The Disappearance and Mystery of the Amber Room
The Amber Room was constructed in 1701 in order to be installed at Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first king of Prussia, at the urging of his second wife, Sophie Charlotte.
Although originally intended for installation at Charlottenburg Palace, the complete panels were eventually installed at Berlin City Palace. The Amber Room did not, however, remain at Berlin Castle for long. Peter the Great admired it on a visit and in 1716, Friedrich Wilhelm I, the first king’s son, presented it to him, and with that act cemented a Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden.
On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler initiated Operation Barbarossa, which launched three million German soldiers into the Soviet Union. The invasion led to the looting of tens of thousands of art treasures, including the illustrious Amber Room, which the Nazis believed was made by Germans and, most certainly, made for Germans.
As the forces moved into Pushkin, officials and curators of the Catherine Palace attempted to disassemble and hide the Amber Room. When the dry amber began to crumble, the officials instead tried hiding the room behind thin wallpaper. But the ruse didn’t fool the German soldiers, who tore down the Amber Room within 36 hours, packed it up in 27 crates and shipped it to Königsberg, Germany. The room was reinstalled in Königsberg’s castle museum on the Baltic Coast.
The Amber Room was never seen in public again, though reports have occasionally surfaced stating that components of the Amber Room survived the war. There have been numerous conflicting reports and theories, among them that the Amber Room was destroyed by bombing, hidden in a now-lost subterranean bunker in Königsberg, buried in mines in the Ore Mountains, or taken onto a ship or submarine which was sunk by Soviet forces in the Baltic Sea.
Another bizarre aspect of this story is the “Amber Room Curse.” Many people connected to the room have met untimely ends. General Gusev, a Russian intelligence officer, died in a car crash after he talked to a journalist about the Amber Room. Another example is Georg Stein, Amber Room hunter and former German soldier, who in 1987 was murdered in a Bavarian forest.
Either way, many different individuals and groups, including a number of different entities from the government of the Soviet Union, have mounted extensive searches for it at various times since the war, without any success, and thus, the mystery remains.