The search in south-eastern Poland follows a local legend claiming a Nazi “gold” train disappeared in a mountain tunnel as the Germans escaped the advancing Soviet army at the end of the Second World War.
As the dig got under way, a yellow excavator moved earth along rail tracks above the spot where two explorers believe the train is buried, images aired by Poland’s TVN24 show. The work is expected to last several days.
The two explorers claimed last year to have located the elusive train with radar equipment below ground in the city of Walbrzych, sparking a gold rush in that area.
A government official initially said he was “99 per cent sure” the train was there, but geological experts using magnetic equipment found no train at the spot.
Late last year, geological experts using magnetic equipment found no train on the spot, and the matter seemed to have been settled quietly. But the explorers refused to give up.
Andrzej Galik, a spokesman for the search team, said six independent companies using various radar devices have detected anomalies indicating the shape of a tunnel underground.
“The results of the ground-penetrating radar examinations are very promising,” he said. “It’s so exciting and we count on success.”
Historians say the existence of the train, which is said to have gone missing in May 1945, has never been conclusively proven. Polish authorities have nonetheless seemed eager to check every possibility of recovering treasures that have sparked imaginations of local people for decades.
At the height of the frenzy last year, the World Jewish Congress reminded Poland’s authorities in the case of a discovery of a treasure-laden train, any valuables belonging to Jews killed in the Holocaust must be returned to their rightful owners or their heirs.
Legend holds that the train was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as “Riese” – meaning “giant” – which the Nazis never finished. The area belonged to Germany at the time but has been part of Poland since the borders were moved in the post-war settlement.