Poland confirmed the discovery of an armoured second World War Nazi train hidden underground near the Czech border that local legend says is laden with gold and other loot.
Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said he has seen a geo-radar image of the more than 100-meter-long train, presented by lawyers of two men who say they discovered it.
The train’s discovery was made possible after a death-bed confession of a person who helped hide it, Zuchowski said. He declined to reveal that person’s identity and said the contents of the train weren’t known.
“This is an absolutely unprecedented situation,” he said at a news briefing in Warsaw on Friday. “There is a very high, over 99 percent, probability that this train exists.”
Armored wagons were used by the Nazis to transport valuables, Mr Zuchowski said, while local lore claims that such a train loaded with loot from the nearby city of Wroclaw went missing in the area during the advance of the Soviet Army in 1945.
Toward the end of the second World War, Nazi forces began building seven underground structures in the mountains near the southwestern Polish town of Walbrzych in an area that previously belonged to Germany.
Poland will attempt to dig out the train after military engineers secure the area, which may be booby- trapped, Mr Zuchowski said.
Any valuables found on the train must be returned to their rightful owners, the World Jewish Congress has said.
“To the extent that any items now being discovered in Poland may have been stolen from Jews before they were sent to death ... it is essential that every measure is taken to return the property to its rightful owners or to their heirs,” WJC head Robert Singer said in a statement issued in New York.
“We very much hope that the Polish authorities will take the appropriate action in that respect.”