Authorities in Poland have been getting closer and closer to determining whether or not the fabled "Nazi gold train" is truly hidden within the country's mountains. Their preliminary answer: There is no train.
This was what the leader of a team of geologists, Janusz Madej, said at a press conference this week. His team's conclusion came after a month of magnetic tests to verify the train's location turned up nothing. No railway, no trains, just a shallow tunnel about 8 feet beneath the surface.
While the initial scientific data would suggest that there is nothing to do, the locals in Walbrzych, Poland are less willing to cast their convictions aside. The legend about the hidden Nazi trains containing gold, diamonds, other gems, and rare artwork has been a persistent feature of the culture in Walbrzych. Even before the news this year, local businesses offer all sorts of gifts for tourists that commemorate the legendary train. This has especially taken off with the excitement of the past few months.
Beyond the strong belief that such a train is hidden somewhere, there is more circumstantial context that points to why this area would be the ideal place to look. The nearby Ksiaz Castle was occupied by the Nazis and, later in the war effort, Hitler began having tunnels dug beneath it. Although these tunnels were unfinished, there are many other Nazi tunnels across the country. It is also true that a great deal of gold held by the Nazis in Switzerland went missing near the end of World War II and has never been recovered.
The two amateurs, Andreas Richter of Germany and Piotr Koper of Poland, who originally came forward with their apparent discovery of the Nazi gold train's location are still not giving up. They have questioned the methodology of the official surveys and believe that ground-penetrating radar (GPR) images back up their claims. Other enterprising treasure hunters (from around the world) have flocked to the area in an attempt to make their own discovery.
Fuel was added to the fire about the veracity of the two men's claim when a Polish government minister declared the authorities were "99% sure" that the find was real. Local officials are now torn between the expensive process of sending cameras beneath the surface or simply giving up on the lead.
However, if any excavation is undertaken, the Polish army will be present: if there is buried Nazi treasure, one can expect booby traps and mines. Or, if the train exists but the tunnel is sealed, it could be filled with methane gas and pose an explosion risk.
If such a train does exist, it is estimated that its contents are worth billions in gold, guns, diamonds, and more. Some estimates placed the cache at 300 metric tonnes of gold. This amount of bullion alone would be worth more than $10 billion.