The Mysterious History of the Amber Room: Part 3

Originally, it was believed that the room had been very well-hidden – the Soviet Union even launched massive searches. However, the room was never found. Some think that the room was sunk by allied forces while being transported by ship. But, most historians believe that the Amber Room never left the grounds of Königsberg Castle.

Königsberg Castle was burnt to the ground when the Russians invaded – although no one is sure who started the fire. One theory suggests that the Germans hid the Amber Room in the catacombs below the castle, which were lost in the castle’s collapse. Not wanting to be seen as the destroyers of the precious Amber Room, the Soviets covered up evidence of the room’s destruction, they held “pretend” searches for the room, and blamed the Nazis. However, the Russian government vehemently denies this.

A theory common in present-day Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) is that the Amber Room survived in the catacombs, but went undiscovered until after the war. Amber dries out and crumbles when it is not properly cared for. The theory goes that the Russians later discovered the Amber Room’s resting place, but it had long since crumbled away. It surely would have left large amounts of gold foil, but it may have been too cumbersome to salvage. This would explain why the ruins of the castle were highly restricted through the 1960s, then demolished in 1968 to make room for a new building, the House of Soviets.

Despite the disappearance of the Amber Room, its memory persisted. Eventually, construction efforts for a new Amber Room went underway in 1979, backed by at least $3.5 million of financial assistance from Germany. Russian craftsmen worked from old photographs of the original Amber Room and had it fully recreated in 2003. The new Amber Room adorns Catherine Palace in Pushkin – a mere 25 kilometers from where the original once stood in St. Petersburg.

The Mysterious History of the Amber Room: Part 2

Previously, we reviewed the creation of the Amber Room – a breathtaking chamber lined with gold and amber panels. The Amber Room originally adorned Berlin City Palace with the intention of moving into Charlottenburg Palace – home of the room’s commissioner, King Friedrich I of Prussia. But in 1716, it was given to Peter the Great and was a source of national pride for Russia and St. Petersburg Palace. But, the Germans seized the Amber Room when they invaded during World War II in 1941.

Originally, the Russians could not move the brittle panels of the Amber Room without damaging them. The Germans, however, had the luxury of time. Under the consultation and supervision of experts, the Nazis carefully moved and transported the entire Amber Room to Königsberg Castle for public display.

By 1945, Nazi forces were on the run and the Red Army was headed toward Königsberg. Hitler himself issued an order to pack up and move the Amber Room to a safe and secret location (as he did with much of the Nazi’s war assets, like the counterfeit printing press at Lake Toplitz). Witnesses claim that they saw crates move from Königsberg Castle to the railway. But other than that, the Amber Room was never seen again.

Theories to account for the whereabouts of the Amber Room abound. Unfortunately, none have a positive outlook. We’ll cover the potential fate of the Amber Room in our next blog post.

The Mysterious History of the Amber Room: Part 1

The Amber Room was a magnificent set of panels that, when displayed, decorated an entire chamber (more than 55 square meters). The panels were constructed of amber, gold leaf, and mirrors. If old photographs do it justice, walking into the Amber Room conveyed an overwhelming sense of dazzle and awe. With enough shimmering gold and swirling amber to fill an entire chamber, the Amber Room was widely considered to be the Eighth Wonder of The World. Unfortunately, this great wonder was lost at the end of World War II.

Before the war, the Amber Room was the subject of much esteem. Its construction began in 1701 under order of the first Prussian King, Friedrich I. It took master craftsmen more than 10 years to complete. In 1716, the king’s son, Friedrich Wilhelm I, gave the Amber Room as a gift to Peter the Great – Tsar of Russia. With that, the Amber Room became a part of St. Petersburg Palace where it was expanded and added to over several years.

Then, the Nazis marched on Leningrad in 1941. The Russians tried to disassemble the room and move it to safety, but there wasn’t enough time. Amber is a very delicate material; if not properly cared for it will quickly crumble and decay. When the Russians started moving the 200+ year-old Amber Room, several of the brittle amber panels began to break upon handling. Unable to move the room, they attempted to disguise it with ordinary wallpaper (a plan similar to the one used on the Golden Buddha statue which was covered in plaster to disguise it during war time). Unfortunately, the Amber Room was a world-famous treasure, and the Germans knew just where to look. It was then that the fate of the Amber Room took an unfortunate and mysterious turn – to be explored in our next blog post.