WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two men appeared on Polish TV Friday saying they are the finders of a Nazi train said to be laden with gold — a claim that came as the Polish military inspected the alleged site in southwestern Poland.
Identifying themselves as Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper, the men appeared on TVP.INFO. Contacted by The Associated Press by phone, Richter confirmed he had found the train.
Authorities in the southwestern city of Walbrzych said last month that two men had contacted them through lawyers claiming they had found an armored train that possibly contains valuables and weapons. The report sparked a gold rush around Walbrzych, where tales have circulated since World War II that the Nazis hid a train full of gold from the Soviet Army in early 1945.
"As the finders of a World War II armored train, we, Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper, declare that we have legally informed state authorities about the find and have precisely indicated the location in the presence of Walbrzych authorities and the police," Koper said, reading a statement on TV with Richter sitting at his side. "We have irrefutable proof of its existence."
Their knowledge is based on information from witnesses and on their own research, carried out with their own equipment, Koper said in his statement.
They claimed that a leak to the media was behind the public knowledge of their find.
Retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, the only living source of the train legend, confirmed to the AP on Friday that Koper and Richter had visited him saying they had located it and were going to report the find to the authorities. He had previously refused to identify them.
He said the site was near the 65th kilometer of railway tracks from Wroclaw to Walbrzych, near where he believes the train went missing and where he was searching in 2001 but only came across what he believed was the supporting wall of a tunnel.
TVP.INFO said the train is not in a tunnel, as previously believed, but buried in the ground. Koper said the two men are ready to cover the costs of the train's retrieval and want it to become a local tourist attraction. Any find in the ground is state property, but the finders are entitled to a 10 percent reward, by law.
Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, a native of Walbrzych, said that military experts in chemical weapons and in explosives made a first inspection of the site to determine if a search should be undertaken.
But he said that it was "hugely exaggerated" to say that the military "are looking for the gold train."
The police are patrolling the wooded, shrub-covered site to keep swarms of treasure hunters from digging.