People are flocking in large numbers to an area of Poland where treasure hunters are searching for a mystery Nazi train said to be laden with gold, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Thursday.
Poland said Tuesday it would deploy the military to look for the alleged Nazi "gold train" that sparked global fascination after two anonymous treasure hunters claimed they have pinpointed where it is buried.
On Monday Tomasz Smolarz, governor of the southwestern region of Lower Silesia, said it was "impossible to claim that such a find actually exists at the location indicated based on the documents that have been submitted."
This comes just days after a senior culture ministry official said on Friday he was "more than 99 percent sure" an armored railway carriage had been found based on ground-penetrating radar images.
But according to Smolarz no such images had been submitted to authorities.
Nevertheless, the news has set off a frenzy of excitement among fortune-hunters from across Poland and beyond, AP reported.
"It's a true gold rush," said Andrzej Nowak, a 60-year-old retired teacher who lives near the spot
On one recent day, the normally quiet area was swarming with tourists, journalists and locals, reported the news agency. Nowak, who himself has joined the treasure hunt, said he has seen cars with plates from across Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere.
The man considered the main living source of the legend is following the excitement from his home just a few miles away. Retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, 84, heard from a German man in the 1970s of a train that left the German city of Breslau (today Poland's Wroclaw) in the spring of 1945, as the Soviet army approached. He said the man told him the train disappeared before ever making it to Waldenburg (now Walbrzych) some 65 kilometers (45 miles) to the west.
"I have lived with this mystery for 40 years, but each time I went to the authorities they always silenced it," Slowikowski told AP in an interview in his home. "For so many years! Unbelievable!"
He said he is "very grateful" that the two men have finally "revealed this mystery to the public."
Global media have become fascinated by the prospect of a railway car full of jewels and gold stolen by the Nazis after the two men – a German and a Pole – claimed to have found an armored train car containing valuables, precious metals and industrial materials.
The World Jewish Congress has asked that any valuables found that once belonged to victims of the Holocaust should be returned to their owners or heirs.
Pawel Rodziewicz, who belongs to a local historical society, told AP that documentation leaves no doubt that gold in Breslau was evacuated to the German central bank in Berlin and elsewhere, so there would have been no reason to take any to Waldenburg, where the approaching Soviets could find it.
He added that he thinks it impossible that a secret railway tunnel could have been built into the hill near railroad tracks in frequent use. No documents have ever been found to indicate such a project was undertaken, while documents exist even for the most top-secret projects of the Third Reich, including some for the subterranean tunnels beneath the Ksiaz Castle.
Despite the enthusiasm over the “gold train”, Poland's central bank governor Marek Belka said earlier this week he believes the reports are a hoax.
"I think nobody (at the central bank) even thought to devote a second to this issue. This is some hoax," said, according to the International Business Times.