Ground-penetrating radar images may have exposed a legendary Nazi treasure train, a Polish official said Friday. The armored train could be packed with looted gold, gems and artwork, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"This is an absolutely unprecedented situation," said Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski at a news briefing in Warsaw, the Los Angeles Times reported. "There is a very high -- more than 99 percent -- probability that this train exists."
The radar images showed the shape of a train platform with what appears to be cannons mounted on military-type wagons, said Zuchowski. Legend has it that a Nazi train filled with gold, gems and guns went missing near the southwestern Polish city of Walbrzych in 1945. The information about the train’s location apparently came from a deathbed confession from a person involved in concealing it, according to Zuchowski, the BBC reported.
A German and a Pole told authorities in Walbrzych earlier this month that they knew where the train was. They said they wanted 10 percent of the value of anything that was found, and the local government recently agreed to the deal. The rest of the loot would go to the Polish government. Any recovered valuables, though, whose original owners could be identified would have their property restored to them.
"If any of these items were stolen from Jews before they were murdered, or sent to forced labor camps, every measure must be taken to return them to their owners, or their heirs," said World Jewish Congress leader Robert Singer in a statement, the Los Angeles Times reported. "In case no survivors or heirs can be found, any gold or other property that is found to have belonged to Jewish families or businesses must now inure to the benefit of Polish Jewish survivors as they have unfortunately never been adequately compensated by Poland for the suffering they endured."
Zuchowski warned the public earlier this week to stop looking for the train and said that it is very probable that the train is booby-trapped. He estimated that it will take several weeks before the Polish military and public safety specialists reach the train and discover its cargo.
"There is probably military equipment but also jewelry, works of art and archive documents which we knew existed but never found," said Zuchowski, the Los Angeles Times reported. "We will be 100 percent sure only when we find the train."
The Nazis had built a massive network of tunnels and bunkers throughout the Owl Mountains, which range southwest from Wroclaw, Poland, to Walbrzych on the Czech border. Some of the tunnels have been opened to the public as historical exhibits, but many still remain unexplored and inaccessible because of cave-ins and postwar mining and construction, Walbrzych city officials have said, the Los Angeles Times reported.