The raw material
Amber developed more than 50 million years ago from the
resin of giant needle forests, which were flooded later on by the
Baltic Sea. The resin of the Amber Pine flowed for thousands of
generations into the ground forming a layer together with other dead
plants, which has been conserved for millions of years. Storms recover
these layers and bring the Amber to shore. Ocean currents and conditions
of the ground formed large deposits of Amber,
like for example in the Samland, where Amber is not only being
collected at the beach, but also dug out of the ground. Like with
coal, large layers of sand are removed to get access to the burried
The largest occurences are at the Baltic Sea, but also in the Dominican Republic, in
Central America, Africa, Greece and even inside some countries. The
layers below coal offer the best chances of finding Amber.
The Amber museum in Ribnitz-Damgarten is a proud owner of a piece with 22 ounces and a private collector on the island of Rügen owns a piece weighing 36 ounces. The largest piece ever found is owned by the Berlin Museum of Nature. Its weight is about 22 pounds and it is in raw condition, which is why many visitors to the museum do not even pay enough attention ot it. Not only its colour but also something else remains hidden to the visitor.
Phonecians, Greek, Romans, Vikings, Germans, Baltics and Slavic peoples considered Amber to be "tears of the sun" or "urin of the gods". Later, it was thought to be petrified honey or hardened oil. It is not known exactly if Romans or Russians were the first to identify Amber as hardened resin. Anyway, Amber was very pupular because of its golden shine, its rare occurence and also its softness.
Amber has been used as artistic material, as money and
as exchange material and until the 18. century even as medicine. One
mixed it with oil and creme or wore a piece as a necklace protecting
one against bad spirits and illness.
Amber was said to heal because of a physical condition. Amber
becomes magnetic, if one rubs it against the clothes, which was
considered to be "supernatural".
This thought possibly was influenced by the fact that the long existing Amber depots were still filled with the most exclusive stones and that gaining Amber at the Baltic Sea was supposed to increase due to the fact of using mining methods.
In 1701 he gave the order to the Dänish Amber
Gottfried Wolffram to create a giant Amber wall cover for a galery of
the castle in Berlin- Charlottenburg. 1707, when most of the Amber wall
cover was finished already, the task had been transfered to the Amber
masters Ernst Schacht and Gottfried Turow from Danzig. The Amber wall
cover had been used before 1712 to cover a room in the Berlin city
castle. Zar Peter I. is said to have admired the room, when he
visited Friedrich I. in 1712 on the way to his troups in
Pommern to try to convince Friedrich to fight with him against the
When Friedrich I. died in 1715, his 25-year-old son Friedrich Wilhelm I. got to reign, who compared to his father was not an art lover. With the help of the wealth of his father with waning support for art and science and through his unscrupelous taking advantage of the population, he created an armee double the size of his fathers. He got the nickname "Soldier King". One of the first pieces of art being sold to emphasize the military was the Amber Room. When Friedrich Wilhelm I. visited Zar Peter I. in 1717 to convince him to work together getting rid of the Swedish in Vorpommern, he was reminded of the great interest, that Peter I. had in the Amber Room. And when the alliance Prussia-Russia finally was set up, Peter I. informed his wife in a letter of January 17, 1717 that he had received an Amber artwork as a gift.
The original Amber Room had 10 socket pieces each about 3 feet tall and as wide as the corresponding wall pieces. There have been 12 wall pieces each 13 feet tall resulting in a total height of 16 feet. The width of the wall and socket pieces was between 3 feet and 5 feet. If put together, it was enough to cover a wall of 50 feet in length and 16 feet in height. The room in the Winter Palais in Zarskoje Selo was much larger. It measured 33 feet by 33 feet equaling 196 feet total wall length. Also, the room was 20 feet tall and the wall cover only 16 feet tall. Rastrelli and his team therefor added aditional pieces to the room in such an artistic style that a stay in the room was considered to be the highest pleasure and Catharine II. had chosen it as her favourite room. Rastrelli ordered 24 large mirrors in Venice, of which 2 each bordered the 12 Amber panels. The socket pieces of the mirrors have been created out of Amber as well. The Amber Room had 3 doors. Above the main door, there was a Supraporte out of Amber and above the other 2 doors, the Supraportes have been wooden and covered with gold. The white doors had also golden wooden decorations. The floor was parquet using finest materials. A beautiful painting covered the ceiling.
The Amber Room existed in this final form from 1763
and only a few had the pleasure to be able to see it. The entire
decoration of the Amber Room left a very warm inviting sensation to the
visitor, no matter if under sunlight or artificial light. Most likely
the Amber Room reminded one of marble, but without the cold impression
of marble. The Amber Room was more precious than the most fancy wooden
cover. When the daylight was shining through the wide windows, it
replaced hundreds of lighting candles and created thousands of
reflections in the mirrors. This connection of light and Amber gave the
Amber Room in the Cathrine Palais its special appearance. This light
made the multicoloured Amber walls shine more beautiful than gold and
created a deeply lasting impression never forgotten by any visitor.
On June 22, 1941 Hitler Germany invaded Russia. A giant
machinery of war was started. The many organisations involved in the war
also contained several units specialised in cultural and art treasures
with many years of experience in looting. Their leaders, art scientists
most of the time, had carefully planned the largest and
most perfect plundering of Russia, just like the military divisions.
Even before the war started, all headquarters of the Wehrmacht
had been focused on all valuable objects of art and culture to
satisfy the needs of the Hitler regime.
Since July 20, 1941, Hitler was interested in the artwork to be found in Russia. In the fight for life or death, the Russian
defenders did not have the chance to protect the countless treasures in
the castles and museums near
Leningrad. Every man and every method of transport was needed for
defense. The countless palaces near Leningrad have been home to a giant
amount of artwork. To remove them, not some single train wagons, but
many complete trains would have been needed.
For example Petrodworez (Peterhof) hosted 34,214 paintings, art works
and sculptures as well as 11,700 most valuable books, when the German
troups occupied the city. Only some of the most valuable items could be
removed to the Eremitage in Leningrad and some others had been buried
in the last minute.
An eyewitness reports: "The castle was almost not damaged. Only one hit had caused some damage. The Russians could not finish evacuating all art work. Floors had been covered with sand and chinese porcelan vases had been filled with water. The Germans did not care about the furniture of the castle and you could see them sleeping with dirty boots on the valuable furniture. Finally I got to the Amber Room. Walls had been covered with thick paper. I saw two soldiers removing the paper from the wall. They uncovered shining Amber artwork, the frame of a picture. When they took their rifles to break souveniers out of the wall, I stopped them. The next day, the Amber Room looked more damaged. Much paper had been removed and pieces had been broken of."
During this time already, members of art looting
squads appeared to register some artwork, but could not start transporting
them because they needed the permit of the Oberbefehlshaber of the 18.
Army, which was not to happen during the heavy fighting.
In the diary of the 18. Armee we find the following text
29, 1941, 4pm: "Rittmeister
Graf Solms, from the O.K.W. ordered to list all art work in the
castles of the Zar, is asking for the protection of the Castle
Puschkin, which is slightly damaged and endangered by careless troups. L. A. K.
gets the order for that protection. A. Nachsch. F. offers helpers and
truck to save some of the most valuable art work under command of Rittm. Graf Solms.
The exact date was found in the diary of the 50. Armeekorps. For the
time between September 18, 1941 until May 7, 1942 we found the following
Oct. 16 Rittmeister Dr. Graf Solms and Hauptmann Dr. Poensgen
leave Stab Gen. Kdo. L. A. K.
Fact is, the Amber Room was stolen with the destination Königsberg. Dr. Alfred Rohdes
hint to the looters under the command of Generaloberst Küchler
was understood and finalized. Together with the Amber Room, which was
packed in 27
boxes, much more artwork from the Catharine-Palais had been brought
to Königsberg on 18 trucks, which is what he gleaned from the reports.
The Amber Room had been brought to Königsberg,
because it was made there. This is why Dr. Rohde writes in one of his articles,
that the Amber Room "returned to its true home, the only origin
of the Amber". Rhode continues in his report that "the Amber
Room had been given to the art collections of Königsberg by the Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlösser
und Gärten (Direktor Dr. Gall)". The director of the
Staatlichen Schlösser und Gärten, Dr. phil. Ernst Gall did
not answer any questions regarding the Amber Room until he died in
Germany in 1958.
Even before the Amber Room could be remounted in Königsberg, Rhode took some of the wall covers and exhibited them in the rooms of the art collection Königsberg. The local newspaper wrote a report on November 13, 1941 where it says that the Amber Room is an enrichment of world famous pieces for the art collection". In the mean time, people removed a wall in the third floor of the castle to create a room similar to the room in Puschkin. It was the room next to the Lovis-Corinth-Room with the number 37. However, the room in Königsberg was rectangular instead of square so they had to remove one wall cover of the two-oposite sides. Other changes occured because the parquet and some candle holders and other parts were missing. The Amber Room displayed by the Nazis in Königsberg was not the artwork of Puschkin anymore but it had not lost any of its original shine and mystery.
Mrs. Amm, a history teacher from Berlin and an eye
witness as well reports: "I studied in Königsberg from 1939 untill 1945
and was friends with Lotti, the daughter of Dr. Rohde. Often, I was a
guest for lunch. Dr. Rohde told stories about the Amber Room in the
castle of Königsberger and since I was interested in art, he
promised to show it to me one day, which is what he did. Then the attacks
of August 1944 occured and Königsberg
was in ruins. After the second night of bombing I went to downtown to
look for relatives and friends. Around lunchtime I arrived at the
castle and met Dr. Rohde. He looked totally confused and his face was
white. We greeted each other and my first question was: "What
happened to the Amber Room?"
His answer: "Everything destroyed". He took me into unknown cellars of the castle where I saw something like honey with burned
wooden pieces in between. Later on, we never ever spoke about the Amber
1. the statement of the inspector of the castle, Mr. Henkensiefken.
He wrote a diary where it says that the Amber Room had been removed
and packed after a fire in the castle in February 1944. It has been
brought to the cellars where he saw it undamaged after the destruction
of the castle in
August 1944 when he had to write a report about the castles condition.
3. Mrs. Amm would have never asked Dr. Rhode at first: "What happened to the Amber Room?" After the heavy bomb attack, she would have asked for the health of the family and her friend for sure.
4. Alfred Rhodes own statements. There were some letters
left by him from the time of
September 1944 until January 1945. In a letter of Dr.
Rhode from September 2, 1944 he wrote: "please tell Director Mr. Gall
that the Amber Room has not been damaged, except six socket parts."
The Amber Room, Amber parts or iron parts holding some elements together, never have been found during the investigation... the Amber Room did not burn. It was last seen in spring of 1944 in Königsberg or still was there in the beginning of September 1944, if the letters of Dr. Rhodes count as evidence. Since this time, the trace has been lost .....
The art robbers of the Nazireich took their knowledge to the grave!
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