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Where did the Germans take the Amber Room from?

Peter the Great received the Amber Room – a set of amber panels for decorating the palace interior – as a diplomatic gift from King Frederick William I of Prussia in 1716. The amber panels arrived in Russia unfinished, and decorated the royal palace in Russia already under Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. The Amber Cabinet became the main decoration of the suburban Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo. The hall continued to delight visitors when the royal palace became a museum. During the Great Patriotic War, the panels were stolen by the Nazis. Many people tried to find them, some expeditions were almost like detective stories, but at the moment it is believed that the original amber panels disappeared without a trace after 1945. Many years of work by the restorers of the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop revived the Amber Room in all its former splendor. The beginning of the eighteenth century was the heyday of amber business in Germany. King Frederick I wished to decorate the new country palace, which was being rebuilt for his wife Sophia-Charlotte, with amber panels, using raw amber and amber items from the palace storerooms. Architects A. Schlüter, I.-F. Eosander and other Prussian craftsmen began work on the Amber Cabinet in 1701. To process amber, the king specially invited craftsmen from Denmark: Gottfried Wolfram, Gottfried Thurau and Ernst Shah. In 1707, the queen died, and the king ordered the establishment of an amber gallery in another suburban residence, Oranienburg. But this project was not finished either. Peter the Great, during one of his visits to Prussia, saw amber panels and did not hide that he would very much like to have the same curiosity in St. Petersburg. The king died in 1713, and his son, Frederick William I, ascended the Prussian throne. He ordered the costly work to be stopped. At first, the new king planned to decorate his own Berlin palace with amber panels, but, having learned how difficult and expensive the final decoration of the Amber Room would be, he decided to hold off. In 1716, Peter the Great visited Prussia again, and the Prussian king presented the Russian monarch with amber panels, remembering that Peter loved strange and unusual things. Peter dreamed of an Amber Cabinet for the collection of the Kunstkamera, the first museum in Russia. In return, Peter sent 55 giant grenadiers, a handmade cup and a lathe to Prussia. Room during the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna During the life of Peter I, they did not have time to build the Amber Cabinet in his Summer Palace. Peter’s daughter Elizabeth, having ascended the throne, ordered the architect Rastrelli to decorate the state hall in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg with amber panels. It turned out that the available amber parts were not enough for this, and besides, the panels were too small for the planned hall. For the new Amber Cabinet, Rastrelli had to make mirrored pilasters with gilded carved decorations as a connecting architectural element, and paint the cornices, platbands and door slopes to look like amber. The walls were decorated with paintings by the court artist Johann Groot. At the same time, in 1743, the Empress began to rebuild her summer palace in Tsarskoe Selo. It was planned to decorate one of the halls with jasper, but this would have taken a lot of time, and Elizaveta Petrovna was impatient (later the next empress, Catherine, would turn to this project). Then the empress ordered Rastrelli to move the amber panels from St. Petersburg to the Great Tsarskoye Selo Palace and decorate a new Amber Room in the royal summer palace. Boxes with fragile panels were carried by hand. Once again, the hall, which is part of the luxurious Golden Enfilade of the palace, turned out to be too large for the panels. Rastrelli again used painted inserts, mirrored pilasters and four mosaic paintings instead of paintings to create a unified interior. The never-before-seen interior required attention and special treatment. In the Amber Room there was a special caretaker who monitored the condition of the amber. The Amber Room during the time of Catherine II The new empress, who ascended the throne in 1762, continued to pay a lot of attention to the Amber Room. During the reign of Catherine II, the last reconstruction of the interior was carried out: the pictorial inserts were replaced with mosaic panels made of amber, and amber stands were made under mirrored pilasters. All work was managed by the recently organized Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop, the last amber processing center in Western Europe at that time. The exquisite interior of the Amber Room was complemented by objects of applied art: Chinese porcelain vases, French bronze clocks, furniture made using the marquetry technique. Interior of the Amber Room The beauty of the Amber Room so impressed the French writer Théophile Gautier that he found the amber illuminated by the sun to be more impressive than the gilded carvings. One of the walls of the hall is completely occupied by two rows of windows, between which are placed mirrors framed by carved gilded frames. Three walls are decorated with amber panels, which are interspersed with mirrored pilasters framed with gilded carved decorations. The richness of many shades of amber – from milky white to dark burgundy and red – captivates the eye. Amber panels adorn four Florentine mosaics of semi-precious stones, depicting the five human senses in allegorical form. Magnificent inlaid parquet flooring complements the unique interior decoration of the hall. This hall was called the eighth wonder of the world, which remained one of the most beautiful interior chambers in the Tsarskoye Selo residence. History of the search and restoration of the Amber Room The history of the Amber Room is one of the main mysteries of the twentieth century. After the 1917 revolution, the Catherine Palace became a museum. In the terrible summer of 1941, all museum valuables were prepared for evacuation from Leningrad, but the fragile amber panels, which required very careful handling, did not have time to be removed. They remained in the palace, and were discovered by the fascists who occupied the city of Pushkin. The decoration of the Amber Room was taken to the city of Konigsberg, where Hitler intended to build a museum of looted valuables from all over Europe. After the liberation of Koenigsberg, the panels mysteriously disappeared. Several expeditions searched for amber panels, many enthusiasts tried to find traces of the Amber Room, but everything was unsuccessful. Only isolated pieces of furniture were found. In 1979, it was decided to recreate the interior. The work was led by restorer A. A. Kedrinsky, the restoration lasted 24 years. For many years, while walking around the palace on the site of the Amber Room, visitors saw only a walk-through exhibition hall, but everyone believed that our restorers would do the impossible. In 2000, original items from the Amber Room were returned from Germany: one marquetry chest of drawers made in Russia at the end of the 2003th century and a Florentine mosaic “Touch and Smell.” In XNUMX, in the presence of the heads of state of Russia and Germany, the Amber Room was reopened and shone in all its splendor. How to get there and when is the best time to visit the Amber Room in the Catherine Palace The fascinating history of the Amber Room and the beauty of the amber panels attract millions of visitors from all over the world to the Catherine Palace every year. For reasons of preservation of exhibits, the museum seriously limits the flow of individual tourists during the hot summer season. Therefore, from May to September, it is recommended to book an excursion to the Amber Room in advance from a reliable travel company, so as not to end up in a kilometer-long line on the street in front of the museum. The best time to visit the Amber Room is from October to April. The most comfortable option for visiting, allowing you to fully enjoy the beauty of amber, is an excursion to Tsarskoe Selo with an individual guide. The easiest way to get to the Catherine Palace is by minibuses departing from the Moskovskaya metro station. The Amber Room, taken from Russia during the Great Patriotic War, was “found” again in Germany. Previously, Russian amber had already been found several hundred times: in the Czech Republic, Poland and even at the bottom of the sea. And there is a funny pattern in these searches. Amber Room/ Photo: flickr.com/svengerst

Paradoxical dream of romance

The history of the Amber Room is paradoxical and amazing. The treasure, stolen by the Germans during the war, was created for the most part by a German master, Andreas Schlüter. The amber panels were ordered from him by the Prussian King Frederick I, who decided to “renew the furnishings” of one of the palaces. However, the panels were poorly secured, and after repairs they simply fell off the walls. Frederick’s heir Wilhelm presented “Elements of an Unsuccessful Repair” with high artistic value to Peter the Great. As the Russian emperor later wrote to his wife, he had dreamed of such a gift for a very long time. Initially, the Amber Room was just a “chamber”, and in 1743 Elizabeth ordered the cabinet to be supplemented with mirror panels, gold and other luxury elements. In 1770, precious panels, along with furniture and other small items, settled in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo. During the Great Patriotic War, many valuables were evacuated from Pushkin, but they decided to simply preserve the Amber Room. However, in 1942, she nevertheless migrated to the Royal Castle of Königsberg. Where did the German soldiers take the treasure from? Probably. There are many versions of the location of the treasure. According to one of them, the Amber Room was used to pay off Lend-Lease to the States – and in America, in fact, its original elements were discovered more than once. According to another version, she was not taken anywhere, and somewhere in the dungeons of Kaliningrad, boxes with amber (or with its remains – scientists claim that without special protection, amber in the ground decomposes very quickly). In our time, the Amber Room has become a modern Troy, or the Holy Grail – as you like. Scientists, historians, enthusiasts and romantics are looking for it. And almost every year there is news – found! This year, the “lucky” ones were retired enthusiasts from Germany, reports The Daily Mail. According to the elderly adventurers, the youngest of whom is 67 years old and the eldest 73, a source told them that the treasure may be located in the Prince’s Cave, in the Saxon Ore Mountains. Having received this information, the enthusiasts went to the cave. Peter Lohr scanned the soil using ground penetrating radar and discovered cavities in which precious panels could be walled up. But the treasure hunters have not yet reached the amber.

Uproar in Polish bunkers

I almost found my own “Amber Room” about a year ago in Poland, in the Warmian-Masurian voivodeship. In mid-June 2016, employees of the Polish cultural center in Kaliningrad told reporters: the treasure may be in a cache under Nazi bunkers near the town of Mamerki. During World War II, the German Mauerwald headquarters was located in Mamerki. At the same time, the Germans built a whole complex of bunkers here. Now the bunkers are part of the museum complex, but until the summer of 2016 they were much less popular than the attractions of the nearby Wolf’s Lair bet, just 18 kilometers away. The Lair was Adolf Hitler’s main headquarters in Poland. Here in the forties of the last century there was the main command complex of the German armed forces. Of course, tourists interested in military history flock here primarily to see the place from which the Nazi dictator led military operations in Poland. But the bunkers in Mamerki, although they are part of the museum complex, are usually much less popular. But with the advent of news about the treasures, everything changed – the flow of tourists that had previously flown around this place poured into the Nazi bunkers of Mauerwald with triple force. Then, in mid-June, the curator of the historical complex, Bartolomew Plebanczyk, told the media that using ground penetrating radar, a walled room measuring 2 by 3 meters was discovered in underground structures. Unexpectedly, it turned out that back in the fifties, a local resident told the officers of the military unit located here that he had seen how the Nazis hid elements of the Amber Room in the forests of Mamerki. Historians and museum workers suggested that it was precisely this – the lost treasure – that was walled up in the cache. It was decided to drill a five-centimeter hole in the foundation of the bunker in order to lower a camera into the cache through it and find out what was hidden there. But, before getting down to business, employees of the museum complex talked to journalists and shared information. As a result, it was not possible to find the cavity detected by ground penetrating radar using drilling. Treasures of the Russian Empire were not found in Poland. But the museum complex managed to earn a little money from the hype.

There is a treasure buried under the mountain.

For the penultimate time, the amber treasure was again “discovered” in Germany. And again, of course, underground. This happened quite recently – four months ago, in June of this year. The search for the cache began in Thuringia, at the foot of Mount Konstein near the town of Nordhausen. During the Second World War, a plant for assembling V-1 and V-2 cruise missiles was located here. The Mittelwerk enterprise was located underground, and prisoners of the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp worked there. In the summer of 2017, the German publication Thuringer Allgemeine published interesting news: a group of German archaeologists began excavations on the territory of a former Nazi factory. The local authorities “blessed” the scientists for the excavations. And it all started, as in Poland, with some eyewitness testimony. This time, the Germans, hiding “very large containers with treasures” in the dungeon, were seen during the war by one of the concentration camp prisoners. Scientists have suggested that what was hidden here was nothing more than an amber room.

Eric Koch’s legacy?

Most often, Frederick I’s gift to Peter was “discovered,” of course, in Germany – after all, it was the German looters who took the room from Königsberg. There is, however, another reason. The fact is that on the territory of the homeland of the Nazi dictator there is a huge number of underground labyrinths, bunkers and hiding places. So you can search for treasures here endlessly. Two years ago, in 2015, two pensioners, Karl-Heins Kleine and his friend Jorgan, began searching for a cache of Russian amber in Germany. Apparently, searching for the Amber Room is one of the standard hobbies of elderly and respected Germans. Karl-Haines and Jörge decided that the treasure could be hidden in one of the dungeons of the town of Wuppertal in Western Germany. There, the elderly discovered a walled-up dead end, behind which, they decided, the treasure was hidden. The pensioners made this conclusion based on one fact: it was from these lands that Eric Koch, Gauleiter of East Prussia and honorary SS Obergruppenführer, came from. However, without the support of the state and private investors, the excavations turned out to be too difficult – the pensioners simply did not have a drill, and they had to chisel the wall manually, using rebar. Enthusiasts had to drill a hole half a meter deep in order to get into the shafts, under which, according to their assumptions, bunkers with Russian amber should be located. The complexity of the task almost drove Jorgen to lung cancer: from his worries, the pensioner began to smoke fifty cigarettes every day. After all, searching for the Amber Room is a hobby that is dangerous to health.

A note from dad

Nine years ago, traces of a lost room were allegedly discovered on the border of Germany and the Czech Republic, in the village of Deutschneudorf. The mayor of this town, Heinz-Peter Haustein, told reporters about this in February 2008. For Haunstein, the search for the Amber Room was not just a hobby, but the main business of his life – at the time of his statement, the respected burgher had been doing this for ten years. According to the “Haunstein group”, in caves near Deutschneudorf in 1945, the Germans hid Soviet gold, as well as elements of the Amber Room. Information about this was found in the personal archives of one of their enthusiasts, among the notes of his father. The underground part of the village is riddled with labyrinths, and the mayor claims that it is there that Soviet gold and amber are walled up. However, enthusiasts have not yet been able to get to the treasure, which “with a 90 percent probability” is located on the border with the Czech Republic.

Baltic Sea and underwater safes

The amber room can lie and at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. According to this version, precious panels and other elements of the treasure were on board Eric Koch’s yacht, the former military icebreaker Castor. During the war, the Castor sank and was discovered later, while clearing the bottom of sunken ships. The ship’s holds, according to experts, could be used for burying valuables as sealed underwater safes. In 2010, at the international festival “Time in the Frame” in Kaliningrad, Vadim Malysh, a member of the Underwater Explorers Club of the Museum of the World Ocean, presented his film “Icebreaker. Amber version.” The documentary presented precisely the “underwater” version of the location of the room. Wherever the treasure may now be, the Soviet authorities waited impatiently for it to be discovered and, in 1979, decided to recreate the 2003th-century work of art. Now in the Catherine Palace you can admire the modern version of the Amber Room, presented in XNUMX, in the year of the tercentenary of St. Petersburg. As experts note, the modern version of the treasure is no worse than the prototype.

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