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Nazi gold train fever is spreading across Poland

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A train travels in an area where a Nazi train is believed to be at, in Walbrzych, southwestern Poland August 30, 2015.

A train travels near where a Nazi train is believed to be hidden, in Walbrzych, southwestern Poland August 30, 2015.

Credit:

Kacper Pempel/Reuters

There's a case of gold fever in Poland. A pair of treasure hunters reportedly located a Nazi-era train filled with gold — and it's causing quite a stir.

But when sorting fact from fiction in this story, the BBC’s Adam Easton says there’s not a scrap of documentary evidence that this train actually exists. But the legend does have longevity, dating back to the end of World War II.

Ostensibly, the train contains gold the Nazis gathered, perhaps precious art, all loaded in the city of Breslau. They chose to hide the train, either in a tunnel or underground, though, because of the advancing Soviet Red Army, Easton says. People have been looking for it for 70 years, and every five years someone claims that if you just tear down this brick wall, we’ll find it. But it's never happened.

This time the Nazi gold train rumor has been stoked by a Polish government official who is said to have received information from two anonymous treasure hunters who claimed to have "discovered" a Nazi train hidden in a tunnel in the southwest Polish city of Walbrzych. Piotr Zuchowski, Poland's deputy minister of culture, quoted the sources saying they were "99 percent certain the train was hidden under a hill," based on ground-penetrating radar.

Zuchowski called the find "unprecedented," adding "we do not know what is inside the train ... probably military equipment but also possibly jewelery, works of art and archive documents. ... Armored trains from this period were used to carry extremely valuable items and this is an armored train. It is a big clue."

Since the story began circulating, tourists armed with metal detectors and treasure hunters with a case of Nazi gold fever have flocking to the city near the border with the Czech Republic. The World Jewish Congress has already staked a claim, saying that any gold that is discovered was looted from victims of the Holocaust and should be returned to their families or heirs.

Poland's central bank governor Marek Belka was asked Wednesday how the discovery of an armored train packed with gold and jewelry might impact the Polish currency. "I don’t think anybody at the central bank even thought to devote a second to this issue," he said. This is some hoax."

A day earlier, Poland said it would deploy the army to do reconnaissance in an area near Walbrzych known for secret underground tunnels. So far there’s no digging or excavation underway. 

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