Reports of a recently discovered Nazi train filled with lost treasure could trigger a massive reversal of fortune, prescription as an art group readies itself for the possibility of reconnecting Jewish families and heirs with stolen art, medical gold and other valuables.
Two men claim to have discovered a legendary train in Poland that was rumoured to have disappeared into a network of secret tunnels in May 1945 as the Germans retreated near the end of World War II.
According to local lore, the train was loaded with a trove of precious gems, priceless art and gold when it slipped into the mountains.
Polish authorities are taking the claim seriously. Marika Tokarska, an official in the southwestern Polish district of Walbrzych, told the Associated Press, “We believe that a train has been found.”
As officials work to verify the train’s existence, Mary Kate Cleary of the London-based Art Recovery Group says her group is preparing for the possible chance to reconnect families with decades-old stolen property.
“The Nazis were notorious plunderers of art, cultural property and other valuables,” Cleary told CTV News Channel Thursday afternoon.
“They would engage in a systematic campaign to dispossess particularly Jewish communities and other enemies of the Nazi regime of their property.”
Trains were typically used to transport the stolen property back to the German Reich, Cleary said. The supposed discovery is said to have been made in an area of Poland that formerly belonged to Germany.
“If this train was one of those such trains, then it would contain materials from Eastern European countries, possibly dispossessed from Jews, victims of the Holocaust,” Clearly said.
If that’s the case, Cleary hopes her organization will work to return the property to their rightful owners.
“We would hope that if these objects are in fact from victims of Nazi persecution … that they could be identified and we at our recovery group, in addition to other organizations, could work to identify these objects and get them back to the victims or their heirs.”
According to officials, the two men who supposedly discovered the train, a German and a Pole, have hired lawyers and requested 10 per cent of the value of the train’s property in return for sharing its location.
Local authorities have already begun discussing a safe plan to reach the train if it is indeed found. They are concerned that latent explosives or underground methane gas could add a degree of peril to the mission.
With files from the Associated Press and CTV News Channel