August 29, 2015
I was preoccupied by the news about tropical storm Erika, which was on a track to impact the Miami metropolitan area, when I first became aware of the story about the Nazi Gold Train. I was pretty tired after spending the previous two days preparing for the advancing storm. I have vivid memories from previous hurricanes: In 2004, for example, a hurricane came through the Tampa Bay area and demolished my dream house. A house which was still under construction and lacked the structural strength to withstand hurricane strength winds. I never rebuilt that house.
I came across the news about the Nazi Gold Train while looking on my phone for the latest information about the storm . (As it trued out tropical storm Erika disintegrated on the shores of Cuba and never made it to Miami.)
Nazi Gold Train was Found
Poland’s deputy culture minister, Piotr Zuchowski, said ground-penetrating radar had found images of a buried train near Wałbrzych, in the country’s south-west, on a 4km stretch of railway near the Wrocław-Wałbrzych line.
A deathbed confession from an unnamed man had led officials to the site, he added. Zuchowski said the dying man was involved in the operation to hide the train 70 years ago. “I am more than 99% certain that this train exists,” he told a press conference on Friday.
The German train, which may contain up to 300 tonnes of gold, jewels and weapons, as well as valuable art, and documents has long been rumoured to have gone missing when the Nazis were fleeing Russia’s Red Army.
According to local legend, an armoured train packed with treasure from the then German city of Breslau (now Wrocław in Poland) was driven into a tunnel in a hillside near a medieval castle near Wałbrzych as the Red Army was approaching and the Allies were carrying out airstrikes in the final days of the war. The area was German territory at the time, but became part of Poland when the war ended. Treasure hunters have been searching for the train since the end of the war, as did the Polish army during the communist era, but it was never found. The Polish authorities stated that they’ll return the property to the rightful owners if they could be found.
My grandmother on my mother’s side, Tova (Zusman) Pick, is from the Breslau area. She grew up in an affluent family. My grandmother fled to Israel with her husband and their five children (at the time), just before WWII began. Few years ago we became aware that her father deposited money on her behalf in a Swiss bank. Perhaps when it became clear to him that the Nazis are robbing Jews from all their possessions and she was the one person who could access it when the rest of the family was trapped in Germany.
My grandmother never knew about the money in the Swisss bank. She lived in poverty in Israel most of her life (see: Returning to Israel after 2000 years in the Diaspora – Shlomo and Tova story ). It came to light only few years ago when the scandal about how Swiss banks knowingly destroyed records of Jewish bank accounts from WWII. Since no one knows how much money was in the account, a settlement was reached with the Swiss bank for a one-time payment of $50,000, which was distributed among my grandmother’s descendants. My share of the settlement was a $1,000, which I did not collect.
If the train really exists, and if the train was originated in Breslau, since my grandmother’s came from a wealthy family, it is possible that property of my ancestors (art, Jewelry, etc.) are on that train.
I doubt that after so many yeas and so much destruction, it could be proven.
This article is not about the gold, the Jewelry or the the art items that may be found on the train. It is about something much more important; the chance of connecting with my ancestors. I’m interested in this train mostly because the documents that may be found on it – learning about the history of my family and many other Jews who lived in this area: Who they were, what they did, how they got there, and the whereabouts of my relatives.
One of the most difficult things for us, the descendants of Holocaust victims, is that we know very little about our ancestors. The Nazis murdered entire communities, destroyed every trace of them, and eliminated any chance of learning about them as if they never existed.
The communists who occupied eastern Europe after the Nazis continued the systematic destruction of the Jewish identity and history. During the Communist regime, Jews were not allowed to attend religious services, learn Hebrew, or live Jewish life. They were locked behind the Iron Curtain for half a century. By the time the Iron Curtain was lifted, most of the people who survived the Holocaust and could tell their stories had already perished. (For that reason, I know nothing about my father’s family.)
The people who survived the Holocaust and were not trapped behind the Iron Curtain did not want to, or could not, talk about it. The generation who knew the Pre-Holocaust communities was in no position to teach us about many of those communities. Their families history had vanished. For that reason, we, their great grandchildren do not know anything about them.
Few months ago, I received an email in response to my article Trapped in Berlin during the Holocaust. It was from a woman who said that she was also a relative of the woman in the article; Ella Pick nee Feibelsohn, who together with her husband Rudi (Rudolf) Pick and their two children Stephan and Eva were murdered/perished in Riga, Latvia. She wanted to know if I had additional pictures of their children – I do not. I was surprised that so many years later, there was a person who knew and still remembers Ella and her children, and that it was important enough for that remote relative to have their photos.
We, the Jewish People, do not forget our relatives. We are the people who preserved the bible before it was written down, by verbally teaching, memorizing, and passing it on word-for-word to the next generation. We remember who were the fathers and who were the sons of every generation from the first days of our existence as a nation. From Avraham Avinu, the first of the three biblical patriarchs who lived thousands of years ago and until the Holocaust period when this link was broken.
Today we are looking for the missing links between us and our ancestors. From our point of view, the real treasure on that train are the documents. I pray and hope that this train is real, and that the documents which are on it survived the war and the long time in the sealed tunnel. If greed is what led to the preservation of the documents and to its discovery, so’ll be it.