(Scroll to the bottom for the latest update)
During World War II, Hitler was obsessed with tracking down and confiscating treasure in the form or art, relics, jewellery, gold, weapons, etc. He amassed massive secret caches of these items all over Nazi occupied territories, including — according to Polish lore — a train loaded with gold, weapons, and art that vanished into the mountains in Poland at the end of WWII and has never been found!
In the news this week, it was reported that two men are claiming that they have discovered this mystery train, and for just 10% of its value, they are willing to reveal its location.
But, could it all just be a hoax?
While historians won't confirm that there even is such a train, the local government can't pass up a chance to rediscover something that they have been searching for since the end of the war. The fact that the men reached out through a lawyer is also adding some credibility to the claim, as is the fact that they are only asking for monetary compensation once the train has been salvaged, not before.
"Local stories say a German train left from the German city of Breslau (today the Polish city of Wroclaw) in April 1945 and headed westward toward Waldenburg (now Walbrzych.) At some point in the 60-kilometre (40-mile) journey it vanished.
During the war, Adolf Hitler had started creating a secret underground system in the area under the Owl Mountains, a project called “Riese,” or “Giant.” The region still belonged to Germany at the time and the project included seven separate tunnel systems. It was probably intended to be a military headquarters, though the project remains shrouded in mystery to this day."
—Vanessa Gera, The Globe and Mail, August 20, 2015
Why should you care? The historical significance of a find like this is HUGE. Akin to the discovery of the Titanic!
Who are these men? Where is the train? Is there a train at all? If there is a train, what treasures will be found? Well, if all goes according to plan, we will find out soon!
UPDATE: August 26, 2015. 7:43 pm MST — It is confirmed that a significant find has been discovered in Walbrzych, Poland. The location for the find (the train) places it buried under a field. There has been no confirmation of what is on the train. If it is located in a collapsed tunnel, there is a risk of trapped methane gas or Nazi booby traps. Stay tuned for more!
UPDATE: August 27, 2015 — This is a copy of the last live update on The Telegraph (a newspaper from the UK) blog from the days events:
"To summarise the day's events:
1. Poland's deputy culture minister says he is "convinced" the train exists.
2. He has warned people not to search for it, because it could be booby trapped or mined.
3. Experts are warning that the gold could be tooth fillings, rather than pristine gold blocks.
4. The identity of the two men claiming the 10 per cent fee remains unclear.
5. The location - or even existence - of the train remains unclear."
UPDATE: August 28, 2015 — According to Piotr Zuchowski, head of conservation at the culture ministry, this is what is known right now:
1. A deathbed confession revealed the existence of the train. We don't know who made that confession.
2. The train's location was then pinpointed with ground-penetrating radar.
3. The train is along a 4km stretch of track on the Wroclaw-Walbrzych line.
4. The train's contents are not certain. However, it could contain gold, art, jewellery and documents.
UPDATE: August 29, 2015 — There has still been no confirmation about what is on the train, but is has been found by ground penetrating radar. The Telegraph has posted a video of the tunnels that are a part of the complex where the train sits. Check it out here.
UPDATE: August 31, 2015 — There was a fire on the embankment where the train is thought to be located. It has been put out, and authorities are saying that it is not arson.
Police are carefully monitoring the site, as treasure hunters from all over are coming to try and discover something themselves. People are banned from the wooded area near the site.
The mayor of Walbrzych (the town where the train is supposedly located) says that he is skeptical over the claims of the train's discovery. This contrasts what the culture minister said just a few days ago.
UPDATE: September 1, 2015 — And it continues... The latest news is that Russia is now claiming that if the train is found, they should be getting at least a part of what is on it. But, according to Poland, the train belongs to Poland and any items found on it will be returned to the heirs of who the original items belonged to. NOT to Russia.
The Polish military has been called in to help dig and extract the train (if it is really there), ensuring that it can be done safely.
UPDATE: September 2, 2015 — There is A LOT of speculation going on. As I mentioned yesterday, the military has been brought in, but they are saying that any serious excavations won't begin until the spring! In the meantime, the area is still being flooded with tourists and treasure hunters. Officials and locals are asking that they just dig it up already, so that the question of what is on the train can be settled and not lead to further speculation over the next 6 months.
Russia is claiming that their "Amber Room" might be what is on the train, which is why they are so insistent that if any of their property is found that it be returned to them.
There is a great article here with lots of photos and more information.
UPDATE: September 7, 2015 — The two men who gave the location for the train, Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter, were members of The Lower Silesian Study Group — one of the leading historical societies in south-west Poland. The two men gave the location, and secured the 10% finders fee of the value of whatever was found, without telling the Group which has led to their expulsion from the society.
The Polish army has now concluded an initial inspection of the site, and a report of what they found should be released soon.
UPDATE: September 10, 2015 — The local council has claimed that it has received notification that there is in fact a "railway tunnel with a multi-level complex of underground corridors from the days of World War II" (source)
They will be holding a press conference on Friday to reveal the contents of the tunnels and the train!!
UPDATE: September 11, 2015 — There wasn't really anything new revealed at the press conference today. It was confirmed that explosive experts would be needed to make sure that the entrance to the trains is safe. There was also a suggestion that there could be three trains within these tunnels, as it was documented that three trains never reached their destination and have never been found.
There was NO confirmation about what is on the trains. But there was a confirmation that they were armoured.
According to the CNBC, "Officials for the Walbrzych District Council, speaking at the same press conference, said they had no doubt that something was down in the structures. They stated that they would work as fast as possible to discover, using radar, the layout and inspect inside these structures."
UPDATE: September 28, 2015 — Poland's army has begun inspecting the site using mine detectors and ground-penetrating radar. The goal is to ensure that there are no booby traps or hazardous material. The governor has not yet released what the plan for excavation will be. He is waiting to see if the site is safe first.
There is still no confirmation on what the train contains, though there is A LOT of speculation!
UPDATE: December 12, 2015 — According to mining,com, Polish mining experts are in the final stages of analyzing data taken from earth-penetrating equipment from the site where the train is alleged to be located. They expect to release their findings before Christmas.
Whatever they discover, digging on the site will probably not take place until spring due to the cold, harsh winter conditions.
UPDATE: May 10, 2016 — Not much news has emerged regarding the Nazi Train situation since a mining academy did a geological survey in December and said that (though it wasn't definitive) they didn't think that the train was on the site.
Despite this, the two men who originally made the claim — Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter — are getting ready to start digging!
According to The Telegraph, the two men have received permission from the Polish State Railways (the owners of the land) to begin their excavation and they, and their team, are ready to begin!
UPDATE: September 15, 2016 — It has been just over a year now since news broke that a Nazi Treasure Train may have been located in Poland but, according to news stories, the dig that was started earlier this summer has turned up no evidence that there is anything located at the proposed discovery site.
Search operations have been shut down at the site that caused the most excitement, though the men who have been digging are planning on starting a new excavation at a site nearby if they can retain the proper permits.