Heinrich Himmler, head of Hitler’s SS police force, was tricked into thinking that precious metals could be produced in this way – and then used to buy weapons to strengthen the Third Reich.
The Nazis set up a secret unit in the Dachau concentration camp before the Second World War, and appointed Karl Malchus, an alchemist, who convinced Himmler that he could make gold from stones, soil and even paraffin.
But Malchus may have been working for British intelligence in 1938 when he tricked Himmler into believing his claims, according to Helmut Werner, author of Hltler’s Alchemists: The Secret Attempts to Manufacture Gold in Dachau.
Werner said: ‘He was living in England up until the first months of that year and on his return made contact with Himmler about his unique talents – but of course, it was all a huge swindle.
Malchus got whatever he wanted and Himmler installed him in Dachau, not as a prisoner but as a technician whose work could be carried out in secret.’