TIME Poland

Nazi ‘Gold Train’ May Have Been Found in Poland

Poland Nazi Train gold
AP The potential site where a Nazi gold train is believed to be hidden, near the city of Walbrzych, Poland, on Aug. 28, 2015.

Treasure hunters have been searching for the train for decades

A mythical German train filled with gold and gems has been detected by ground-penetrating radar in Poland. The so-called “gold train” is thought to have gone missing close to the city of Walbrzych, Poland in 1945. It was lost in the underground tunnels where German soldiers transported goods around the country during World War II.

A Pole and a German recently told authorities that they had found the armored train in one of the tunnels, the Associated Press reports. A radar image of the train shown to the Polish deputy culture minister seemed to confirm the train’s existence. He said he was “more than 99% certain that this train exists.”

The process of searching for the exact location of the train is expected to take weeks. According to the deputy culture minister, a man who claimed to have helped load the gold train said on his deathbed that the vehicle was laced with explosives as a security measure.


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TIME Poland

A Rainbow Sculpture That Symbolized LGBT Rights in Poland Has Been Dismantled

Participants march in front of artistic installation "Rainbow" during an International Woman's Day rally in Warsaw
Kacper Pempel —Reuters Participants march in front of artistic installation Rainbow during an International Women's Day rally in Warsaw on March 8, 2015

The statue had already been burned down six times by right-wing groups

A rainbow sculpture in Warsaw that served as a national symbol for the struggles of Poland’s LGBT community has been taken down, and it will not reappear in its current form, onet.pl, a local Polish-language news site, reports.

The sculptor, Julita Wojcik, tells TIME that the piece was never intended as an LGBT symbol. However, since its installation in Savior Square in 2012, the sculpture has been razed six times by right-wing groups, who saw it as a provocative expression of gay rights in the staunchly Roman Catholic country.

Ownership of the controversial work of art has now been assumed by the Centre for Contemporary Art at the Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, which says that the statue will not be reassembled in front of the museum, as some have previously speculated, nor will it appear in its current form in the museum.

Wojcik is involved in plans for a new design of the rainbow — which previously consisted of colorful plastic flowers attached to a metal substructure — but it remains to be seen what an updated version will look like.


TIME Poland

Four Things to Know About Poland’s October General Election

Polish Presidential Election Count
Piotr Malecki—Bloomberg via Getty Images Andrzej Duda gestures to his supporters in Warsaw, Poland, on May 24, 2015

An expected victory for the Law and Justice Party could shift Poland's gaze eastwards

For much of Poland’s recent history, it has played the role of Europe’s confused middle child, divided between West and East. But in the past decade, its economy skyrocketed, former Prime Minister Donald Tusk took over the European Council Presidency and Poland grew closer to its powerful neighbor, Germany, shifting its orientation westwards. Now, however, the country’s European identity is likely to shift again, as October’s parliamentary elections are expected to bring into power the Law and Justice Party—a Euroskeptic, eastward-looking, right-wing organization that is currently polling about 50 percent of the vote.

The May Presidential elections already ushered in the party’s Andrzej Duda. While his role is largely ceremonial, the Polish constitution allows him significant say in deciding foreign policy. If, as expected, his party mates sweep the parliamentary elections on Oct. 25th, diplomacy across Europe could be subtly influenced for years to come. Here’s why.

1. Poland’s mistrust of Russia will remain strong

Suspicion of Moscow will likely form the backbone of many of Poland’s foreign policy decisions. Under the current parliament, Poland slowly grew closer to Russia in an attempt to create a productive relationship and forget the countries’ fraught past. But all progress was quickly scrapped when Russia annexed Crimea and launched a war on Poland’s neighbor, Ukraine. Relations between Poland and Russia are now very strained. Some analysts worry that a Poland under Duda will set a more openly hostile course for the two countries’ relationship.

2. Poland will become more engaged in Eastern Europe and more assertive within the EU

In recent years, Poland wanted to be seen as a modern, Western member of the European Union. Under Law and Justice, Warsaw will likely refocus its gaze to its own region.

“They will become more outspoken for NATO to play a greater role among Eastern European members,” Judy Dempsey, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe, told TIME. “Even though they’ve been very disappointed with what’s happening in Ukraine, I think they will try to push for Brussels to be much more engaged in Georgia, Moldova, even in Belarus. They will have the EU more engaged there.” Already, President Duda has booked his first foreign trip to Estonia, symbolic of his commitment to Eastern Europe.

3. Much diplomatic energy will be expended outside of the European Union

Law and Justice has been immensely critical of the Civic Platform-led coalition government’s reliance on the European Union for defense-related strategy, and will likely rekindle Poland’s relationship with the U.S., continuing negotiations to get American troops and equipment stationed along the border with Ukraine. They’re also expected to look northward — Dempsey told TIME that Poland may negotiate with Scandinavian countries to form stronger security clusters in the region. Poland would also work to build closer ties with another noted Euroskeptic nation in the European Union: the U.K, where over 800,000 Poles reside.

4. There will be a continued emphasis on self-reliance

Some nationalist Poles have already begun forming volunteer militia in the face of a perceived Russian threat, and the government has promised to help pay the salary of some militia leaders. The ruling coalition also recently announced that it would boost defense spending by 18 percent. A Law and Justice government is expected to continue those sorts of investments. “Poland needs a very well-equipped military which will be able to effectively deter, so that every [potential aggressor] thinks four times before taking military action against Poland,” Duda said at a talk at Polish think tank, the Liberty Institute. Already, defense spending in the coming year will likely meet two percent of the country’s GDP, the target for all NATO member nations.

TIME Poland

Warsaw’s Controversial (and Frequently Set Ablaze) Rainbow Statue to Be Removed

Ausschreitungen zum Unabhängigkeitstag in Warschau
Jan A. Nicolas—picture-alliance/dpa/AP A 'Rainbow' installation is set on fire by demonstrators during the 'March of Independence' at the Savior Square in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 11, 2013

The statue has been burned down repeatedly since 2012

On most days, the rainbow sculpture in Warsaw’s Savior Square stands peacefully — a tangle of wires and plastic, colorful flowers, fashioned into an arch stretching across a traffic circle in front of an old church. The simple structure, burned down six times by nationalist groups decrying its supposed pro-gay symbolism, has been a magnet for controversy and cultural commentary in the three turbulent years that it has stood.

Later this month, it’s being taken down indefinitely, leaving behind a complicated legacy and an uncertain future. Conservative groups campaigning openly against homosexuality have demanded the structure’s permanent removal for years, while the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the cultural organization that owns it, insists that they are negotiating a new location after their temporary exhibition license expires in the fall.

Poland has in many ways grown more Western and liberal in recent years, embracing a free-market economy and even electing a trans member of Parliament. But experts say that the vocal protests against the rainbow suggest that many Poles are still prejudiced against homosexuality, and, for that matter, anything alien to orthodox Polish culture. More socially liberal citizens worry that the growth of violent nationalist groups, largely responsible for the burning of the statue, is indicative of an overall slide in tolerance in this former Soviet bloc nation of some 40 million people.

Polish sculptress Julita Wojcik, who designed the rainbow sculpture, insists that the installation was initially supposed to carry a multitude of meanings and was not intended as an LGBT symbol. “The colors the rainbow on flags used in the past symbolized a new era, hope, social change, world peace and even, in Poland in the past, cooperation,” she said by email.

Miroslawa Makuchowska, who works for the Polish gay-rights organization Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), believes the controversy lies in paranoia. “There was a label stuck to [the rainbow] paradoxically by nationalists, right-wing groups and homophobes who only saw it as an LGBT thing,” Makuchowska told TIME.

Groups like the Radical Nationalist Camp, known as ONR, complain of a liberal conspiracy, especially since the rainbow was placed in front of the Church of the Holiest Savior.

“In recent years in Poland, the marginal community of [homosexual] perverts has intensified its war on tradition, symbolism, history and national unity. The rainbow is the best example of this,” Alek Krejckant, a representative of ONR, told TIME via Facebook. “It’s a shame the decision to take it down took so long. This kind of installation belongs in the garbage.”

Makuchowska believes the uproar over the statue is symptomatic of a society that still has deep ties to a conservative Catholic Church. (Poland is often referred to as Europe’s most religious nation; 87.5% of respondents identified as Catholic in a 2011 poll.)

Although Warsaw’s Catholic Archdiocese told TIME it has taken no stance on the structure or its removal, the Catholic Church’s teachings, prominent in Poland’s public school system, still largely portray homosexuality as being something “abnormal,” Makuchowska says.

As politicians with closer ties to the Catholic Church gain power with the support of nationalist groups, some worry that this system will remain strong, and that intolerance toward immigrants, homosexuals and foreign nationals will grow.

“If the conservative [Law and Justice Party] wins the upcoming October elections, things will be more complicated for Poland’s gay population,” Filip Pazderski, a project coordinator and analyst at the Institute of Public Affairs, told TIME.

Magdalena Lan, a PR officer for the city of Warsaw, says that the rainbow’s dismantling is a standard procedure and is not politically motivated, as it was always supposed to be a temporary installation. Pawel Potoroczyn, the director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, says that negotiations are ongoing about the statue’s relocation and that his organization remains unfazed by the surrounding controversy. The Adam Mickiewicz Institute has even started an online voting system to ask city dwellers where they want to see the statue reinstalled.

So far, discussions have been ongoing with the Centre for Contemporary Art at the Ujazdowski Castle, according to local media. There are hopes that the castle, located in the center of the former royal gardens, would be a far less controversial spot, especially since the rainbow would no longer be in front of a church. Piotr Guzial, the mayor of Ursynow, a neighborhood of Warsaw, has also publicly expressed interest in adopting the statue in his part of the city.

Potoroczyn hasn’t ruled out that the statue will be reinstalled in Savior Square, either, saying that it’s up to the city to decide. For now, controversy aside, the statue will be renovated and restored over the next few months as its relocation continues to be discussed. “It’s not that the rainbow will be taken down,” Potoroczyn says. “It’s just going away for a bit.”

TIME Poland

When Life Gives You Apples, Make Cider

WOJTEK RADWANSKI—AFP/Getty Images Jozef Czarnocki, owner of a popular Warsaw bar, is biting an apple and hoding a bottle of Polish cider to show his support for Twitter campaign "#eatapples to spite Putin", in Warsaw on July 31, 2014.

That's what the people of Poland did, when a Russian ban on Polish apples left them with a huge mountain of surplus fruit

Polish brewer Tomek Porowski knew he was taking a gamble when he opened his business in 2011. In a country obsessed with pure, strong vodka, he decided to produce, a light, sweet, low-alcohol beverage — apple cider.

“I couldn’t afford to start a winery, so I decided instead to start [making] cider,” Porowski tells TIME. With his friend Marcin Hermanowicz, who lives in Grojec, the orchard capital of Poland, they launched Cydr Ignacow with the intention of selling it to a small city-slicker niche.

Their business was a success, and as their cider started appearing in more bars and restaurants with each passing year, so other brewers were inspired to start their own craft cider operations. Porowski feels like he has sparked a trend much larger than what he initially intended — and he has Russia to thank for it.

After Warsaw criticized Moscow’s actions in Ukraine in 2014, Russia banned some Polish exports, including apples. Surplus fruit piled up, and the consumption of apples became something of a nationalist duty, spurred by its own Twitter hashtag, #eatapples. Poland’s newfound love of cider was born in this climate. Sales of the beverage have almost quadrupled in the past year alone, according to Malgorzata Przybylowicz-Nowak, the editor in chief of the website Kraina Cydru, or Land of Cider.

“Cider producers took definite advantage of the national outcry against the embargo,” Iwona Chromiak, a spokesperson for Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture, told TIME in an email interview. “The embargo directly led to the popularity of cider.”

To some, it’s no surprise that Poland would eventually become a good market for cider. After all, Poland produces more apples than Italy does grapes, explains Agnieszka Wozniak of Ambra, one of Poland’s biggest distributors of wines and alcoholic beverages.

The beverage had to overcome an image problem first. To Poles who grew up under communist rule, fizzy alcoholic beverages made from apples, known as jabolami, were the epitome of socialist shabbiness, drunk only by misty-eyed seniors lamenting the days of Gomulka and Gierek.

Even a few years ago, this reluctance to accept cider was marked. According to a 2013 KPMG study done on the Polish alcohol market, Poles consumed over 4 billion liters of alcohol a year, with beer and vodka constituting almost 80% of that total. Only 11% of the population drank cider with anything approaching regularity.

In the past two years, this number has shot up. The cider market increased from $6.63 million to $21 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Ambra started mass-producing ciders like Cydr Lubelski in the summer of 2013, selling them in stores throughout the country. Przybylowicz-Nowak says she is expecting Poles to drink over 80 million liters of the beverage in the coming years — although that number still only represents about 2% of Poland’s total beer market, Wozniak says.

To gain greater market share, cider makers like Kamil Mazuruk, the owner of Dzik Cider, are counting on the drink’s appeal to young people, for whom the drink doesn’t have cheap connotations. “Hipsters are a good channel of communications — they brag about the brands they like,” says Mazuruk, who has been selling his product to trendy bars and restaurants in Poland’s bigger cities, like Warsaw and Krakow.

“We see big potential here, because more young people born in 1991 don’t know what was there before,” he adds, making a reference to the year when Poland threw off Soviet rule. It seems that apples, nationalism and antipathy toward the Russians make for a distinctly Polish cocktail, however you decide to brew it.

TIME Poland

Lufthansa Plane and Drone Nearly Collide in Warsaw

lufthansa airline plane
Alexander Hassenstein—Getty Images A Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 arrives in Munich International Airport on July 16, 2015.

The flight landed safely three minutes after the near-miss

A Lufthansa flight carrying 108 passengers narrowly missed colliding with a drone as it made its descent into Warsaw Chopin Airport on Tuesday.

The commercial drone, whose origins remain unclear, came within a frightening 100 meters of the plane as it flew about 760 meters above ground, according to the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA).

According to The Aviation Herald, the pilots told on-ground air traffic patrollers to “take care of your airspace” and that the situation was “really dangerous.” The flight, which was coming in from Munich, landed safely about three minutes after the incident.

The incident is currently under investigation by local authorities.

TIME Poland

2 Teenagers Arrested for Theft of Auschwitz Artifacts

Auschwitz poland robbery
Christopher Furlong—Getty Images The infamous German inscription that reads 'Work Makes Free' at the main gate of the Auschwitz extermination camp on November 15, 2014 in Oswiecim, Poland.

If convicted, the two could face up to 10 years in prison

Two British teenagers were arrested in Poland on Monday for stealing historic artifacts from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest former Nazi death camp, which was converted into a museum at the close of World War II.

The teenagers, who have not yet been named by authorities, could face up to 10 years in prison, local police told the BBC. According to a museum spokesman, they are believed to have stolen items including buttons and pieces of glass.

In 2010, a Swedish man was convicted of plotting to steal the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) sign from the gate of the camp.

More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, as well as gay people and gypsies, were killed at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. In 1947, the site was converted to a museum and saw more than 1.2 million visitors in 2012.


TIME Poland

Women’s-Rights Groups Plan to Deliver Abortion Drugs to Poland by Drone

The move is designed to circumvent strict Polish laws on abortion

Four women’s-rights organizations based in Germany and Poland are planning to deliver WHO-approved abortion pills by drone from Germany to a Polish border town.

The drone will carry the drugs from Frankfurt an der Oder to women across the river in the Polish town of Slubice, in a bid to get around Poland’s restrictive abortion laws

The delivery will also hopefully bring attention to the discrepancy between Poland’s abortion laws and those of other European countries, says one of the organizations involved, Women on Waves.

Poland, a staunchly Roman Catholic country, is one of the few places in Europe where women can only get a legal abortion if there is proof of rape or incest, if the mother’s life is endangered, or if the fetus is severely malformed.

The drugs scheduled for delivery on June 27 are mifepristone and misoprostol. They can be taken without medical supervision for pregnancies of less than nine weeks, Women on Waves says. Inducing miscarriage is not an offense under Polish law.

Women on Waves adds that, since the drone won’t be flying through controlled air space and weighs less than 5 kg, it does not require authorization from the Polish or the German government.

TIME Poland

U.S. Ambassador Apologizes to Poles Over FBI Director’s Holocaust Remarks

The 72nd anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Jakub Kaminski—EPA The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull, right, lays flowers at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw on April, 19, 2015

Envoy concedes that remarks were "offensive"

The U.S. ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull has apologized for remarks made by FBI Director James Comey, who penned a Washington Post op-ed last Thursday in which he accused Poland of being a collaborator in the Holocaust.

Mull, who had been summoned by Polish authorities, conceded that Comey’s remarks were “wrong, harmful and offensive.”

During Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland in World War II, more than 6 million Poles died in addition to millions of Jews, Roma and other groups who died in several extermination camps in the country.

In his article, which was based on a speech he delivered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Comey referred to Polish “murderers and accomplices” and claimed that “in their minds” they “didn’t do something evil.”

The Polish embassy in Washington, D.C., published a statement over the weekend castigating Comey’s article “especially for accusing Poles of perpetrating crimes which not only did they not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”

On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said, “To those who are incapable of presenting the historic truth in an honest way, I want to say that Poland was not a perpetrator but a victim of World War II.”

TIME World

A Sword-Wielding Polish Prince Just Challenged a U.K. Politician to a Duel

"I’d like us to meet in Hyde Park one morning, with our swords, and resolve this matter"

The son of a celebrated Polish cavalry officer has formally challenged an English parliamentary candidate to a duel.

Polish prince Janek Żyliński challenged UKIP leader Nigel Farage to a 18th-century-style duel in a video posted on Youtube. Janek is the son of Andrzej Żyliński, a Polish officer who led a charge against the Nazis in 1939, according to the Independent.

“I’ve had enough of the discrimination against Polish people in this country,” Żyliński said before brandishing the sword his father used in World War II. “The most idiotic example I’ve heard of has been Mr. Nigel Farage blaming migrants for traffic jams on the M40.”

“What I’d like to do is to challenge you to a duel. I’d like us to meet in Hyde Park one morning, with our swords, and resolve this matter,” he continued.

“It is an impressive sword,” Farage said in response to the video, according to Sky News. “I don’t have one but I’m sure we could find one if we had to. But I’m not intending to accept the offer.”

[The Independent]

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