Freelance treasure hunters are flocking to a Polish mountain range after a top culture minister announced that he is almost positive that a train filled with Nazi treasures has been found buried beneath it.
An anonymous pair of treasure hunters made headlines earlier this month when they approached Polish officials claiming that they had discovered the location of a Nazi train that was rumored to be lost in a massive tunnel complex near the city of Walbrzych. While many (include us at Smart News) were skeptical at first, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski announced on August 28 that he is “99 percent sure” that the train has been found, Scott Neuman reports for NPR.
"The train is 100 meters long and is protected," Zuchowski said in a press conference. "The fact that it is armored indicates it has a special cargo.”
According to Zuchowski, the mysterious treasure hunters were tipped off by the deathbed confession of a German soldier who helped to hide the train towards the end of World War II as the Russian Army marched west across Poland. Images taken by ground-penetrating radar appeared to show a train equipped with gun turrets somewhere on a four kilometer-long track of rail near Walbrzych, the BBC reports. While it is unclear what the train contains, Zuchowski speculated that it could hold military equipment, stolen jewelry, artwork and archival documents.
Since Zuchowski’s announcement, treasure hunters and curious locals have swarmed the Owl Mountains, prompting officials to seal off the region where they believe the train is located, Carol J. Williams writes for The L.A. Times. "Half of Walbrzych's residents and other people are going treasure hunting or just for walks to see the site. We are worried for their security," police spokeswoman Magdalena Koroscik told the Associated Press.
Zuchowski’s warning that the train, if it exists, is very likely to be booby trapped hasn’t stopped freelance treasure hunters from trying to scoop the find. Recently, one man who stopped on nearby train tracks to take a selfie was almost killed by an oncoming train, Koroscik told the AP. Local police have since sealed off the area as military technicians were dispatched to secure the path to the train’s location, Williams reports. If the object detected is an armed Nazi military train, it is possible that the tunnels surrounding it could be mined as well.
According to Polish law, any World War II-era valuables found will belong to the state. However, Zuchowski said that any valuables, artworks, or jewelry that are found and traced to their original owners will be returned to surviving family members, Williams reports. Some officials are trying to stem the rush to the site by reminding the public that others have claimed to find the legendary train in the past, only to be disappointed. Other experts, however, believe that this train might just be the first of several believed lost beneath the mountains.
"There is a story that in 1945 there were three trains which came into the town and have never been found," Magdalena Woch, director of culture at the nearby Ksiaz castle tells Gregory Walton and Matthew Day for The Telegraph. "It is possible there are more trains in Walbrzych.”