Sunday, December 26, 2004

Was the Amber Room burned by the Soviet Army in 1944?

Two British researchers, Catherine Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, recently published their book called 'The Amber Room: the Untold Story of the Greatest Hoax of the Twentieth Century'. They based their research on 12,000 documents in Germany and 26 boxes from St Petersburg in Russia, and reached the conclusion that the Amber Room was burned by accident by the Soviet army at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) before the end of WWII. This, of course, has been deeply rejected by the Russian press.

About six tons of extraordinary amber panels covered the walls of the legendary Amber Room in the Catharine Palace outside St Petersburg. It is perhaps the most valuable missing masterpiece in the world. Indeed, it was called by some the Eighth Wonder of the world. The panels were a gift from Frederick William of Prussia to Peter the Great and were admired by many visitors to the Catherine Palace.

Then, towards the end of the War it disappeared mysteriously.

Since then, all kinds of theories have been formulated to establish what happened to it - was it buried by the Nazi army, sunken in a lake, hidden in a mine shaft?

For those who wish they could have seen what the original looked like, an identical, amazing recreation of the Amber Room was finally unveiled in 2003 as part of celebrations for St Petersburg's 300th birthday.

I saw the exquisite, unfinished recreation when it was a work in progress in NYC in 1996, at the American Museum of Natural History. It was an exhibition called " In one corner, behind a glass pane, the public could see Craft Master Alexander Krylov carving the delicate pieces to match exactly the lines of those in the original, as depicted in a black and white photograph that was taken before the war.

My source for this was an article/interview by Moscow correspondent Emma Griffiths for Australian ABC's 'Correspondents Report' ( A cool investigative report, in my opinion.


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