World War II ended nearly 76 years ago, but elements remain unresolved to this day. One that is wrapped in mystery, conspiracy, hated and frustration is the hunt for gold, artwork and other treasures the Nazis looted, stored and allegedly hid for safekeeping until the war was over. One famous hoard was the contents of the Amber Room – an ornate chamber decorated with gold and amber that was taken from the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, stored in Königsberg and never seen again. There have been many theories and dead ends, but two recent discoveries have resulted in two different searches now underway – one in a sunken Nazi warship and another in tunnels under a former bunker in northeast Poland. Will one of these end the mystery? Which one? Place your bets now.
“At the moment, based on how the entrances are spaced out, it looks like one of the tunnels is about 50 metres long, but it could be longer. Some of them have been filled in, perhaps in order to hide them, so we will have to remove a lot of material before we can see what is inside them.”
Bartlomiej Plebanczyk, who works for the Mamerki museum bunker complex now above the bunker, has been down this road/tunnel before. A previous search of a different tunnel with easier access came up empty, but he believes this could be the winner because it’s sealed with concrete. Because it requires destruction, Plebanczyk has been held up for two years until he received proper permission from the Polish government. That has finally been obtained and careful penetration of the concrete seal guarding the tunnel will begin this month.
Careful but speedy penetration, because Plebanczyk is competing with the other search for the Amber Room taking place off the coast of Gdansk where the wreck of the German steamer Karlsruhe, which was sunk by the Royal Navy’s HMS Truant in 1945, was discovered last September. In Operation Hannibal, 360 tons of goods from what was then the city of Koenigsberg were loaded onto the Karlsruhe to be taken across the Baltic Sea for parts unknown. The operation was ended quickly by the HMS Truant, but the hunt for the ship took 75 years. During searches immediately after the discovery, cameras saw non-military crates and what looked like picture frames, rotting canvases and other signs the cargo could have been taken from museums. Tomasz Stachura from the Baltictech diving group told the Daily Mail 12 divers began a 10-day mission to the ship at the end of May. Unfortunately, these are archeological divers who can “only officially dive to 130 ft, but the ship is over 260 ft down.” Military divers would be allowed to that depth but Tomasz says “it could cost millions.” Is that a worthwhile expense in these economic times?
Are the contents of the Amber Room in a sealed bunker tunnel in Mamerki? In a sunken ship at the bottom of the Baltic? Both? Neither? Somewhere else? The Amber Room was often called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and estimates put its value today – even after spending 75 years underwater or in a musty tunnel – at $142 million to over $500 million. Because of the value, the fight over who owns it and the tremendous interest in all things WWII and Nazi, this hunt will continue in some form until the mystery is solved.