The Room That Vanished
The magnificent Amber Room
The magnificent Amber room in the summer Palace outside St Petersburg was one of the jewels in the crown of tsarist Russia. A British ambassador once described it as "the eighth wonder of the world". Twelve tonnes of rare amber went into the priceless panels that clothed its walls. Incredibly, this decorative marvel disappeared in the chaos of war in 1945 - and has never been found. The Amber room was originally commissioned by Frederick William I, King of Prussia, for his palace at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) in 1701
In 1716, the king presented the room to Peter the Great of Russia as a gift to seal a military alliance between the two powers, and it was moved to the Winter Palace before being transferred to the Summer Palace by Peter's daughter Elizabeth in 1755.
The room survived the upheaval of the Russian Revolution undamaged, but when the invading Nazi forces captured the Summer Palace during the Second World War, the room was transported back to Königsberg and reassembled there, apparently on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler. By the time Germany was overrun by the Allies in 1945, however, it had vanished.
The Soviet authorities, determined to reclaim their national treasure, have been looking for the room ever since. So have a number of bounty hunters and art historians. At different times, clues have led investigators to a castle in Saxony, a Polish salt mine and a Baltic shipwreck. Even the US 9th Army has been suspected of the theft. But in every case, the trail has gone cold.
Craftsmen in the Soviet Union have embarked on the heroic task of reconstructing the room exactly as it was.
In 1979, the Soviet government initiated reconstruction of the room, allocating about $8 million. Germany's Ruhrgas, the biggest importer of Russian gas, joined the project in 1999 and donated $3.5 million, helping guarantee its completion
The culture minister, said the project had become, [quote]a symbol of German-Russian understanding and friendship.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder opened the room to 47 fellow heads of state at St. Petersburg's 300th birthday bash, May 2003. In June 2003, it was unveiled to the public.
Craftsmen in the Soviet Union have embarked on the heroic task of reconstructing the room exactly as it was. The legendary Amber Room made a dazzling reappearance in May, 2003 after an audacious, quarter-century reconstruction. President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder opened the room to 47 fellow heads of state at St. Petersburg’ s 300th birthday bash at the end of May 2003.
History of the Amber Room
- A Brief History of the Amber Room | World History | Smithsonian Magazine
Dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World,"
The Amber room
- Video -- Mystery of the Amber Room -- National Geographic
Many of the treasures stolen by the Nazis were never recovered. Among the most valuable is the priceless Amber Room...will it ever turn up?