Has mystery of the 'Nazi gold train' been solved?
Published 28/08/2015 | 02:30
The hunt for a legendary Nazi gold train in Poland has taken a new twist after a regional mayor's office in southern Poland confirmed that a train of a "military nature" had been found.
At a press conference, Zygmunt Nowaczyk, deputy mayor of Walbrzych, said "the discovery was in the town's district" and that the Polish state treasure and culture ministry had been informed in case the find contained anything of value.
Last week, two unidentified men filed a claim with Walbrzych's mayor's office, stating they had found a 500-feet-long armoured train somewhere in the hills and mountains surrounding the town in south-west Poland.
The claim triggered a flurry of speculation that they may have found a Nazi ghost train, which, according to myth and legend, disappeared into the same hills in April 1945, carrying tons of gold and other precious items.
In keeping with the mystery surrounding the train, the two finders declined to appear at the press conference, choosing to keep their identity and just where the train might be a secret.
"The letter does not give the exact location but there is no doubt the location is within the limits of our district," said Arkadiusz Grudzien, a spokesman for Walbrzych council's legal office.
"The train is of a military nature. There is no mention of valuables: just military equipment."
Jaroslaw Chmielewski, a lawyer working on behalf of the two men, said his clients would co-operate with the authorities and that they also expected a 10pc finder's fee of the value of find.
It is possible, however, that they could ultimately end up with nothing more than the gratitude of the Polish state. If valuables are discovered on the find, then they could be returned to the heirs of their former owners.
The story of the train emerged not long after the war, when a Pole spoke with a German miner who was about to leave the area because it was to become part of post-war Poland.
The miner spoke of how a train laden with treasure had been parked in a secret siding in the last days of the war. Since then, people have been looking for that train. There is no documentary evidence supporting the 'gold train' legend.
But the Nazis, and in particular Hermann Goering, amassed vast fortunes in treasure stolen from their victims.
Whether the actual train has been found is hard to ascertain. However, it appears that something has been found - but it could be a number of things.
It could be an old train that was buried in a tunnel years ago. It could be abandoned rolling stock. Or it could be a train laden with treasure that the Nazis left in a tunnel.
It is understood that during the war the Germans dug miles of tunnels into the hills and mountains around Walbrzych.
Historians differ on why this was done. Some say they were creating a secret command centre, others say they were underground factories for weapons, while others claim the tunnels were research sites for the atom-bomb project.
But there are tunnels: some of them very big. At the end of the war, the Germans flooded or blew up a number of them. As a result, not all the tunnels have been explored.
This is the first time that somebody has actually said "I have found something" and taken legal steps to support their claim. In the past, there have only been rumours.
France Info radio has reported that if the train exists, it will belong to the Polish state under accords passed with Germany.
Damien Simonart, France Info's Warsaw correspondent, said: "If there is Nazi gold in this train, we are not talking about Indiana Jones here but gold pulled from the teeth of Jews in death camps."
He added that if the two unidentified treasure hunters really have struck gold, they will have to question their consciences over its origin if they do seal a deal to take home 10pc of its value that they have reportedly sought.
According to testimony from the tooth-puller of Treblinka (a Nazi death camp in Poland), two suitcases containing eight to 10 kilos left the camp each week and Treblinka provided very little (of the overall amount). So one can only imagine how much this amounted to by the end of the war.
Indeed, Himmler sent letters all over ordering Nazi workers to "accelerate, accelerate".
We know that when those deported had been gassed and before they were incinerated, Joseph Mengele (the notoriously barbaric Auschwitz physician known as 'the Angel of Death') issued orders for their teeth to be searched for gold.