Could looted art from WWII be hidden under village chapel?

The search for WWII looted art has been going on for over 70 years. Pictured: Artwork looted by Nazi Germany and stored at Schlosskirche Ellingen in Bavaria, Germany, was discovered by US troops in 1945. Thousands of other pieces remain missing. Public domain

A treasure hunter and history buff says he has uncovered the location of artwork looted by Hitler’s marauding troops during World War II.

Witold Mosiołek said that after analysing German documents from the United States National Archive in Washington, he believes that the pieces of art are concealed in an underground hiding place next to a chapel in the village of Słup in Lower Silesia.

Among the numerous pieces are believed to be Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, estimated to be worth around 100 million USD.

Mosiołek took his findings to the Polish Ministry of Culture, as well as the local Office of Monuments’ Protection, who agreed to let the treasure hunter carry out ground work in the hope of finding the missing pieces.

The total cost of Nazi Germany’s theft and destruction of Polish art is estimated at 20 billion dollars, 43 percent of Poland’s cultural heritage. Pictured: Still missing, Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man is estimated to be worth around 100 million USD and considered by art historians to be the most important painting missing since World War II.Public domain

Raphael’s masterpiece, along with 840 other missing artefacts, was stolen by the Gestapo from the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków and believed to have been kept in the Wawel Castle.

It is thought they were evacuated in 1945 to Silesia by Hans Frank, the notorious governor of today’s Poland southern territories, who was fleeing the advancing Soviet Red Army.

The Nazi monster who was later executed for initiating a reign of terror against the civilian population and being directly involved in the mass murder of Jews, is believed to have also taken countless other treasures looted by the Reich from the occupied territories.

In 1940, the governor of Occupied Poland, Hans Frank, gave Hitler a collection of 521 of some of the most valuable pieces of art plundered from Poland. He was executed in 1945 for initiating a reign of terror against the civilian population and being directly involved in the mass murder of Jews.Bundesarchiv, Bild 121-0270 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Mosiołek says he found the missing information in letters written between Frank and his associates, Wilhelm Palezieux, Eduard Kneisel and Helmuth Pfaffenroth.

In the first months of 1945 they were tasked with securing the treasures left by Frank and transporting them to Neuhaus in Bavaria.

But doubts remain about whether they managed to take them all.

For more than 70 years, rumours about looted artwork in the area have abounded.

In 2015, two amateur researches sparked an international frenzy when they said they had found a Nazi train laden with looted treasure buried in a railway cutting close to Książ castle in the town of Wałbrzych.

According to legend, the train full of gold and valuables was hidden by Germans in a secret tunnel in 1945 as the Soviet army advanced towards them.

In 2015, two amateur researches sparked an international frenzy when they said they had found a Nazi train laden with looted treasure buried in a railway cutting close to Książ castle in the town of Wałbrzych.TFN

But despite their efforts, neither they nor other treasure hunters have managed to uncover the loot.

The new documents showing conversations with one of Hitler’s leading henchmen, however, could now lead to the unravelling of one of WWII’s most enduring of mysteries.