by Guy Somerset
There was breaking news this week, much to the chagrin of amateur historians amid guffaws from government, the fabled "Nazi Gold Train" of Poland (née Nazi Germany) does not exist. However given the history of such matters it is perhaps worth revisiting a few other examples of treasures which were supposedly discovered and subsequently "proved" by bureaucrats to have been mythical.
Alas, as we shall see, all too often those allegedly ridiculous discoveries were not quite so patently absurd until such time as aforementioned administrators cordoned off the scenes, meticulously investigated the claims, hurriedly excavated locations, organized extensive technical operations to remove the "nothing" that was never found, carefully covered their tracks and only then solemnly and regrettably informed us poor plebeians that we were indeed a gang of gullible fools.
In other words, while Polish representatives may not be lying in this particular instance, the long sorry record of such finds followed by their public discretization should cause ordinary citizens to be highly skeptical of official veracity. Either the Polish government is extraordinarily trustworthy...or they are dissembling by denying the billions in bullion buried beneath Walbrzych.
One of the most intriguing of the confiscated and later "denounced" caches was the Victorio Peak Treasure of the United States. In November 1937 a local hunter named Milton "Doc" Noss uncovered an obscured entrance to a subterranean cavern of the mountain in New Mexico while searching for fresh water. Inside he found multiple chambers as well as a chest reading "Sealed Silver" in Old English and an adjacent tomb with numerous skeletons. Furthermore were countless gold bars, some of which he removed and sold surreptitiously. (Ingots then being illegal to privately own in America.)
Discontented with his progress in excavation, Doc hired a structural engineer to widen the entry using dynamite. Lamentably, they grossly overestimated the charge necessary for the task and only succeeded in sealing the portal. Over the next decade Noss tried to raise money in his interest by forming partnerships to reopen the fissure. When one of these joint ventures dissolved in 1949 Doc was shot to death at the hands of a cohort.
His family continued to pursue the venture and was on the brink of achieving their aim when in 1952 the United States military unceremoniously evicted them from the claim and took forcible control of the entire area. The army justified this as a simple expansion of the White Sands Missile Range which naturally had nothing whatsoever to do with the estimated $1.7 billion in gold buried beneath.
Afterward, Airman First Class Thomas Berlett and a few of his off-duty pals stumbled across an alternate entrance to the treasure chamber. He was denied permission by superiors to excavate for himself but of course that didn't deter the army from hauling out anything of value. Local residents reported nocturnal military activity as well as lengthy convoys of trucks ferrying away unknown quantities from within.
Despite detractor's later dismissals of this tale, the Stanford Research Institute used sonar to prove there is a tremendous hollow in the peak approximately 300 to 400 feet deep; or exactly where Noss originally reported all those years ago.
Theories abound as to the origin of the booty: the man who founded New Mexico as a Spanish colony Juan de Onate, a Catholic missionary who operated gold mines in the area named Father LaRue, or even wealth pilfered from Mexico during the reign of the French Emperor Maximilian. That is, if one discounts official denials and credits the multitudinous witness reports that any such valuables ever existed.
Another of those "unfounded" cases which just so happens to have an abundance of evidence to support it is what has come to be known as Yamashita's Gold.
This story emanates from Japanese Conquest of the Asian Pacific and its treasure a motley collection of loot stolen by troops of General Yamashita from every village, shrine or depository within their grasp. While the Nazis have received the lions' share of condemnation for such thefts Imperial Japanese visited more than a few banks, museums and affluent residences on the way to financing their own war effort.
When the Asiatic conquest stalled all those trinkets inconveniently doubled as evidence of illegality if ever discovered. Consequently, they were first shipped off to Singapore and later landed at the Philippines where an extensive underground tunnel infrastructure existed. What happened next is the basis of much dispute. Some claim portions of the treasure were sunk while being further repatriated to Japan. Others state a few Americans collaborated after hostilities to return the loot to Tokyo for a portion of the proceeds. Imelda Marcos said the treasure was the source of her husband's vast wealth.
This last allegation is worthy of exploration. Rogelio Roxas of the Philippines claimed in 1961 he made the acquaintance of an elderly Japanese soldier who had been involved in the initial smuggling operations. He and another veteran informed Roxas of a buried chamber in which tremendous stores of items had been concealed and as the two men were nearing death, passed their secret on to him.
Amazingly enough they were telling the truth. Roxas discovered the room where he was directed to look and inside was a solid gold Buddha three feet high as well as numerous other crates filled with valuables. A single man would never be able to retrieve it all on his own and here Roxas (as so many an honest man before him) made his error - he told someone.
Once local authorities heard of the find, Roxas had a visit from police sent by President Marcos himself. When Rogelio refused to reveal the location of his discovery they beat him mercilessly and tortured him until he changed his mind. They took from him the few gold bars he managed to carry away from the cavern and seized his golden Buddha. For his trouble, Roxas was then imprisoned for over a year.
Eventually he managed to escape the oppressive regime and come to the United States. Unfortunately for Marcos was that Roxas had taken photos of himself with the Buddha and some golden bars before his abuse. There is little doubt the "mythical" treasure does (or did) exist and that it was discovered. Some academics and historians prefer to pretend otherwise, but then again, they are all too often dependent on government grants for their work.
Perhaps hinting at another reason for the cover-up of the original crimes and later seizure of the treasure is a theory it was not merely the "Tiger of Malaya" and his men who scavenged the Asian continent but in this quest they were assisted by yakuza gangs, powerful businessmen in Japan and even had the Emperor himself backing their quest for lucre.
If so, any number of notables and their ancestors would be disinclined for yet one more atrocity story to become publicized; to say nothing of the attendant reparations claims which would invariably ensue.
Returning to Polish territory, is the little-known incident of the Chopin letters. These were a packet of missives reputedly offered for sale before and in aftermath of the cataclysmic Second World War.
Evidently they were a bundle of love-letters written by Chopin to his pupil Delfina Potocka, handed down within the family for generations, and which contained some rather unseemly opinions on a certain minority group which had just survived that vicious conflict.
Needless to say, it just wouldn't do to have such testimonial documents reach the light of day at that particular juncture in global developments. The letters were immediately denounced as a hoax, as they are regarded by many to this day. In any case responsible authorities were approached to purchase these letters for a considerable sum, while despite "obvious fabrication" of the materials they are said to have merrily done.
All of which may be dismissed as one of the many curious tales emerging from a chaotic era were it not that researchers did in fact locate other Chopin letters which would seem to indicate there was no great love lost between he and particular religious parties.
Are defenders of the prevailing mythos correct? Obviously Chopin aficionados and the Polish tourism industry are less than unbiased deciders of fact. Yet though the world will probably never know for certain if these individual writings are wholly authentic, we certainly do know the feelings of Chopin on the general topic; despite what officialdom might rather have us believe on the subject.
Therefore in reviewing the case of the "Nazi Gold Train," and governmental denials which have followed as naturally as a trailing caboose, it seems the established authorities are keeping strictly to the typical timetable of such events. First they acknowledge, then they deny, and finally they ridicule what they themselves admitted as demonstrably true only a few short months ago; proving power everywhere progresses along the same crooked path.
Thus for any poor souls so unfortunate as to discover long lost manuscripts, locate a forgotten horde of buried treasure or otherwise be touched by the fortuitous finger of Mammon there is one rule above all to remember before sharing news of your good fortune - silence is golden.
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