View Full Version : Hunt on for Tsars' Amber Room

March 30th, 2003, 01:02 AM
Sat 29 Mar 2003
Hunt on for Tsars' Amber Room

CRAFTED entirely out of amber, gold and precious stones, it was a masterpiece of baroque art and widely regarded as the world’s most important art treasure.

When its 565 candles were lit, the famous Amber Room was said to glow a fiery gold.

Looted by the Nazis , its whereabouts have been a mystery since the dying days of the Second World War.

But now a new German investigation believes it has found where the treasure, worth £120 million today, lies - in abandoned mine workings in the former East Germany.

One of the few facts all historians seem to agree on is that soon after it was seized, the Prussian count Sommes Laubach, the Germans’ "art protection officer" and holder of a degree in art history, supervised the room’s transport to Königsberg Castle.

But in January 1945, after air raids and a savage ground assault on the city, the room was lost.

Through interviews and historical records, a German TV documentary team making a programme has concentrated on the actions of Albert Popp, a brigadier with the Nazi flying corps before the Second World War. He was the nephew of Martin Mutschmann, the Gauleiter of Saxony.

Based on archive material and interviews with bit players in the drama of the fall of Königsberg, the programme alleges the Amber Room was moved by Popp, on the orders of his uncle, to old mine workings near Elsterberg, not far from Chemnitz.

The programme on ZDF TV said archive searches refer to an underground storage area called "Eagle 5". Given that the bulk of the booty looted for Adolf Hitler’s planned museum of world culture was found in salt mines in Austria, the Nazis could well have transported the Amber Room 500 miles from Königsberg to a locale deep inside the crumbling reich.

Christoph Hoeffermann, a Berlin estate agent who is a keen enthusiast of the Amber Room hunt, believes this is the most likely explanation for its disappearance. Having spent some £30,000 looking for it, he said: "I am a believer in the Popp theory and I am glad it is getting an airing on TV.

"Popp had the means, the connections and the wherewithal to get the Amber Room moved. Unfortunately he is dead and we can’t ask him. But we can have one last concerted effort at trying to find this most beguiling of artworks."

He and others have written to Elsterberg authorities, seeking assistance in locating old coal workings. The hills around Elsterberg and other towns in the region are speckled with abandoned workings: the question is where to start looking.

The programme comes just two months before a German-financed copy of the room is to open in St Petersburg.

Although missing since the war, the 11ft-square monument still holds a fascination. It was presented to Peter the Great in 1716 by the King of Prussia. Later, Catherine the Great commissioned a new generation of craftsmen to embellish the room and moved it from the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to her new summer abode in Tsarskoye Selo, outside the city.

"When the work was finished, in 1770, 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."

After the war, the Amber Room became central Europe's El Dorado, a quest that enthralled the wealthy and the poor alike.

The Maigret author Georges Simenon founded the Amber Room Club to track it down once and for all. Everyone had a different theory of what might have befallen the work. The German official in charge of the amber shipment said the crates were in a castle that burned down in an air raid.

A Soviet investigator found a charred fragment from the room.

Others think the room sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a torpedoed steamer used by the Nazis, or that it was hacked up by Red Army troops and sent home like sticks of rock as souvenirs of their conquest.

People such as Hoeffermann who believe the Amber Room still exists are determined to follow the new lead.

They are heartened by the comments of Vera Bruyussova, the widow of a noted Soviet archaeologist charged to look for the treasure.

She revealed that her husband, Alexander, wrote a memo to the Soviet leadership in 1955 stating: "I do not believe that the treasure is lost."

Like all the others captivated by it, however, he could not say where it was.

This article:


Bennie B
March 31st, 2003, 09:04 PM
May I suggest that the investigators try hunting on e-bay?

October 20th, 2004, 10:30 PM

In 1979 the government decided to reconstruct this unique interior in Tzarskoje Selo. By now the architectural decoration of the room is reconstructed completely. The plafond painted according to a sketch by an unknown West --European artist, was executed by a brigade of artists under the supervision of Y. Kazakov. The inlaid floor was made from various kinds of coloured wood, according to the pattern designed by the architect V. Neelov and by skilled parquet masters led by E. Kudryashov. The moldered models for carved decoration of the Room was executed by sculptors-modelers L. Schvetskaya and E. Anokhina. The masterly work of reconstruction of the sophisticated wooden carved decor of an interior was carried out by a brigade of the restorers under supervision of A. Kochuev, and gilding works -- by craftsmen led by N. Fomicheva.

Today the Tzarskoje Selo Amber Workshop has reconstructed about 45% of the amber decor of the Amber Room. The following parts are made completely: the bottom tier, the console table, and two of Florentine mosaics - "Sight " and "Touch and Smell". The original of the latter was found in Germany in 1997 . This circumstance provided a unique opportunity to compare the mosaic, reconstructed by the modern craftsmen, with its original, and to estimate reliability of reproduction and degree of restoration skills. The examination made by the domestic and German experts came to a conclusion that the copy of the mosaic is made on highest art and technological level. Actually the restoration practice does not know more objective criterion of estimation of the works carried out, than comparison of a copy with the original.

On April 10, 2000 the session of experts approved the amber panel (№9) of the Northern wall with the mark "excellent". The session took place in the State Museum Reserve "Tzarskoje Selo". One more amber panel (№7) is ready and is situated in the workshop. The next Florentine mosaic "Sound" as well as the amber panel №12 and one over door panel are being completed now.

Currently the reconstructed amber panel (№9) and the Florentine mosaics "Sight" and "Touch and Smell" are on display in the Amber Room of the Catherine Palace.


The Amber Room in Catherine's Palace. August 2004.