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The gleaming yellow gold hue of amber is one of nature’s wonders and one which has been sought after and admired for centuries. It is perhaps for this reason that the precious fossilised tree resin was used by European craftsmen in the 18 th century to create an ornately decorated chamber that was fit for royalty. Due to its magnificent beauty and the intricacy of its design, the Amber Room, which combined amber, gold, and precious stones, was once regarded as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. However, the spectacular chamber was hurriedly packed up into crates during WWII and was never seen again, leading some on a quest to recover the missing treasure.
The Amber Room was originally installed in Charlottenburg Palace, which was the home of Frederick I, the first King in Prussia. The room was designed by the German baroque sculptor, Andreas Schlüter, and the Danish amber craftsman, Gottfried Wolfram. Construction of the Amber Room began in 1701 and was completed in 1711. During a state visit to Prussia, the Amber Room caught the eye of the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great. Interestingly, during Peter’s visit, the Amber Room was actually incomplete, as Frederick William was more interested in martial matters, and did not continue the work on the Amber Room when he inherited the throne of Prussia. Nevertheless, Peter’s interest in the Amber Room meant that Frederick William had the opportunity to gain the favour of the Tsar of Russia. Thus, Frederick William presented the Amber Room to Peter in 1716 in order to cement the newly-formed Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden.
Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great. Image source .
The Amber Room was shipped to Russia in 18 large boxes, where it was installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg as part of a European art collection. In 1755, Tsarina Elizabeth had the Amber Room moved to the Catherine Place in Pushkin, named Tsarkoye Selo (Tsar’s Village). As the Amber Room was placed in a larger area, the Italian designer, Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli was employed to redesign the room using additional amber shipped from Berlin. Rastrelli’s work was the first of several renovations of the Amber Room by the Russians. When these renovations were completed, the room covered an area of about 180 square feet, and was decorated with six tonnes of amber and other semi-precious stones. Over the years, the Amber Room was used by the Russian tsars for a variety of functions. Elizabeth, for instance, used the room as a private meditation chamber, while Catherine the Great used it as a gathering room. Alexander II, said to be an amber connoisseur, used it as a trophy room.
The reconstructed Amber Room in Catherine Palace. Photo source .
Spectacular craftsmanship in the reconstructed Amber Room. Photo source .
In 1941, Nazi Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, invaded Russia. When the Amber Room was found by the German soldiers, it was torn down, packed into 27 crates, and sent to Königsberg. There, it was reinstalled in Königsberg’s castle museum. Although the Amber Room was on display for the following two years, the war not going well for the Germans, and the museum’s director, Alfred Rohde, was advised to dismantle the room and crate it away. Less than a year later, Allied bombing raids destroyed the city of Königsberg, and the castle museum was left in ruins. After that, the trail of the Amber Room simply vanishes.
Yet, not everyone is ready to accept that the Amber Room is lost forever. Some believe that the Amber Room was safely hidden by the Germans prior to the destruction of the castle museum. Thus, there have been attempts to track down this treasure. Still, these treasure hunts have not produced results, and the hunt continues. In 2004, after 24 years of work, a reconstruction of the Amber Room was completed in the Tsarkoye Selo, and dedicated by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. Until the original Amber Room is found, if it still exists, this reconstruction is perhaps the closest that we will get to experiencing the magnificence of the real thing.
Featured image: The reconstructed Amber Room . Photo source: Wikipedia.
Blumberg, J., 2007. A Brief History of the Amber Room. [Online]
Available at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-the-amber-room-160940121/?all
Daily Mail Reporter, 2011. 60-year hunt for Russian Czars' missing Amber Room may be over after discovery in Germany. [Online]
Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1369271/60-year-hunt-Russian-Czars-missing-Amber-Room-discovery-Germany.html
Hall, A., 2010. 'Priceless' Amber Room of the Tsars, looted and hidden by the Nazis, is 'found' by Russian treasure hunter. [Online]
Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1244140/Priceless-Amber-Room-Tsars-looted-hidden-Nazis-Russian-treasure-hunter.html
Savage, M., 2008. The Big Question: What was the Amber Room, and has it really been discovered at last?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-big-question-what-was-the-amber-room-and-has-it-really-been-discovered-at-last-784891.html
Walters, G. & Kelly, T., 2013. Can the weirdo who hid £1bn of Nazi art solve the mystery of the Tsar's lost treasure trove?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2489151/Can-weirdo-hid-Nazi-art-solve-The-Amber-Room-mystery.html
Wikipedia, 2014. Amber. [Online]
Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber
The Amber Room (Russian: Янтарная комната , tr. Yantarnaya Komnata, German: Bernsteinzimmer, Polish: Bursztynowa komnata) was a chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors, located in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg.
Constructed in the 18th century in Prussia, the room was dismantled and eventually disappeared during World War II. Before its loss, it was considered an "Eighth Wonder of the World". A reconstruction was made, starting in 1979 and completed and installed in the Catherine Palace in 2003.
The Amber Room was intended in 1701 for the Charlottenburg Palace, in Berlin, Prussia, but was eventually installed at the Berlin City Palace. It was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter and Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram. Schlüter and Wolfram worked on the room until 1707, when work was continued by amber masters Gottfried Turau and Ernst Schacht from Danzig (Gdańsk).
It remained in Berlin until 1716, when it was given by the Prussian King Frederick William I to his ally Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire. In Russia, the room was installed in the Catherine Palace. After expansion and several renovations, it covered more than 55 square metres (590 sq ft) and contained over 6 tonnes (13,000 lb) of amber.
The Amber Room was looted during World War II by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany, and taken to Königsberg for reconstruction and display. Its eventual fate and current whereabouts, if it survives, remain a mystery. In 1979 the decision was taken to create a reconstructed Amber Room at the Catherine Palace. After decades of work by Russian craftsmen and donations from Germany, it was completed and inaugurated in 2003.
Behind the Walls of the Amber Room
All known records of the Amber Room indicate that it was a spectacular sight to behold. With jewel-encrusted amber walls that glowed in the candlelight, you can imagine why it was referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World. While we can picture what it might have been like to stand inside its golden walls, there is no way to experience it ourselves—the room has been lost for nearly eight decades. The circumstances behind its disappearance are contested, and ultimately remain a mystery.
The Amber Room was begun in 1701. Its construction was an international collaboration, with work from German sculptor Andreas Schlüter and amber from Danish craftsman Gottfried Wolfram.
“When the work was finished, the room was dazzling,” wrote the art historians Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorii Kozlov. “It was illuminated by 565 candles whose light was reflected in the warm gold surface of the amber and sparkled in the mirrors, gilt, and mosaics.”
The room was originally located in Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia. After Russian czar Peter the Great expressed his admiration of the room during his 1716 visit to Prussia, the King of Prussia gave it to him as a symbol of peace between the two nations, with the goal of cementing their alliance against Sweden.
The Amber Room was originally located in the Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, before being relocated to Russia in boxes. (Photo: Wikipedia/Carmelo Bayarcal)
The room was transported to Russia in boxes. At the time of its completion, the room spanned 180 square feet and contained six tons of amber and other semi-precious jewels. Historians estimate that the room was worth the equivalent of 113 million of today’s British pounds.
The room remained in Russia until 1941, when the Nazis stormed Leningrad (present-day Saint Petersburg) as part of Operation Barbarossa. Head art curator Anatoly Kuchumov was ordered to pack up the Amber Room and send it east for safekeeping. However, Kuchumov realized that the amber panels had become brittle over time, leading him to worry that they would break if packed away. Instead, he ordered for the room to be covered in thin wallpaper, in the hopes that the Nazis would pass it by.
Russian skiers passing by the Hermitage and advancing towards the frontline during the Seige of Leningrad. (Photo: Wikipedia)
The Nazis found the room within 36 hours. They packed its contents into boxes and brought it to Königsberg, Germany (present-day Kaliningrad), where it sat on display for the next two years.
In 1943, as the Allied forces moved in on Germany, the Nazis ordered for the room to be packed up once more. Königsberg was bombed in 1944, leaving the castle museum destroyed.
It is not clear whether the room was shipped away before the castle was bombed. The only intact pieces of the room ever discovered were a cabinet and a Florentine mosaic that a German soldier had stolen before the bombings happened. The other three Florentine mosaics that had been displayed in the Amber Room were reported to have been found burnt amongst the museum’s rubble.
While many historians believe that the room was destroyed, others theorize that its contents are still out there. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing the contents of the Amber Room being loaded onto Wilhelm Gustloff, a German transport ship, that was sunk by a Soviet submarine. However, no evidence linking to the Amber Room has been found within the wreckage.
Others believe that the room is hidden somewhere below the city’s sprawling underground network of tunnels and chambers. In 2017, German treasure hunters began excavations under the Ore Mountains in eastern Germany, after identifying clues that the treasure was hidden in tunnels under a cave. So far, nothing has been found from the excavations.
Reconstruction of the Amber Room started in 1979 with the last amber panels installed May, 2003. The new Amber Room is located in the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, 30km to the South of Saint Petersburg. (Photo: Wikimedia/jeanyfan)
In 1979, the Russian government began a reconstruction of the Amber Room. After 24 years and $11 million, the reconstruction was completed. The room currently sits on display to the public in the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve outside of St. Petersburg.
A Brief History of the Amber Room
While many Americans associate amber with the casing for dinosaur DNA in 1993's Jurassic Park, the stone has enthralled Europeans, and especially Russians, for centuries because of the golden, jewel-encrusted Amber Room, which was made of several tons of the gemstone. A gift to Peter the Great in 1716 celebrating peace between Russia and Prussia, the room's fate became anything but peaceful: Nazis looted it during World War II, and in the final months of the war, the amber panels, which had been packed away in crates, disappeared. A replica was completed in 2003, but the contents of the original, dubbed "the Eighth Wonder of the World," have remained missing for decades.
Construction of the Amber Room began in 1701. It was originally installed at Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia. Truly an international collaboration, the room was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter and constructed by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram. Peter the Great admired the room on a visit, and in 1716 the King of Prussia—then Frederick William I—presented it to the Peter as a gift, cementing a Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden.
The Amber Room was shipped to Russia in 18 large boxes and installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg as a part of a European art collection. In 1755, Czarina Elizabeth ordered the room to be moved to the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, named Tsarskoye Selo, or "Czar's Village." Italian designer Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli redesigned the room to fit into its new, larger space using additional amber shipped from Berlin.
After other 18th-century renovations, the room covered about 180 square feet and glowed with six tons of amber and other semi-precious stones. The amber panels were backed with gold leaf, and historians estimate that, at the time, the room was worth $142 million in today's dollars. Over time, the Amber Room was used as a private meditation chamber for Czarina Elizabeth, a gathering room for Catherine the Great and a trophy space for amber connoisseur Alexander II.
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 (present-day Kaliningrad). The room was reinstalled in Königsberg's castle museum on the Baltic Coast.
The museum's director, Alfred Rohde, was an amber aficionado and studied the room's panel history while it was on display for the next two years. In late 1943, with the end of the war in sight, Rohde was advised to dismantle the Amber Room and crate it away. In August of the following year, allied bombing raids destroyed the city and turned the castle museum into ruins. And with that, the trail of the Amber Room was lost.
Conspiracies, Curses and Construction
It seems hard to believe that crates of several tons of amber could go missing, and many historians have tried to solve the mystery. The most basic theory is that the crates were destroyed by the bombings of 1944. Others believe that the amber is still in Kaliningrad, while some say it was loaded onto a ship and can be found somewhere at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In 1997, a group of German art detectives got a tip that someone was trying to hawk a piece of the Amber Room. They raided the office of the seller's lawyer and found one of the room's mosaic panels in Bremen, but the seller was the son of a deceased soldier and had no idea as to the panel's origin. One of the more extreme theories is that Stalin actually had a second Amber Room and the Germans stole a fake.
Another bizarre aspect of this story is the "Amber Room Curse." Many people connected to the room have met untimely ends. Take Rohde and his wife, for example, who died of typhus while the KGB was investigating the room. Or General Gusev, a Russian intelligence officer who died in a car crash after he talked to a journalist about the Amber Room. Or, most disturbing of all, Amber Room hunter and former German soldier Georg Stein, who in 1987 was murdered in a Bavarian forest.
The history of the new Amber Room, at least, is known for sure. The reconstruction began in 1979 at Tsarskoye Selo and was completed 25 years—and $11 million—later. Dedicated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the new room marked the 300-year anniversary of St. Petersburg in a unifying ceremony that echoed the peaceful sentiment behind the original. The room remains on display to the public at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve outside of St. Petersburg.
The Amber Room in the Charlottenburg Palace, dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” disappeared during WWII, perhaps torpedoed in a submarine
The Hohenzollern dynasty built some of the most beautiful castles and palaces in Germany. Their residence in Berlin’s Western district of Charlottenburg has become one of the landmarks of the city. Interestingly, it was originally constructed as a simple summer residence, but today, the magnificent palace is the largest in the city.
The construction was initiated by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Frederick III, in the 1690s. With the help of the architect Johann Arnold Nering, the modest county house was completed in a couple of years. However, once Frederick III became King Friedrich I of Prussia, the couple decided to transform it into a Baroque palace.
And so, supervised by architect Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe, they enlarged the house by adding two additional wings. The architect had recently visited Rome and Paris and returned impressed by the architecture he encountered there, so he decided to build the iconic dome. On top of it, he placed a sculpture of Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck and fortune.
Sophie Charlotte, who was now the Queen of Prussia, wanted to completely redesign the gardens and entrusted Siméon Godeau, a pupil of the garden designer André Le Nôtre, known for his work at the Gardens of Versailles. He built an orangery that was home to many exotic plants and reshaped the park in the symmetrical patterns characteristic of a French garden. The theatre was also built for the queen, who was known for her passion for arts and literature.
Main facade of the historic palace, Baroque style. Blue, white and gold gamma. Summer sunny day.
The rooms of the palace were lavishly decorated and although they were all beautiful, one in particular was the most impressive, adorned with amber panels and gold ornamentation. The construction of the Amber Room lasted for six years, and once it was completed, the room was considered an “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
The queen was very pleased with the final result and hosted many celebrations at the palace. They named it Lietzenburg Palace, but, after the untimely death of the queen at the age of 37, the king renamed it the Charlottenburg Palace in her honor. After the death of the king, his son Frederick William I inherited the palace. The new king showed no interest in improving the palace or desire to continue the glamorous lifestyle of his parents. On the contrary, he was quite pragmatic.
He used the palace only for state matters and spent only the money required for its maintenance. The king even demolished the theater of his mother and used the material to construct a school. Also, he gave the Amber Room as a gift to the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great. Little did the king know that during World War II, this masterpiece would disappear, never to be found again.
. The Amber Room in 1917. Autochromes of Andrei Andreyevich Zeest
The Russians treasured the gift of the Amber Room and installed it in St. Petersburg. In 1941, when the Nazis invaded, they were intent on claiming it. The disassembled the Amber Room and took it back to Germany, where it was restored in Konigsberg. But then, when the end of the war loomed, it vanished. The leading theory is that the Germans tried to protect it by disassembling it and sending it out of the country in a submarine–which was torpedoed. If the 180-square-foot could be found today, it could be worth as much as $500 million.
Charlottenburg palace during the night, Berlin, Germany
As for the palace, improvements were made when Frederich the Great became king in 1740. He decided to use the palace as his residence and built an additional wing with private apartments and ballrooms according to the designs of the architect Georg Wenzelslaus von Knobelsdorff. The interior was decorated in the then-fashionable Rococo style. Later, Frederick William II continued with the improvements, building a theater, additional private chambers and another orangery in the gardens, which had a new English landscape garden appearance.
Postage stamp Russia 2004 printed in Russia shows amber room the state museum tzarskoje selo, circa 2004
King Frederick William III and Queen Louise continued to use the palace as their residence. In 1810, a mausoleum that resembles a Greek or Roman temple was built in the garden for Queen Louise that afterward became a burial site for Frederick William II, Emperor William I, and other royals. The palace remained property of the monarchy until 1888 with the last owner being the German Emperor Frederick III.
During World War I, the palace was used as a hospital, while in World War II, it was heavily damaged during the bombing of Berlin. The reconstruction began in the 1950s and was only recently finished.
The palace was restored to its former glory and the gardens were redesigned in their original form. The most lavishly decorated rooms in the palace are the chambers of Frederick the Great and the apartments of Queen Louise. The statue of Frederick William I in the courtyard welcomes visitors from around the world to the spectacular residence of the Prussian monarchs.
Conspiracy Theories and Aftermath
The fate of the Amber Room remains unclear to this day. Many conspiracy theories have developed since its mysterious disappearance. The simplest one is that the panels were not evacuated on time and were destroyed in the heavy bombings that took place in the city before it was finally overtaken by the Red Army in 1945. Others believe that the panels lie somewhere between the ruins of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship sunken in the Baltic Sea. The wreck, however, had been dived many times and no trace of the Amber Room was found.
The KGB conducted thorough investigations around Konigsberg but to no avail. For a while, the remains of the room were believed to be hidden in the labyrinth of tunnels and chambers lying under the city. Again, nothing was found there. Claims regarding the whereabouts of the Amber Room kept piling up - it was suggested to be in an old salt mine on the Czech border, sunk in a lagoon in Lithuania, and even stripped down and shipped off to the US. Nothing ever lead to a conclusive answer.
The only pieces of the room ever recovered were a cabinet and a marble mosaic which a German soldier stole when the room was removed in 1941. It was in the possession of his son in 1997 when German authorities reclaimed it. After long and extensive research, the British investigative journalists Catherine Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy concluded in their 2004 book The Amber Room, that the eighth wonder was indeed lost in the Konigsberg bombings. They theorized the excessive investigation carried out by the KGB was a ruse to cover up the initial Soviet mistake of destroying their own beloved Amber Room.
Previous attempts to get to the bottom of the Amber Room&rsquos story proved it to be a dangerous mission. Former German soldier and amateur historian Georg Stein dedicated a large portion of his life to finding the Amber Room - he ended up being murdered in a Bavarian forest in 1987. General Yuri Gusev, deputy head of Russia's foreign intelligence unit, died in a mysterious car accident in 1992, after being exposed as the source for a journalist investigating the disappearance.
In 1979, the Soviet government ordered a replica of the room to be reconstructed where the original once stood in Catherine Palace. The project took 25 years to complete and cost $11 million. Its opening in 2003 marked the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. Although it is a reproduction, if you&rsquore ever in the area, the &lsquonew Amber Room&rsquo is definitely worth a visit!
Newly-discovered Nazi gold train could contain lost Amber Room of Charlottenburg Palace
Last week headlines were made around the world as treasure hunters claimed to have identified a legendary Nazi train packed with gold and money, hidden in a long-forgotten tunnel in the Polish mountains, the location of which has now been confirmed by the Polish Ministry. Now it has been reported that the train may also contain the long-lost Amber Room of Charlottenburg Palace, an early 1700s room crafted from amber, gold, and precious jewels, estimated to now be worth $385 million.
Poland’s Culture Ministry announced that the location of the Nazi train was revealed to a Pole and a German, whose identities have been kept secret, through a deathbed confession. The Telegraph reported that two treasure-hunters found the 100-meter-long armoured train and immediately submitted a claim to the Polish government – under Polish law treasure findings can keep 10 per cent of the value of their find. The Polish Ministry have now confirmed the location of the train using ground-penetrating radar.
The train is said to be located in an underground tunnel constructed by the Nazis along a 4km stretch of track on the Wroclaw-Walbryzch line. However, its exact location is being kept hidden, not least because it is believed to be booby trapped or mined and will need to be investigated through a careful operation conducted by the Army, Police and Fire Brigade.
An underground tunnel, part of Nazi Germany “Riese” construction project under the Ksiaz castle in Poland (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland / Flickr)
Legend has it that the Germans hid their looted treasures from the advancing Soviet Red Army as insurance policies to help fleeing war criminals escape and set up new lives at the end of WWII.
While government officials have said that they don’t know the exact contents of the Nazi train, Piotr Zuchowski, a vice minister for conservation, told Poland’s Radio Jedynka that its contents are “probably military equipment but also possibly jewellery, works of art, and archived documents,” Yahoo News reports. An announcement by the Ministry yesterday speculated that it may also contain the missing Amber Room, which was dismantled by the Nazis from Charlottenburg Palace near St Petersburg in 1941.
The Amber Room
The Amber Room was originally installed in Charlottenburg Palace, the home of Frederick I, first King in Prussia in 1701. During a state visit to Prussia, the Amber Room caught the eye of the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great. Seeing an opportunity to gain the favor of the Tsar of Russia, Frederick I presented the Amber Room to the Tsar in 1716 in order to cement the newly-formed Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden. The Amber Room was dismantled and shipped to Russia in 18 large boxes, where it was installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg as part of a European art collection. In 1755, Tsarina Elizabeth had the Amber Room moved to Charlottenburg Palace, where it remained until it was dismantled and stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and sent to Königsberg’s castle museum.
Although the Amber Room was on display for the following two years, the war not going well for the Germans, and the museum’s director, Alfred Rohde, was advised to dismantle the room and crate it away. Less than a year later, Allied bombing raids destroyed the city of Königsberg, and the castle museum was left in ruins. After that, the trail of the Amber Room simply vanished.
Many believed that the Amber Room was safely hidden by the Germans prior to the destruction of the castle museum and thus, there have been many attempts to track down this treasure, all of them unsuccessful.
If the newly-discovered Nazi gold train does indeed contain the pieces of the world-renowned Amber Room, it will see the return and reconstruction of a valuable slice of history.
The Amber Room was, as its name suggests, filled with hand-crafted amber. Its construction began in 1701, when a German baroque sculptor and Danish amber craftsman designed it for Charlottenburg Palace, the home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The room had many admirers, including Russia's Peter the Great. During a visit to Berlin in 1716, and when Prussia's king Frederick William gave Peter the panels as a gift, the Russians added enough amber, gold leaf, gemstones and mirrors to furnish an entire room &mdash a task that took more than 10 years to complete.
When it was finished and installed in Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo ("Czar's Village") on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, the chamber contained more than 6 tons (5.4 metric tons) of amber, as well as artworks and other precious objects. These treasures are estimated to be worth up to $500 million today, United Press International (UPI) reported.
But the Amber Room was captured as spoils of war in 1941 by invading German soldiers. Although the Soviets tried to hide the amber panels by covering them with wallpaper, the Germans discovered, dismantled and transported it in pieces to Königsberg, where it was reassembled for display in the town's castle.
After the German evacuation of Königsberg in 1945, however, the treasures of the Amber Room were never seen again -&ndash and some suspect they were secretly transported further into Germany, possibly on the steamer Karlsruhe.
Some investigators, however, allege that the Amber Room was packed into crates that were destroyed when Soviet soldiers burned down part of the castle &mdash an embarrassing calamity later covered up by Soviet authorities.
1 A Secret Russian Location Known By Stalin
The impending raid of Winter Palace was known to the officials and curators of Catherine Palace. According to the official record, they attempted to disassemble and hide the Amber Room. When the brittle panels began to crumble, they chose to wallpaper over them instead. But they could not outwit the Nazis, who discovered the trick almost at once.
This conspiracy theory holds that Joseph Stalin fooled the soldiers after all. The panels they stole were replicas, while the real Amber Room had already been shipped off and hidden elsewhere. If true, the Amber Room may have been cleverly saved, only to be lost forever. 
Olene Quinn is the historical fiction author of The Gates of Nottingham and Prince Dead. A self-described armchair historian, she resides in Northern California.