We concluded the previous part when the Third Reich and the USSR invaded our country, erasing it from the map of Europe once again. The future of the nation could be determined by our gold reserves…
Now we enter the part of our story that would make Bogusław Wołoszański proud and begs for a movie adaptation or at least a thrilling novel.
The Great Escape
As soon as it became clear that the war was lost, the Bank of Poland made the decision to transport 38 tons of gold outside the borders of the collapsing country. The precious metal resources were transported from Bielańska Street in the capital city during the night of September 4th to 5th (early, but when it was already known that the situation was dire) to Lublin. Four buses were used for transportation. The journey itself, reportedly taking place amidst Luftwaffe bombings, represents one of the most dramatic yet lesser-known moments of our recent history.
Hitler’s Blitzkrieg forced the gold to be transported further east – to Łuck and then to Śniatyn near the Romanian border. Thus, a vast fortune worth 360 million Polish złoty ended up in a small village that is now forgotten. 3.8 tons were left here under Polish authority, while the rest awaited further wandering.
Although Romania was an ally of the Third Reich, they allowed the gold to be transported by train to the port of Constanța. There, another act of drama unfolded. It turned out that there was no ship in the port capable of carrying the metal further. Meanwhile, the Germans, once again in a not-so-glorious cinematic feat, were closing in on the Poles. They learned about the transport and pressured Romania to confiscate the treasure. However, if you were always annoyed by situations in movies, where the hero escapes at the last moment from, let’s say, an exploding building and comes out unscathed… know that life also writes such cheap scripts. Unexpectedly, a ship arrived at the port, which, thanks to the British, transported the gold to Turkey. From there, the metal made its way to Syria and, on September 22nd, finally reached Beirut, which was under French control. But that’s not the end. Ultimately, the cargo was transported by a French destroyer across the sea to France.
However, anyone who knows history is aware that in the spring of 1940, the Third Reich also attacked France. The Polish gold, now mixed with the treasury of the National Bank of Belgium, was supposed to go to the United States, but… the captain of the ship tasked with the mission changed course and took it to Casablanca. It was then transported further, successively to Senegal and the area of present-day Mali, where it found itself in the custody of the collaborating French government.
The Battle for Gold
Indeed, the treasure of the Bank of Poland was lost. However, the fight for it did not cease. It was as if someone had stolen your valuable cryptocurrency wallet.
In September 1940, the British made their first armed attempt to recover the gold. Unsuccessfully… Seeing the determination of their Polish allies, the French proposed the following arrangement:
– We will keep the Polish gold but, in return, we will relinquish our gold located in Canada – how does that sound?
The French displayed childlike naivety at the time. You see, their gold in Canada was already beyond their control, so they were giving away something that was no longer theirs in reality.
Desperate Poles eventually threatened the French with a lawsuit in the USA! Considering the fact that the French government still had assets in American banks, it wasn’t as foolish as it might have seemed at first glance.
Ultimately, the gold was recovered, but in a different way. The political competition to the collaborating French government was the French National Committee, which, like the Polish government, was based in Great Britain. The Poles signed an agreement with them that if their gold fell into their hands, it would be returned to the Polish authorities. And so it happened, but only in 1944.
The treasure reached New York and London. And I would like to write that “they lived happily ever after,” but unfortunately, new problems arose. The future of Poland was to be decided by the Big Three, namely the USA, Great Britain, and the USSR. They began to consider what to do next with Polish gold…