Polish authorities have blocked off a wooded area near a railroad track after scores of treasure hunters swarmed southwest Poland looking for an alleged Nazi gold train. At least one Jewish organization has demanded that any Jewish property found on the train be returned to its rightful owners.
The city of Walbrzych and its surrounding wooded hills are experiencing a gold rush after two men, a Pole and a German, informed authorities through their lawyers that they have found a Nazi train with armaments and valuables that reportedly went missing in the spring of 1945 while fleeing the Red Army.
Inspired by a local legend since World War II, people with metal detectors and ground-penetrating equipment are combing the area and its still-used railway tracks. Some of them have arrived from Germany.
The gold fever intensified after deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said last week he had seen contours of the train on an image from a ground- penetrating device.
The alleged site is somewhere between the 61st and the 65th kilometer of the tracks that wind their way between Walbrzych and Wroclaw.
Provincial governor Tomasz Smolarz said Monday that police, city and railway guards are now patrolling the area and blocking treasure hunters to prevent any accidents with trains running on the tracks.
“A few hectares (acres) of land are now being secured. People have been barred from the woods” surrounding the site, he said.
“Half of Walbrzych’s residents and other people are going treasure hunting or just for walks to see the site. We are worried for their security,” police spokeswoman Magdalena Koroscik told The Associated Press. People walking down the tracks can’t escape “a train that emerges from behind the rocks at 70 kph (43 mph).”
A man taking a selfie on the tracks reportedly narrowly missed being hit, she said.
Smolarz is also asking the military to examine the site with earth-penetrating equipment to look for any hidden train.
Authorities said numerous previous reports of a find have only yielded rusty pieces of metal.
Stolen Jewish property must be returned
Any valuables found on a Nazi train buried in Poland since World War Two must be returned to their rightful owners, the World Jewish Congress said on Friday.
“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 Chief Executive Officer Robert Singer said in a statement issued in New York, quoted by Reuters.
“We very much hope that the Polish authorities will take the appropriate action in that respect,” Robert Singer said.
By: Monika Scislowska, AP. With files from World Jewish Congress.