70 years after the end of the Second World War, the looted treasures of the Nazis still capture the public imagination.
This year has seen a Hollywood blockbuster starring Helen Mirren – The Woman in Gold – dedicated to a Jewish refugee’s quest to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting stolen from Vienna by the Nazis, and last week it emerged that a chandelier in Nicola Sturgeon’s official Edinburgh residence may too have been plundered by German soldiers.
And now a lost Nazi train loaded with gold and other valuables likely stolen from European Jews has reportedly been found by treasure hunters in Poland.
The armoured train in question – full of plundered treasures from the Polish city of Wroclaw – is said to have mysteriously disappeared towards the end of World War II as the Soviets’ Red Army marched westwards.
Local legend says the 150-metre-long Wehrmacht train, also heavily laden with guns and industrial equipment, vanished into a mountain tunnel in the Lower Silesian region of south-west Poland – and never emerged.
And although local media reports have cast doubt on whether the so-called Nazi ghost train ever existed, two undeterred explorers have claimed they have excavated its plunder – and are asking authorities for ten per cent of the proceeds.
Local authorities in the district of Walbrzych said lawyers for the Pole and German who reportedly located the train had been in touch.
A council spokesperson said: “Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this.
“The area has never been excavated before and we don’t know what we might find.”
Local historian Joanna Lamparska told Wroclaw’s local radio station that despite years of speculation, there is no evidence that the train ever existed.
She said: “A handful of people have already looked for the train, damaging the line in the process, but nothing was ever found.
“But the legend has captured imaginations.”
There are similarities between the semi-legendary Polish ghost train and the so-called ‘Gold Train’, which was sent from Budapest towards Germany packed with a treasure trove of artwork, gold and silver looted from Hungarian Jewish families.
The £130 million booty was later intercepted by US soldiers – who, according to a later American investigation, pocketed much of the swag.