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Gold and God: German Treasures in Texas

Nikhil Jaisinghani, Feature Editor

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IDEA CENTER 127- How did an imperial treasure from the early Middle Ages find its way to an obscure, rural town in North Texas? It was precisely this that filmmaker Cassie Hay set out to discover, when she made “The Liberators,” a documentary film about a set of treasure items stolen from a medieval church  by an American Army officer in the closing days of WWII, before that town became part of the German Democratic Republic- more commonly known as East Germany.

On Tuesday October 25th, Cassie Hay, granddaughter of the late faculty member Monroe David Bryant, Professor Emeritus of Biology, visited Austin College to talk about her new film, which she had directed, produced, and written, and which had been presented at the Southwest film festival. Earlier in day, she held a small talk in Hoxie Thompson, where she discussed some of the history behind the film. In the 10th century, Emperor Otto I the Great constructed an abbey in memory of his father, Henry I the Fowler, which over time came to hold immensely valuable treasures. After the Protestant Reformation, the abbey became the Lutheran Church of St. Servatius, and during the Nazi-era was apparently used by SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, who believed himself to be the reincarnation of Henry the Fowler, for occult rituals. After the unit of American soldiers stationed there at the end of the war left, locals discovered that eight treasures, including an illuminated manuscript, the Samuhel Gospel, had also gone missing. Dr. Willi Korte, who was interviewed throughout the film was the primary researcher in the effort to find the treasures, and narrowed down the suspect to an officer- Lt. Joe T. Meador of Whitewright, TX, of the 87th Armored Field Artillery Battalion.- who had been seen going into these caves and coming out with wrapped packages. Lt. Meador, who had a B.A. in art, appeared to have a deep appreciation for his finds and wrote home about them often, and had them displayed in his home. After years of research at the national archives, Dr. Korte was able to track down the family of Lt. Meador, who started to sell some of the treasures to pay of debts in the early 90s, and eventually, with the US government’s aid, was able to secure their return to the church.

“The Liberators” is an exploration into the part a small North Texas town played in the history of World War II. I recommend this film to history buffs, fans of good documentaries, and people interested in Texas’ recent past alike.

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Gold and God: German Treasures in Texas