There are few lost treasures more sought after by more people that those once in the so-called Amber Room – a chamber in the Catherine Palace near Saint Petersburg that was once the summer home of Russian tsars and appropriately decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors … until it was looted during World War II by the Nazi’s and taken to Königsberg – which was then a German port on the Baltic Sea but is now the Russian city of Kaliningrad -- where it disappeared. Recently, it was announced that divers had discovered the wreck of the Karlsruhe, a Nazi warship whose last known mission was during Operation Hannibal – the evacuation of more than a million German troops and civilians from East Prussia escape the Soviet army. Documents were discovered showing that the Karlsruhe’s last mission involved carrying cargo and 1,083 passengers, soldiers and crew “in a hurry” out of … you guessed it … Königsberg!
(Connect the dots here.)
“He added that locating the wreck "may provide groundbreaking information on the disappearance of the legendary Amber Room." - It was in Königsberg that the Amber Room was seen for the last time. From there, the steamboat "Karlsruhe" left on its last voyage with a large cargo - emphasized Tomasz Stachura.”
Tomasz Stachura, the Polish diver who led the team that found the wreck and has been examining the wreck (photos here), told Portal Stoczniowy that the Karlsruhe itself is in great shape for being sunk by Soviet planes on April 13, 1945 – the day after it left Königsberg – and resting vertically on the bottom ever since, but the cargo was not.
“However, the impact caused the entire load that was on the vessel to move forward and found itself in a great disorder: cars, boxes - everything is confused.”
What’s not “confused” to Stachura is the link to the Amber Room.
“Finding a German steamer and crates with contents unknown at the moment, resting on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, may be significant for the entire history.”
Obviously he would like to dive back to the wreck and begin removing the intact crates. There’s just one problem.
“He explained that the prospectors would like to continue exploring the wreckage, although it will be very difficult because it is located far from the shore and very deep. - We would love to explore the holds that are partially under the silt.”
It took 75 years to find the wreckage and two dives to confirm it is the Karlsruhe. There’s no doubt that the lure of finding “six tons of beautifully worked amber and Italian mosaics” will inspire and fund more dives and excavation expeditions to the wreck. Will they solve one of the greatest treasure hunts in history? If they do, who will get the amber? The Norwegians who first found the Karlsruhe? The Poles who identified it? The Germans who stole it? The Russians who lost it? Or the investors who fund the recovery and inevitably turn it into a television documentary series?
Connect the dots here.