. The western end of the lake can be reached via Toplitzseestraße, which is closed to public traffic, in about 20 minutes on foot from the district of Gößl.

The hydrological catchment area of ​​the Toplitzsee has a total area of ​​70.7 km² and lies entirely in the Dead Mountains. The lake is mainly fed underground by a karst system that is fed by the Lahngang lakes. The Toplitzsee receives a further inflow from the Kammersee to the east, which is connected via an artificial rock canal. However, this only carries water in very rainy years. However, the outflow of the Kammersee to the Toplitzsee also occurs underground. In addition, the lake is fed by the two streams Vorderbach and Hinterbach, which fall into the lake from the north. The lake is drained by the Toplitz, which flows into the Grundlsee. The mean discharge of the lake is 5.94 m³/s.

The lake basin of the Toplitzsee is located along a west-southwest/east-northeast trending geological fault. This line, known as the Toplitzsee fault, runs from the Grundlsee via the Kammersee into the Dead Mountains. During the ice ages, the mighty Grundlsee local glacier, which flowed from the high plateau of the Dead Mountains into the Aussee Basin, also followed this fault-related weak zone and in the process widened the valley and excavated the tongue basin of the Grundlsee. In the late Ice Age, Toplitzsee and Kammersee were still part of Grundlsee. At the base of the lake, salt-bearing Haselgebirge was dissolved in the lake water.


The Toplitzsee is a meromictic lake with a clearly pronounced stratification. The water no longer contains any oxygen below about 20 m and the salinity increases significantly (0.75%) with greater depth. The bottom of the lake is made up of sludge rich in hydrogen sulphide. During the spring and autumn circulations, the lake is only mixed up to a depth of about 20 meters. The approximately 80 meter thick Monimolimnion remains unaffected by the circulations. The reasons for this are a water surface that is small in relation to the depth as a target for the wind, a particularly wind-protected location and a particularly salty deep water with a greater density. During the summer stagnation phase, the water temperature on the surface averages 16.8 °C. The maximum value was measured in August 2003 with 20.2 °C. The epilimnion of the Toplitzsee is only very thin. Temperatures drop rapidly just below the surface, down to around 5°C at a depth of 15 metres. From 15 meters down the temperatures start to rise again. The reason for this metalimnic temperature minimum lies in the circulation conditions in the Toplitzsee. In the course of the spring circulation, colder surface water reaches a depth of about 15 to 20 meters, while the monimolimnion remains unaffected with an average temperature of 5.8 °C. Despite the subsequent heating on the surface, the low temperatures in the metalimnion persist for a long time.

The lake has a low concentration of nutrients and is therefore oligotrophic. A mean phosphorus content of 6.3 µg/l was calculated in the epilimnion for the years 2003 to 2006. The mean values ​​above ground were 52 µg/l. Due to the low phytoplankton concentrations and the low algae growth, the average summer visibility depth is 8.8 meters.

The aerobic plankton in the Toplitzsee is concentrated in the space from the surface down to a depth of 20 meters. The almost oxygen-free deep layer, on the other hand, is populated by an anaerobic or oligoaerobic biocenosis in which iron and sulfur oxidizing microorganisms play the main role. Cryptophyceae and diatoms, especially species of the genus Asterionella, Stephanodiscus and Synedra, form the main component of phytoplankton. The zooplankton is represented with significantly more biomass. Of the rotifers, Kellicottia longispina, Keratella cochlearis and Keratella hiemalis were frequently found. The crustacean plankton of the Toplitzsee consists mainly of the species Eudiaptomus gracilis, Cyclops abyssorum, Daphnia hyalina and Eubosmina longispina.

Flora and vegetation
Stiff sedge (Carex elata), bladder sedge (Carex vesicaria), burnt buttercup (Ranunculus flammula) and marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), among others, grow in the boggy areas on the northwest and western banks. Near the outflow in the shallower bank areas, the submerged vegetation consists of stoneworts (Chara sp.), alpine pondweed (Potamogeton alpinus), spiked milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) and the mountain genera of hairy water-crowfoot. Long-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton praelongus) also grows near the jetty on the north-east bank.

Little is known about the original fish stocks of the Toplitzsee. During World War II there was a naval test station on the lake. Almost the entire fish stock of the lake was destroyed by underwater explosions. Today there are fish in the lake again due to stocking measures. The fish population of the Toplitzsee is limited to the upper, oxygen-rich water layers and today consists of the following species: burbot (Lota lota), chub (Squalius cephalus), minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), perch (Perca fluviatilis), pike (Esox lucius) , bullhead (Cottus gobio), brown loach (Barbatula barbatula), lake trout (Salmo trutta) and arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). In the summer of 2002, crayfish (Astacus astacus) were initially stocked on the southern shore of the lake.

Natural reserve
The lake, with its undeveloped shores with adjoining wetlands and wooded steep slopes, offers habitats for many animal and plant species. The Toplitzsee is located in the European protected area Dead Mountains with Altausseer See European protected area no.

The Ennstal was the settlement area of ​​the Alpine Slavs and many field names are of Slavic origin. Toplitz derives from the Slavic toplica and means warm spring water.