About a year ago two private treasure hunters, Piotr Koper and Andreas Liechter, announced that they have found a secret tunnel in Poland’s Lower Silesia that may hide a train full of stolen gold and artwork from World War II. Since then hundreds of treasure hunters made their way to search the area around the former coal mining town Wałbrzych.
Recently Koper and Liechter have brought heavy equipment to Wałbrzych and began to remove earth on Monday to search for the hidden Nazi gold train. Although historians doubt such a train has ever existed, the treasure hunters are still optimistic that within the next days they will find what they are looking for.
Not so long ago I spend some time in Wałbrzych with illegal coal miners searching for Poland’s real treasure, the ‘Black Gold‘:
For centuries coal mining has been the most important industry in Walbrzych, Poland. However, in the 1980s many of the coal mines became unprofitable. With Poland’s transformation from a state-directed to a free-market economy in the 1990s, nearly all of the coal mines in Lower Silesia were shut down. Thousands of people became jobless.
The area still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country despite new industry settling in the area. It didn’t take very long until the jobless miners in the area started to dig for coal on their own.
The business is dangerous and illegal. Tunnels leading as deep as ten or fifteen meters below the ground are only protected by wood and sandbags. Inside, people dig for coal the same way they did centuries ago, by hand. Police regularly arrest illegal coal miners and confiscate their equipment, so most people dig by night to avoid police control. Not only the well-educated former miners search for ‘black gold,’ but also young and unexperienced jobless men risk their freedom and their lives to make a couple of Euros a night by selling illegal coal to residents.