Nazi 'gold train': Tourist's descend on Polish town of Wasbrzych despite lack of evidence that its discovery is genuine

Tony Paterson reports from the Silesian town experiencing a Third Reich Klondyke

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The Independent Online

Officials have been doing their best to keep the prospect of a Third Reich Klondyke at the top of the agenda in the run-down town of Walbrzych, ever since treasure hunters claimed to have discovered a lost “Nazi Gold train” in a secret tunnel last month.

At the 13th-century Ksiaz castle-turned-hotel just outside the town, visiting tourists can now buy gaudy “Gold Train” T-shirts. They bear the images of a steam locomotive pulling wagons at high speed through a tunnel bursting with fire-red light.

A 28-year-old Polish TV personality, Edyta Nowakowska, has even composed a “Gold Train” song featuring the refrain: “The train is coming – it’s dripping with gold.”

It was announced on 20 August that the train had been found. But despite intense speculation since then, and sea of rumours, there is still no solid evidence that Walbrzych’s celebrated gold train really exists.

Two mysterious and so far unnamed Nazi-treasure hunters, a Pole and a German, claimed that by using ground-penetrating radar equipment they had discovered a 100-metre-long armoured Nazi train, buried in a tunnel along a section of disused railway track some seven miles outside the Silesian town. They claimed that the train was almost certainly packed with tons of gold stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War that had been buried in the spring of 1945 to conceal it from the invading Red Army. The haul is said to have comprised part of the millions of tons of gold the Nazi looted from banks and extracted from the teeth of death camp victims.

“I have seen the geo-radar pictures and they are of a high quality,” said Piotr Zuchowski of Poland’s culture ministry in Warsaw last week, adding that he was “99 per cent sure” that he train existed.

However, Walbrzych’s mayor, Roman Szelemej, was far less convinced. “We remain sceptical,” he told reporters. His view was echoed by several locals. “The story about the Nazi gold train has been around for more than 50 years. I have heard it so often that I don’t really believe that it has been found this time,” said Roman Wojcik, a pensioner.

In an attempt to clear up the mystery once and for all, Poland’s defence ministry announced that it would dispatch a team of military experts to the site over the next two days. They would try to establish whether anything was buried there, the ministry said.

The Nazi-gold hunters, who are keeping their identities secret, say that the armoured train is almost certainly packed with jewels and gold – and the tunnel would have been mined to prevent intruders reaching it. If the train does exist, and is found to contain any treasure it would become the property of the Polish state. However, the gold hunters are demanding a 10 per cent share of any find as payment for revealing its existence to the authorities. Their lawyer claims the find is of global importance on a par with the discovery of the Titanic.

Between kilometres 61 and 65 of a section of railway line between Wroclaw and Walbrzych, groups of tourists gazed at a section of grass-covered railway embankment, above the spot where the train is supposedly buried, 230 feet beneath their feet. Police notices warning onlookers to stay clear of the site were ignored.

Rumour has it that during the final days of the war, the train was loaded with gold and dispatched to Berlin from what was then the German city of Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland). But with Soviet forces rapidly advancing, the train was suddenly diverted towards Walbrzych – where the Nazis had used slave labour to build an elaborate system of tunnels and bunkers for factory production. There have also been claims that a nearby castle had been earmarked as a new headquarters for Adolf Hitler.

At this moment, the “Gold Train” disappeared without trace. The Pole and the German who now claim to have discovered it are convinced that the Nazis sent it along a branch line towards one of the bunker and tunnel systems, then blew up the entrance to the tunnel to stop the train being bombed or discovered. If they are right, it has remained there, undetected, for 70 years

This week, a mysterious bush fire broke out along a section of the track close to the “Gold Train” site.

It is expected that the Polish army’s military experts will soon be able to establish whether Walbrzych’s “Nazi-Gold Train” exists or is destined to remain a garish image on T-shirts.