The Lost Treasure of the Amber Room

A Professor's Perspective On Current Events

By Vejas Liulevicius, Ph.D., University of Tennessee
Hand-coloured photograph of the original Amber Room, 1931
(Image: Branson DeCou – Courtesy Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz/Public domain)

The Lost Treasure of the Amber Room, an update. 

This article originally premiered on Daily Mail.
Friedrich Wilhelm I 1713
King Friedrich Wilhelm I gifted the Amber room to Emperror Peter the Great of Russia in 1716 (Image: Samuel Theodor Gericke/Public domain)

What incredible images are evoked by the lost treasure of the Amber Room of the Tsars, looted and spirited away from Russia by the Nazis during World War II. Originally, in 1716, it was a breathtaking dynastic gift to seal an alliance, given by one epic monarch (King Friedrich Wilhelm I, “the Soldier King” of Prussia in northern Germany) to another (Emperor Peter the Great of Russia). It was a massive interior masterpiece of art in precious stone, made up of perfectly fitted fragments of ancient fossilized tree resin from the Baltic Sea. The palace room glowed with warmth and seemed to have captured prehistoric sunlight.

Once its trail was lost during the last stages of the brutal Second World War, it has remained a mystery for over 70 years. Most believe that the treasure was smashed to fragments by Allied bombers or by Soviet artillery as the Red Army closed in on the city of Königsberg on the Baltic where it had been stored. However, at regular intervals news is breathlessly announced that it may finally have been found, but disappointment always follows. This time, is the news real?

This article is part of our Professor’s Perspective series—a place for experts to share their views and opinions on current events.

Recently, the quest has shifted to Nordhausen in central Germany, where a secret Nazi camp using slave labor raced to build rocket superweapons. Could the dismantled treasure be secreted there? Documents and eyewitness testimony speak of highly clandestine transports ending up there as the Third Reich collapsed. We now must await results of the current investigation, to find out whether the Amber Room will again come to light. For now, the mystery still abides.

For more with Professor Liulevicius, check out “A History of Eastern Europe” Wondrium!