The amber room mystery has captured the imagination of the public (not to mention treasure hunters) for the last 70+ years. Nobody knows exactly what happened to this palatial chamber. How could a palatial room like this just vanish? The story is a long and winding one, and new “discoveries” of its whereabouts only fuel the legend.
Made in Germany, Delivered to Russia: The Story of the Amber Room Mystery
In 1716, the Prussian king Frederick Wilhelm I presented the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, with the Amber Room as a gift. The ornate, dazzling room was installed at the Catherine Palace in the town of Tsarkoye Selo near St. Petersburg. It remained there until World War II. Then in the fall of 1941, the German army’s blitzkrieg invasion of the Soviet Union quickly took them just outside St. Petersburg. Panicked Russian officials at the palace wanted to evacuate the room to safety in Siberia. However, they realized the amber was too old and fragile to move on short notice. As a last-ditch plan, they covered the room’s walls with wallpaper. Those wily Germans knew it was there, and found it anyway. After painstakingly disassembling the entire room, they shipped it back to the German city of Konigsberg. FYI: Konigsberg no longer exists, it’s now called Kaliningrad and is owned by Russia. There it remained on public display in the Konigsberg Castle museum until the whole Nazi thing began to unravel . Everything gets foggy afterwards. The Amber Room was either moved into the castle basement or moved out of town. In 1944 the castle and most of the city was bombed to smithereens by Soviet planes.
So What Happened to the Amber Room During World War II?
The most basic theory suggests the 1944 bombing raids destroyed the Amber Room. But no identifiable traces were found in the rubble of the castle. Eyewitnesses also report a series of giant crates being moved out of the castle before the raid. Another theory suggests the treasure was loaded onto a massive passenger-freighter ship called the Wilhelm Gustloff. That ship that was sunk by the Soviets. The giant shipwreck continues to sit at the bottom of the sea. Meanwhile, the Polish government has forbid diving operations. Another dead end.
The Amber Room Mystery May Have Been Solved in Germany
New evidence suggests the Amber Room was actually moved into a mine near Hartenstein, a town in Germany near the Czech border. Three old treasure hunters believe they’ve located it in a booby-trapped tunnel located by radar. So far, they’re waiting on permits and funding to go ahead with explorations. Many experts note amber doesn’t like damp mineshafts though. After this length of time underground, amber artifacts would almost certainly be destroyed. Still, hope remains the room has been miraculously preserved. Other looted art treasures long believed lost during the war have turned up in the strangest of places. In 2012, around 1,400 paintings by Picasso, Otto Dix, Matisse, and other masters turned up in a reclusive old man’s worn-out Munich apartment. The idea the Amber Room is still out there may not be so far fetched after all!