(I cannot tell you how much I love being able to write subject lines like this one!)
You may recall my email on 13 August about a German teenage girl that found a gold-bar in Koenigssee lake, Bavaria, near the southern border with Austria & how the Lake had always been rumoured to be full of Nazi Gold. Now spot the similarities with this story:-
The town of Walbrzych is located in Poland, close to the southern border with the Czech Republic & Germany. During the last 2 years of WW2, Walbrzych was the centre of the Nazi Project Riese ("Giant"), which was never completed and of which, in fact, no-one is totally certain just what on earth was going on.
This much is certain about Project Riese:
In 1943 Walbrzych was located in the Sudetenland (part of Germany; after the war a large chunk of Silesia (the Eastern part of Germany) was transferred to Poland, and a similar chunk of Eastern Poland was annexed by Russia).
Thousands of forced-labourers & prisoners of war ("POW") were transferred to the region around Walbrzych & put to work for 2 years in Project Riese (the link is an English translation of Polish Wikipedia). Ksiaz castle was being re-modelled (a new headquarters for Hitler?) with a large hollow space beneath, and bunkers, underground structures & tunnels & halls with water supply, sewerage, telephone & electric, roads plus a narrow-guage railway to connect everything throughout the Owl Mountains. It truly was a giant enterprise.
Look at the distances (in metres) in this photo of the original map ('Wolfsberg'==Walbrzych):
As the Soviet Red Army began to get close the building work was stopped. Jews & others had earlier been transferred from Death camps to work on Project Riese. These people were taken away from the site & murdered. What was so secret?
Some underground structures were blown up, and many tunnels leading to those structures were destroyed. However, the German army collapse was swift. Some of the underground bunkers are now available for tourists to see, but it is estimated that perhaps only half of all the work is even known about. What was so secret?
Here is a small sense of what some of it was like:
Now we get into the realm of whispers & conjectures...
No-one actually knows, for certain, just what on earth Project Riese was about. Into that absence has crept torrents of wild ideas; except that, suddenly, at least some of that wildness looks to be accurate.
One of the most consistent legends has been of a "Gold Train". It was said that, in late 1944 or early 1945, the authorities in the Lower Silesian capital of Breslau (now Wroclaw, and an hour or two north of Walbrzych) collected several tons of gold bullion from the city's residents and deposited it in police headquarters. That was loaded on to a train & shipped towards the South & West... where it disappeared.
One story has a train located in an underground siding near the 13th Century Ksiaz Castle; another locates it in the hills near Piechowice.
Now two men, one a Pole and the other a German, have hired a lawyer and informed the local authorities in the town of Walbrzych, near Ksiaz Castle, that they have located a train in an underground tunnel near the town, and are claiming 10% of the value of all that is found.
Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said images from ground-penetrating radar appeared to show a train equipped with gun turrets. He warns everybody that fancies looking for it themselves that they consider that the tunnel--and the train itself--are certain to be mined & booby-trapped. Mr Zuchowski said information about the train had apparently come in a deathbed confession from a person involved in concealing it.
And now we wait.
--------- Alex Kemp