A Polish official said Friday he has seen an image made by ground-penetrating radar that seemed to prove the discovery of an armored and possibly loot-filled Nazi train that has been missing in southwestern Poland since World War II.
Local lore says a German train filled with gold, gems and armaments went missing around the city of Walbrzych while it was fleeing the Red Army in the spring of 1945. Fortune hunters have looked for the so-called "gold train" for decades, and in the communist era, the Polish army and security services carried out apparently fruitless searches for it.
Recently, a Pole and a German, acting through lawyers, told local authorities they had found an armored train with valuables in a disused tunnel and demanded a financial reward.
Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski told reporters the lawyers had been informed the train was over 109 yards long and called it an "exceptional" discovery.
He said he was shown an image — albeit blurred — from a ground-penetrating radar that showed the shape of a train platform and cannons, and added he was "more than 99 percent certain that this train exists."
"We will be 100 percent sure only when we find the train," Zuchowski said.
Walbrzych regional authorities will conduct the search, using military explosives experts, in a procedure that will take "weeks," he said.
During the war, the Germans built a system of underground tunnels in the mountainous region of Walbrzych and the city of Wroclaw, from where the train is believed to have departed. The area was German territory at the time, but became part of Poland when the war ended. Local news reports say the train, believed to be military, was packed with loot from the eastern German city of Breslau as Soviet Red Army forces closed in at the end of World War II.
A person who claimed he helped load the gold train in 1945 said in a "deathbed statement" that the train is secured with explosives, Zuchowski said. The person, who was not identified, had also indicated the probable location of the train, he said.
In the meantime, Poland appealed to World War II history buffs and rail enthusiasts on Thursday to stop searching for the train, saying they risked harming themselves.
“This is an appeal for any further investigations to be put on hold until we have finished the necessary official procedures relating to securing the site,” Zuchowski said.