Two Men Claim to Have Found a Missing Nazi Train Full of Treasure

In 1945, World War II was all but lost for Nazi Germany. As the Allies advanced on the West and the Soviet army advanced on the East, the Germans sought to consolidate their valuables deep within the territory they still controlled. One particular train, supposedly full of gold and treasure, departed from what was then the German city of Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) but then disappeared somewhere in southwestern Poland.

For decades, rumors have flown about the train's possible location. Some speculated that it was hidden in one of the many tunnels dug near Owl Mountains and Książ Castle as part of Germany's POW-powered Project Riese, which was never completed. Since the war ended, parts of this underground network (pictured above) have been excavated and even opened to the public, but much of what is presumed to be there has never been explored.

For more than half a century, treasure hunters—some even supported by the cash-strapped Polish government—have searched for the missing train. But no one had ever uncovered the missing train—until now. Maybe.

A few weeks ago, two anonymous men (one Polish, one German) sent a letter to authorities via a law firm claiming to have found the train. According to the Associated Press, the letter from the lawyers describes a train 150 meters (490 feet) long full of weapons, valuables, and precious metals. An anonymous source close to the men say they spent several years searching for the train and that it's buried some 70 meters (230 feet) underground. But they’re not revealing the exact location of the train yet. By law, the train and anything in it—be it 300 tons of gold, as one local paper is reporting, or nothing much at all—are the property of the state. But the finders are looking for a fee, namely, 10 percent of the overall value.

Some locals are insisting that the rumors are just that. Joanna Lamparska, an expert on the area’s history, told the AP that similar stories have never panned out. According to The Daily Beast, she also called in to RMF24, a radio station in Wroclaw, to caution that, "I don’t know of any confirmed account that states that these trains really existed.”

But the local officials are taking the reports of the train very seriously. Marika Tokarska, a member of the Walbrzych district council, told the AP that the law firm lends credence to the story and that the council believes the train has truly been found. If the information proves accurate, she said that officials are willing to pay the finders fee. Tokarska also told Reuters, "Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this. The area has never been excavated before and we don't know what we might find.”

The emergency responders will be on hand not just for what they hope to find onboard but also what they fear might accompany such treasure. The excavation team will need to be prepared for the likelihood that such a train would have been protected by explosives.

No Joe: The Time Coffee Was Banned in Prussia

iStock.com/NickS
iStock.com/NickS

In the late 18th century, Prussia's King Frederick the Great (officially Frederick II) blacklisted coffee and encouraged his royal subjects to drink something far more wholesome—beer. According to William Harrison Ukers's classic 1922 book All About Coffee, Frederick issued this decree on September 13, 1777:

"It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country in consequence. Everybody is using coffee. If possible, this must be prevented. My people must drink beer. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were his ancestors, and his officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer; and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be depended upon to endure hardship or to beat his enemies in case of the occurrence of another war."

Though the authenticity of the above quotation cannot be confirmed, it certainly jibes with King Freddie's other opinions on the matter, according to Robert Liberles, a scholar of German-Jewish history. In a 1779 letter, Frederick wrote, "It is despicable to see how extensive the consumption of coffee is … if this is limited a bit, people will have to get used to beer again … His Royal Majesty was raised eating beer-soup, so these people can also be brought up nurtured with beer-soup. This is much healthier than coffee."

So Old Fritz, as he was called, loved beer. But why was he so opposed to coffee?

For one, Frederick was terrified that excessive imports could ruin his kingdom's economy, and he much preferred to restrict commerce than engage in trade. Since coffee, unlike beer, was brought in from across the border, Frederick regularly griped that "at least 700,000 thaler leave the country annually just for coffee"—money, he believed, that could be funneled into well-taxed Prussian businesses instead.

In other words, into Fritz's own pockets.

To redirect the people's spending patterns, Frederick ordered a number of steep restrictions, demanding that coffee roasters obtain a license from the government. This sounds like a reasonable regulation until you learn that Frederick summarily rejected nearly all of the applications, granting exceptions only to people who were already cozy with his court.

If that sounds elitist, it was. Frederick was adamant about keeping coffee out of the hands and mouths of poor people, writing, "this foreign product [has] extended into the lowest classes of human society and caused great contraband activities." To stop them, he hired approximately 400 disabled soldiers to work as coffee spies, or "sniffers," to roam city streets "following the smell of roasting coffee whenever detected, in order to seek out those who might be found without roasting permits," Ukers writes.

But none of these tactics worked. Rather, they just increased coffee smuggling and exacerbated the "contraband activities" that Frederick claimed he was trying to prevent in the first place. So shortly after the king died in 1786, many of these restrictions were lifted, proving yet again that it's always a mistake to get between someone and their java.

12 Old-Timey Turkey Terms to Bring Back This Thanksgiving

iStock.com/westernphotographs
iStock.com/westernphotographs

Want to spice up conversation this Thanksgiving? Use these terms while you’re talking turkey.

1. RUM COBBLE-COLTER

According to A new dictionary of the terms ancient and modern of the canting crew, in its several tribes, of Gypsies, beggers, thieves, cheats, &c., with an addition of some proverbs, phrases, figurative speeches, &c., first published in the late 1600s, a cobble-colter is a turkey. A rum cobble-colter, on the other hand, is "a fat large cock-turkey."

2. I GUESS IT’S ALL TURKEY

This American phrase is “a quaint saying indicating that all is equally good.”

3. AND 4. BUBBLY-JOCK AND BOBBLE-COCK

Bubbly-jock is Scottish slang for a male turkey, from the noise the bird makes. The term can also be used to describe “a stupid, boasting person.” Both usages might apply at your Thanksgiving dinner. Slang for a turkey in northern England, meanwhile, is bobble-cock, according to The Slang Dictionary: Or, The Vulgar Words, Street Phrases, and "Fast Expressions” of High and Low Society, published in 1864.

5. TURKEY MERCHANTS

According to 1884’s The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal, this was a term for “dealers in plundered or contraband silk.” Previously, it referred to something more obvious: “a driver of turkeys and geese to market.”

6. ALDERMAN

A “well-stuffedturkey. An alderman in chains is a turkey with sausages; according to A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1788, the sausages “are supposed to represent the gold chain worn by those magistrates.”

7. COLD TURKEY RAP

According to Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of the Underworld: British and American, this 1928 term means "an accusation, a charge, against a person caught in the act." Perhaps you'll get a cold turkey rap for stealing seconds—or thirds—of your favorite dish this holiday.

8. BLOCK ISLAND TURKEY

An American slang term for salted cod, originating in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

9. TURKEY PUDDLE

Eighteenth-century slang for coffee.

10. SNOTERGOB

According to A Dictionary of the Scottish Language, snotergob is “the red part of a turkey’s head.”

11. RED AS A TURKEY COCK

This phrase dates back to 1630, according to Dictionary of Proverbs. It could refer to any kind of flushing of the face (including, perhaps, when your dad and your uncle are getting too worked up debating politics).

12. TO HAVE A TURKEY ON ONE’S BACK

According to the 1905 book A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English, this is what you say when someone has imbibed a bit too much: It means “to be drunk.”

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