WWII US bomber highlights threat of treasure hunters to Czech heritage
Two tales more than 70 years apart have been seized upon by the Czech Institute of Archeology. The first was the story of a Second World War US bomber shot down over Czech territory shortly before the end of the war. The second tale is of the rush to save the remains from “treasure hunters.”
But a navigation error put the plane marginally off course and over the town of Brux or Most around three quarters from the target. It was not an inviting place for a US bomber to be.
Most was heavily protected by German anti-aircraft defences due to the plants there which made synthetic fuel from locally produced coal. The plant was one of the Nazi’s last sources of fuel.
One of the bomber’s engines was hit and shortly afterwards a second engine gave out. The crew decided to head east in the hope of being able to get to Soviet occupied territory but bailed out shortly before the plane exploded and crashed around 20 kilometres east of Hradec Králové. All survived to be taken prisoners.
After the fall of Communism, other less serious researchers, sometimes armed with metal detectors also began to take an interest in WWII wreckage and sites. And it was the efforts of such treasure hunters, this time accompanied by heavy diggers, late last year that sparked an emergency operation by the Czech Institute of Archeology. They painstaking excavated the site over two weeks and some of the finds have now been shown off. But the clear message was that amateur treasure hunters are destroying the country’s modern archeological heritage. Jan Mařík is deputy director of the institute in Prague.
And the problem is a lot wider than the US bomber:
“We have many private activities of the treasure hunters and local collectors and these people more or less have stolen hundreds and maybe thousands of artifacts to the local museum and now it’s very hard to recognize from which place, from which region, these pieces were given back to the museum.”