Have treasure hunters found a long-lost Nazi train loaded with gold?

Legend says the train went missing in May 1945 while transporting millions of dollars worth of stolen goods to Nazi headquarters.

Lisi Niesner/Reuters/File
Gold and silver bars are pictured at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna on August 26, 2011.

A German and a Pole claim to have found a long-lost Nazi train, rumored to be have been laden with gold, gems, and guns when it disappeared during World War II.

The 500-foot long train is believed to be packed with loot stolen from the then-German city of Breslau – now Wrocław, Poland – which went missing in 1945, Reuters reported.

Marika Tokarska, an official at Poland’s southwestern district of Walbrzych, told CNN that the men approached the district council last week with news of a find worth "well over a million dollars," but that they won't reveal the train's precise location until they are guaranteed a 10 percent finders' fee. 

The train is believed to have gone missing in May 1945, according to The New York Times. Legend says it disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret Nazi project that was never finished.

In 1945, as Allied forces surged towards the German capital, Nazis used trains to send their loot to Berlin. One local news outlet said the newly discovered train is armored and showed signs of belonging to the Nazi military machine.

Will the stolen goods be returned to their rightful owners?

Returning assets stolen in wartime is never a simple process; lawsuits and claims are often not even filed until decades after the theft.

Consider the so-called “Gold Train.” In 1944, Nazis loaded 24 freight carriages with Hungarian Jewish family treasures, worth up to $200 million, to send them to Germany. On May 16, 1945, US soldiers intercepted the abandoned train in Austria, and according to a later US investigation, some soldiers took some of the loot for themselves.

In 2001, Hungarian Holocaust survivors filed a lawsuit in a Florida district court against the United States government. Four years later, the US government agreed to pay $25.5 million to settle the suit. In 2006, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the first allocation of $4.2 million was being distributed by 27 social service agencies worldwide, including four in South Florida.

Thousands of Jewish families are still waiting to reclaim their pre-Nazi-era assets, reports the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, usually called the "Claims Conference." Established in Tel Aviv in 1951, the Claims Conference negotiates for compensation payments and aid to victims of Nazi persecution and for the return of Jewish-owned property.

In 2013, the Israeli paper Ha'aretz published a list of thousands of Jews who had owned confiscated property in the former East Germany, who are still awaiting the return of their goods.

Polish authorities have not yet indicated whether or how they intend to return the newly discovered loot to its original owners, but they are taking the treasure hunters' claims "seriously," Ms. Tokarska told the Associated Press.

"We believe that a train has been found," Tokarska said.

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