Poland said on Friday it was almost certain it had located a Nazi train believed to have gone missing at the end of World War II loaded with gold, jewels and weapons.
Local legend has it that the train and its precious cargo disappeared into a tunnel near Poland’s border with Germany in 1945 as it headed west to avoid falling into the hands of the advancing Soviet Red Army.
Treasure hunters have searched for the train for decades, while Poland’s communist-era leaders also failed to find any trace of it despite combing a system of tunnels built by Germany in Poland’s mountainous Walbrzych region and the city of Wroclaw, where the vehicle is believed to have vanished.
But it now appears that the fabled train has been found at last, after photographs taken using ground-penetrating radar equipment showed a train more than 100 metres (330 feet) long, Poland’s Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said.
The vehicle was armoured, suggesting it was carrying a special cargo, “probably military equipment but also possibly jewellery, works of art and archive documents”, Zuchowski told journalists in Warsaw.
“I am over 99 percent sure that such a train exists,” he said, though experts would only be certain once they managed to uncover the vehicle.
In reaction to the finding, the World Jewish Congress said on Friday that any valuables found on the train must be returned to their rightful owners.
“To the extent that any items now being discovered in Poland may have been stolen from Jews before they were sent to death ... it is essential that every measure is taken to return the property to its rightful owners or to their heirs,” WJC head Robert Singer said in a statement issued in New York.
Polish authorities started looking for the train earlier this month, after they were tipped off by a German and a Pole who said through lawyers that they had found it in Walbrzych and expected 10 percent of the value of the findings as a reward.
Zuchowski said that the train’s location may have been revealed by the deathbed confession of a man who said he had helped hide the train 70 years ago.
“On the death bed, this person communicated the information together with a sketch, where this might possibly be,” he said, without going into more details.
Zuchowski said experts were now working out how to get to the vehicle. The culture ministry said on Thursday there could be explosives at the site and warned “foragers” and World War II enthusiasts to keep away.
Local media have broadcast images of digging equipment and other gear, though it was impossible to confirm the location.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2015-08-29