Two treasure hunters are claiming they have discovered a train full of Nazi gold and jewels hidden under a mountain in Poland.
As much as it sounds like a movie plot, the lost train is a bit of a local legend around the city of Wroclaw. The story goes that towards the end of World War II, as the Soviet army marched on eastern Germany, a Nazi train loaded with gold, valuable art and jewels disappeared into a massive tunnel complex near the Polish city. For more than half a century, treasure hunters have delved into the tunnels hoping to find any signs of the train and the wealth it’s purported to carry, without luck. At least, until now, if the two anonymous treasure hunters are to be believed, Rick Noack writes for The Washington Post.
Historians say the train’s existence has never been proven, but in mid-August a Polish law firm reported that two men had claimed that they found it, Vanessa Gera writes for the Associated Press. Not only do they seem to have convinced local officials, but the men are seeking compensation for their find before they give up the location.
“We believe that a train has been found. We are taking this information seriously,” Marika Tokarska, an official in the southwestern Polish district of Walbrzych, told Gera.
The men, whose identities have not been released to the public, are asking for 10 percent of the train’s value in exchange for its location. If the train does exist, even that small percentage could be worth a pretty penny. The BBC reports that a Polish news website called Wiadomosci Walbrzyskie has said (in Polish) that the train might hold up to 300 tons of gold – and according to Gera, local authorities are willing to pay the price if the tip turns out to be true.
There are reasons to doubt the existence of this mythical gold filled Nazi train. The legend essentially comes from a game of telephone. Allegedly, a Polish miner reported being told the story by a group of German miners who said they saw the train being wheeled into a tunnel beneath the Owl Mountains near Wroclaw. At the time, the mountainous region was German territory and Hitler had ordered a secret headquarters built beneath the ground. Known as “Riese,” or “Giant,” the base included a massive network of train tunnels, but was never completed. Rumors have persisted ever since and many treasure hunters have delved into the mountains since, all unsuccessful.
Since receiving notice of the potential find, local officials have scrambled emergency services, including firefighters, police and military experts in case the train is found. If it does exist and contains riches as the stories say, it’s likely that the train wasn’t left undefended.
“If the train does actually exist, there’s a significant chance it is mined,” council chairman Jacek Cichura tells the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, according to Kate Connelly for The Guardian. “It could also contain a large amount of methane gas.”
Even 60 years after World War II ended, it’s not uncommon to come across unexploded mines dating back to the war. In 2013, about 90 pounds of live mines and bomb shells were dredged up in Mumbai Harbor and had to be detonated by the Indian Navy. As for the supposed treasure train, some locals are skeptical that it has been found after all so many years of false discoveries.
"I do not know of any account confirming what is said, that the trains really existed,” local journalist Joanna Lamparska told RMF FM radio, as Adam Easton reports for the BBC. "Every five years the news appears that we are now close, we're at the entrance of the tunnel and we'll soon get inside.”