Gold

The story of the “Nazi Gold Train” is an enduring one. According to the legend, a German train loaded with gold confiscated from Polish civilians and Jewish prisoners was buried in the woods near the Polish city of Walbrzych, formerly the German city of Waldenburg. Some sources quote the train as containing up to three hundred tonnes of gold, as well as jewels and several lost masterpieces.

The most recent attempt at finding the treasure was undertaken by two Polish men, Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter, in 2015-16. Though they initially claimed to have been told by the death bed confession of a concentration camp guard, they caused a media storm when they changed their story to claim that a government official had leaked the information. Although a minister from the Polish government claimed that ground penetrating radar had shown the presence of a 100-meter long train buried under the surface, this evidence was later shown to be false, the data instead suggesting the presence of a collapsed tunnel. After a seven-day dig, no train was found.

This excavation, though, was preceded by another attempt in the early 1990s that received less attention from the worldwide media. The exploration, attempted by another Polish national, was bankrolled by two Swiss bankers. Having studied as many documents possible relating to the Russian advancement through the area, the team placed the train’s location roughly ten kilometres north of the city, underneath an embankment near a long disused section of railway.

The exploration lasted two weeks, beginning on the 3rd of August, 1991. For the first five days, the area was swept for unexploded munitions and booby traps. When this initial exploration turned up a couple of dozen German land-mines that were mostly defused by the rust and time, the archaeologists and treasure-hunters assembled began to become confident of success. For the next two days, the clearing in the forest around the railway tracks was scanned with radar and, when the presence of a seventy-metre long mass was discovered, the go ahead was given to start digging.

It was as the excavators started to bore down that the issues started. Electrical equipment present started going wrong, usually nothing major. A large setback occurred when the discs containing the radar data were wiped, as if with a magnet, and the scanning had to take place again to confirm where the supposed train was located. Rumours started spreading around the hired workers that something was trying to disrupt the expedition, that something was trying to stop them from reaching the train.

The most major mishap happened on the night of the 15th. The workers had been living in a large tent in the forest. When one of the men fell asleep smoking, a large fire broke out and a dozen workers were hospitalised for smoke inhalation, and a few more with serious burns. Some of those present claimed to see figures in the smoke, gaunt men all in some sort of uniform, with a badge on their chests. The rumours of these “ghosts” spread quickly through word of mouth and local media. Many of those who weren’t injured quit, believing that the ghosts of German soldiers were jealously guarding their riches.

Still, the dig went on, with the few archaeologists ventured deeper. While some were still a little scared of what was dubbed the “curse”, they were lured onwards by the call of treasure and imminent renown for finding the storied vehicle. The JCBs worked through the night of the sixteenth, and as dawn broke on August 17th the expedition finally struck the metal hull of the train.

It was only when they opened up the crates inside and found ashes, charred bones, a few small children’s teeth, that they realised that the ghosts weren’t those of the soldiers.

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