All that glitters is not gold, say Polish scientists, who announced at a press conference yesterday (15 November) that there is no Nazi-era treasure train buried in a railway embankment in Southern Poland.
The scientists presented their findings after months of speculation following a claim made by two amateur treasure hunters in August that they had discovered the train. Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter believe it departed Wrocław in the final days of WWII as Soviet and Allied forces entered Poland but never reached its destination.
According to local legend, three treasure trains are said to be buried in or around Wałbrzych. Crammed with stolen art, jewels, weapons and gold, they were thought to be bound for a secret command centre built by Hitler in Wałbrzych but were sealed in a network of underground tunnels as the Red Army advanced in 1945.
In the absence of concrete documentary evidence, researchers have been hard-pressed to confirm the legend of the gold trains. Scientists surveyed the site at the 22 mile (35km) mark along the Wrocław-Wałbrzych railway line using magnetic field detectors, thermal imaging cameras and radars. After a month of research, the head of Polish mining academy Professor Janusz Madej told the press conference in Wałbrzych that there could be no train:
“The geo-magnetic model anomalies would be far greater if there was a train,” he said.
However, researchers do believe there is a tunnel around 9m underground at the site. The finding has sparked interest in the secret complex of as yet undiscovered tunnels in the hills around Wałbrzych, which are said to have been built by the Germans for unknown reasons.
Christopher Marinello, CEO of the Art Recovery Group said the research is still significant despite the negative findings:
“This could have been the find of the decade and hopefully will encourage even more interest in identifying and recovering the countless objects still missing at the hands of the Nazis.”
Koper and Richter remain adamant that there is in fact a a train. They claim to have discovered fresh evidence of its existence, which they presented to Wałbrzych city authorities in a sealed envelope on 7 December:
“We believe there is a train… The readings [by the scientists] are different because the methodological approach was not the same as ours.”
Koper said the only way to quell their suspicions would be to dig for the train but this is unlikely to happen given that the site is next to an important railway line. Local authorities plan to examine the contrasting evidence before undertaking any excavation work.