Explorers in Poland began digging Tuesday for a legendary Nazi train said to be laden with treasure and armaments.
They’re not dissuaded by decades of fruitless searches, a scientific determination that no train is there and warnings by historians that such a train might have never even existed.
The search in southwestern Poland attests to the power of a local legend claiming a Nazi “gold train” disappeared in a mountain tunnel as the Germans escaped the advancing Soviet army at the end of World War II.
As the dig got underway, a yellow excavator moved earth along railroad tracks above the spot where two explorers believe the train is buried. The work is expected to last several days.
The two men claimed last year to have located the elusive train with radar equipment deep in the bowels of the earth in the city of Walbrzych, sparking a gold rush in that area.
A government official initially said he was “99 percent sure” the train was there, helping to feed the frenzy. The arrival of treasure hunters and curiosity seekers from across Europe gave a welcome financial boost to the surrounding coal mining region of Silesia, which has struggled since unprofitable mines in the area were closed after the fall of communism.
Late last year, geological experts using magnetic equipment found no train on the spot, and the matter seemed to have been settled quietly.
But the explorers refused to give up.
Andrzej Galik, a spokesman for the search team, said six independent companies using various radar devices have detected anomalies indicating the shape of a tunnel underground.
“The results of the ground-penetrating radar examinations are very promising,” Galik said. “It’s so exciting and we count on success.”
Historians say the existence of the train, which is said to have gone missing in May 1945, never has been conclusively proven. Polish authorities nonetheless have seemed eager to pursue any chance of recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.
At the height of the frenzy last year, the World Jewish Congress reminded Poland’s authorities in the case of a discovery of a treasure-laden train, any valuables belonging to Jews killed in the Holocaust must be returned to their rightful owners or their heirs.
Legend holds the train was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as “Riese” - or Giant - which the Nazis never finished.
The area belonged to Germany at the time, but has been part of Poland since the borders were moved in the postwar settlement.SHOW MORE