The two amateur historians had boundless faith that they would one day find the legendary "treasure train" they believed to have been hidden by Nazi troops in a mountain tunnel as the Germans fled the area between Wroclaw and Walbrzych in southwestern Poland at the end of World War II.
Two years after grabbing the attention of the international media with their spectacularly ambitious hunt, Andreas Richter ended the joint search with Piotr Koper.
'95 percent sure it exists'
It's over, Richter told the DPA press agency, saying that while he hadn't lost belief in the train's existence — "I am 95 percent sure it exists" — he was frustrated by "inaccuracies" in the excavation procedure. The initial excavation didn't go deep enough, he said, adding that a second attempt never materialized because his partner kept on postponing. At some point, Richter became fed up.
"I don't want to do anything foolish anymore," the German genealogist said, adding that the venture had already cost him €80,000 ($93,400). He conceded, however, that despite his frustration, he "had a good time and learned a lot, too."
Unfazed, his former partner Koper said he plans to continue the search on his own, beginning "this winter." He is confident he will have the funds and permit he needs by then. Winter is a good time, he says: "No nesting birds, no flowering shrubs, it's the best time to search for the train."
Historians and excavation experts have always said there is no such train buried beneath Polish soil but the hobby archaeologists went ahead with their project regardless, sinking tens of thousands of euros into the underground treasure hunt. Their first excavation attempts failed, but they vowed to continue — until Richter dropped out this week.
Both Richter and Koper said the treasure hunt and media limelight hasn't earned them a penny — unlike the town of Walbrzych which cashed in on the many tourists lured by the ongoing gold fever.