The man’s breath comes hard and wheezing as he gasps for his final moments of life. A life, it must be said, that was undoubtedly hard, as this German worked on the railroads in Poland during the Second World War. With eternal peace just a few breaths away, however, he can finally reveal to Schulz, a fellow workman, what he knew of a dark secret that he has kept for so long. It’s a tale of murder, intimidation and hidden gold, and it’s a story that almost defies belief.
Apparently, during WWII the railroad worker had seen the entrance to a secret tunnel beneath the Owl Mountains, located in the Polish province of Lower Silesia. It was in these mountains, near the city of Wrocław, that German miners allegedly saw a train – laden with priceless artworks and plundered gold – being moved into the tunnel.
But terrifying events would ensure this railroad worker’s silence about the tunnel until his dying day. In fact, as the war drew to a close, a family whose house overlooked the train track were apparently murdered in cold blood by the Nazis in a bid to keep knowledge of the tunnel a secret. Seemingly, then, it was only when the worker was on his deathbed not long after the war that he felt able to reveal what he knew to Schulz.
Schulz, meanwhile, also reportedly kept the information very close to his chest. But when he was assaulted by two men in the 1950s, he apparently told what he knew to his rescuer, a miner named Tadeusz Slowikowski. Consequently, Slowikowski became obsessed with the history of the missing train and devoted his life to uncovering its strange history.
It’s fair to say, though, that the area of Lower Silesia is littered with legends of buried treasure. It was once a German territory, and many of its original inhabitants were killed or fled when the vengeful Russian Red Army moved in toward the end of the war in 1945.
As part of the post-war Potsdam Agreement, though, Lower Silesia was given to the newly-created Republic of Poland, and thousands of ethnic Poles were brought to live there. Some of their German predecessors had, however, buried their valuables before they fled, believing that one day they might be able to return.
But they never were. Consequently, Lower Silesia became renowned as a place where the ground was stuffed with German treasures. And wherever there is treasure, there are treasure hunters. However, some people were on the hunt for more than simply civilian trinkets.
While Germany still held the area, Nazi commanders seemingly began a mysterious project within Wrocław’s Książ Castle. Not long after the army moved in, then, locals began to hear huge explosions in the area. But the work was shrouded in secrecy – even Nazi commanders were forbidden from keeping their families within a 25-mile radius.
At around the same time, Nazi Germany was plotting a huge network of underground train tunnels under Silesia’s Owl Mountains. The network, dubbed “Reise,” meaning “Giant,” was to function as a secret base. However, its construction was never finished.
In fact, it is thought that the withdrawing German forces, who had stockpiled much looted wealth in the area, were forced to bury their riches. As a result, the story of a treasure-laden train disappearing into a tunnel near Wrocław began to proliferate.
This is where our man Slowikowski comes in. After his encounter with Schulz, Slowikowski became consumed with the goal of uncovering the Nazi treasure hoard. In 1974, for instance, he retired from his mining job and spent the next four decades gathering all the information that he could.
But in an area where passion for treasure hunting borders on the obsessional, Slowikowski’s actions didn’t go unnoticed. Indeed, when Slowikowski gained official permission from the government to start searching the area near Wałbrzych, where the train was thought to be hidden, he began receiving some rather unwelcome and unnerving attention.
“As soon as we started, three men in civilian clothes and carrying guns came up to us and threatened us, telling us to stop. I didn’t know who they were, but I had my suspicions,” Slowikowski told the Daily Mail. But the harassment didn’t stop there.
Not long after the incident, Slowikowski claimed that his dog had been poisoned. Additionally, he said that his front door had been smashed down and his phone lines monitored.
The final straw apparently came when men tried to break into Slowikowski’s family home. Fearing for the safety of his family, Slowikowski’s son, Mareck, resolved to lock up in a bank vault his father’s maps and documents relating to the Nazi train.
But that wasn’t the end of the story either. After all, the possible existence of the Nazi gold train was known to the Lower Silesian Research Group, a team of amateur treasure hunters dedicated to uncovering the area’s secrets. The group set out to discover the location of the train, and its members believed it to be a place near Wałbrzych that they called the 65th Kilometer.
By August 2015, the group had brought in a geophysical radar machine to probe the area where the tunnel was believed to be. And the images produced by the machine looked very promising. In fact, even Poland’s deputy culture minister declared that he was “more than 99 percent sure” that there was indeed a train entombed within a collapsed tunnel.
Then the ABW, Poland’s equivalent of the CIA, showed up to scope out the area. Yet geologists from the Polish Academy of Sciences, after performing their own scans of the 65th Kilometer, asserted that there was no train hidden beneath the rock.
However, this did not deter the Lower Silesian Research Group. Indeed, in May 2016 it announced that it would begin excavating the area around the 65th Kilometer, and members of the group were certain that they would discover the gold train. Time will tell if their conclusions were correct.
But if Slowikowski’s suspicions are justified, the Research Group may need to tread carefully. Certainly, the retired miner claims to have found explosives in some of the nearby tunnels and believes the supposed location of the gold train may well be booby-trapped.
Yet whether the train, its precious contents, or Nazi landmines are there or not, there’s no denying that the legend of the 65th Kilometer is an intriguing tale of modern-day treasure hunting. And with many of the Nazi tunnels still unexplored, there’s no telling what secrets the “Reise” could still be hiding.