Polish scientists quash rumors of Nazi ‘gold train’

Disputing fortune-hunters, experts say there may be a tunnel, but no mythical locomotive filled with treasure

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

File: A reconstructed view of the fabled Amber Room (photo credit: jeanyfan, public domain/Wikimedia Commons)
File: A reconstructed view of the fabled Amber Room (photo credit: jeanyfan, public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Fortune hunters seeking a Nazi “gold train” in southwestern Poland will have to continue looking, after scientists on Tuesday buried claims made by two amateur sleuths earlier this year that they had “irrefutable proof” of the train’s whereabouts.

In August, Andreas Richter from Germany and Piotr Koper from Poland set the rumor-mill into overdrive when they told Polish TV that they had clear evidence that could solve a 70-year mystery. They demanded a financial reward.

But on Tuesday, the head of a team of experts from Krakow’s University of Science and Technology, which examined the site, announced that “according to our examination, there might be a tunnel there but there is no train there.”

Addressing a news conference in Wałbrych, Janusz Madej added: “The geo-magnetic model anomalies would be far greater if there was a train.”

Madej spoke at the end after a month-long survey of a stretch along the Wałbrych-Wałbrych railway line, during which experts employed magnetic field detectors, thermal imaging cameras and radars.

The claim that the train was at the site gained traction when a Polish culture ministry official said he had seen a ground-penetrating radar image of the alleged train, on which he could make out platforms and cannons.

“I’m more than 99 percent sure such a train exists, but the nature of its contents is unverifiable at the moment,” Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said at the time.

One of the explorers who made the original claim, Piotr Koper, said prior to Madej’s statement that his examination of the site indicated there is a secret tunnel there and some readings on his geology equipment might suggest the existence of a hidden war train.

Other sites in the Wałbrych area have also been suggested as hiding places for war-time installations and even a train.

During the war, the Germans built a system of underground tunnels in the Wałbrych area, from where the train is believed to have departed. Local lore says the Nazis hid the train while fleeing the Red Army in 1945. The area was German territory at the time, but became part of Poland when the war ended. Historians disagree as to whether they were intended as shelters or for weapons production.

After the claims were made in August, reports speculated that the train could contain the famed “Amber Room” looted from the Catherine Palace near St Petersburg during World War II (treasure hunters have reported finding traces of the Amber Room many times in the past), or priceless paintings.

Russia and Poland were already sparring over ownership of the train’s contents, and the World Jewish Congress said it would lay claim to any items stolen from Jewish owners.

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