Rumours of the presence of a Nazi train filled with gold and other treasures that vanished at the end of the Second World War have swirled around the Polish town of Walbrzych for years – but now a government official says a “deathbed confession” has revealed its actual location.
According to local lore, the German train vanished while it was fleeing the Red Army in the spring of 1945. The head of conservation at Poland’s culture ministry, Piotr Zuchowski, claimed on Friday that he was “more than 99 per cent certain the train exists” after an image from ground-penetrating radar - albeit blurred – appeared to confirm its location. The image is said to show the shape of a train platform and cannons.
The vehicle was armoured, suggesting that it was carrying a special cargo, “probably military equipment but also possibly jewellery, works of art and archive documents”, Mr Zuchowski said.
A person who claimed that he helped to load the train with gold in 1945 had indicated its probable location in a “deathbed” statement, Mr Zuchowski added. He said the unnamed informant had warned that the train was laden with explosives and “on the deathbed this person communicated the information, together with a sketch, where this might possibly be”.
During the Second World War, the Nazis built a system of underground tunnels in the mountainous region around the city of Wroclaw, from where the train is believed to have departed on the line towards Walbrzych. It was said to have entered a tunnel and never re-emerged. The tunnel was later sealed and its location long forgotten. The area was German territory at the time but became part of Poland when the war ended.
After 70 years, two people, believed to be a German and a Pole, told local authorities, through their lawyers, that they had found an armoured train with valuables in a disused tunnel. The pair said that they wanted a 10 per cent cut of the value of whatever was found on the train.
Calling the discovery “unprecedented”, Mr Zuchowski said on Friday that the lawyers had been informed the train was more than 100 metres long. However, he added that officials would be “100 per cent sure only when we find the train”. The Walbrzych regional government will conduct the search for it using military explosives experts, in a procedure that will take several weeks.
The story of the potential discovery has led other treasure-hunters to head for the site. The culture ministry confirmed the presence of what it called “foragers”, but Mr Zuchowski warned them to stay away and said they risked harming themselves.
“I am appealing to people to stop any such searches until the end of official procedures leading to the securing of the find,” he added. “Inside the hidden train there could be dangerous materials.”
AP; REUTERSReuse content