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Sorry, Treasure Hunters: That Legendary Nazi Gold Train Is a Total Bust

After months of searching, experts say rumors of a forgotten treasure are just that

Railway tracks lead into a dark underground shaft in a former mine in Walbrzych, Poland near where amateur treasure hunters say they have found a lost Nazi train full of gold. (Arno Burgi/dpa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

So much for that Nazi treasure hunt. After months of searching beneath a Polish mountain range, experts from the Krakow University of Science and Technology have announced that a mythical Nazi train full of looted gold and treasure is just a legend after all.

For 70 years, people have scoured the Owl Mountains in southwestern Poland for a sign of an armored train rumored to have been lost beneath the mountains. According to the stories, a German miner watched a group of soldiers wheel a train loaded with gold, jewels and other looted valuables into a tunnel leading into the mountains. Lore has it that the invaluable cargo never came out again. Treasure hunters have searched for it ever since, with new claims of finding the legendary train popping up every few years. But like all those claims, the latest one has turned out to be a bust, Joanna Berendt writes for the New York Times.

The latest buzz started back in August, when a pair of amateur explorers announced to the world that they had obtained a map detailing the train’s whereabouts from a man on his deathbed. Armies of treasure hunters swarmed the mountain city. But while some Polish officials claimed that the long-lost train was finally within their grasp, a team of geologists and engineers failed to find any trace of train, treasure or even railroad tracks beneath the mountains, Sarah Kaplan reports for the Washington Post.

“There may be a tunnel, but there is no train,” the scientific team’s leader, Janusz Madej, told the Times.

Madej and his team scanned the mountain range for a month, and while they uncovered some anomalies about eight feet underground, they were much too close to the surface to be the missing train. But despite the evidence (or lack thereof), the hobbyist explorers Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter still believe the train is out there, Berendt reports.

At a press conference, Koper and Richter presented findings gathered by their own research team that they say is even more proof that they have found the lost train.

“We carried out similar examinations in many other locations, but we have never encountered anything like this,” Koper said at the press conference, pointing to a series of round, rectangular and oval shapes seen in images taken with ground-penetrating radar, Berendt reports.

Madej stands by his team's analysis. “It’s human to make a mistake, but it’s foolish to stand by it,” he said of the treasure hunters. 

Koper and Richter aren’t the only ones who are loath to give up the hunt. NPR’s Scott Neuman reported in August that Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski announced that he was “99 percent sure” that the train had been found, prompting officials to seal off parts of the mountains to keep amateur treasure hunters from hurting themselves. Now, local officials have to decide if it’s worth it to go ahead with their plan to excavate the area and send cameras into the supposed tunnels to see what’s down there, or let the fabled Nazi train sink back into stories once again.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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