A Polish government official confirmed Aug. 28 that an armored WWII-era Nazi ‘ghost’ train that went missing in 1945—rumored to be laden with looted gold, precious jewels, art and other treasures—has been located, hidden underground within the southwestern city of Wałbrzych.
Though declining to provide the exact location of the find or speculate on its cargo, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski told reporters at a press briefing in Warsaw that he had viewed geo-radar imaging of the more than 100-meter-long train, and that its discovery was the result of a deathbed confession of a person who helped hide it, according to The Irish Times.
“This is an absolutely unprecedented situation,” he told the paper. “There is a very high, over 99-percent, probability that this train exists.”
Zuchowski declined to identify the person who made the deathbed confession, but added that the government would attempt to dig out the train following military engineers securing the area, the paper reports.
The Nazi ‘ghost’ or ‘gold’ train, as it’s been dubbed, has fueled imaginations and local folklore since it supposedly vanished in 1945, though there has never been official documents unearthed even proving its existence.
As legend goes, as the Red Army advanced against the Nazis in the waning days of World War II, the train and its fabled cargo of more than 400 tons of gold, gems and unknown treasures (worth tens of billions today) went missing somewhere near Wałbrzych’s ancient 13th-century Książ Castle, which was taken over by the Germans and used as a headquarters for the Nazis. In 1943, the occupying forces began forcing an estimated 13,000 prisoners to carve a vast network of tunnels within the nearby Owl Mountains in operation called Project Riese.
Countless lost their lives during the construction of these tunnels, which remain in various stages of completion—some present-day tourist attractions.
Though there have been many attempts to locate the fabled train and its rumored hordes of gold throughout the last half-century, none have been successful.
The recent finding comes on the heels of news reports earlier this month that two treasure hunters—a Pole and a German—had contacted local authorities through an attorney and claimed they’d discovered the train. They reportedly sought a 10-percent finders’ fee.
“‘Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this,” Marika Tokarska, an official at the Wałbrzych district council, told Reuters,’ reported an Aug. 19 article in The Guardian. “‘The area has never been excavated before and we don’t know what we might find.’”
Since then, would-be treasure seekers from across the globe have descended upon the city.
Deputy Culture Minister Zuchowski asked such excavators to keep away from the area, warning the train may in fact be protected by explosives such as mines.
“There may be hazardous substances dating from the Second World War in the hidden train, which I’m convinced exists,” reports the Daily Mail. “I am appealing to people to stop any such searches until the end of official procedures leading to the securing of the find.
“There’s a huge probability that the train is booby-trapped.”