The remains of German World War II steamer Karlsruhe, found in the seabed off the coast of Poland by Baltictech divers in late September 2020, may house more than the typical Nazi artifacts. It could contain the jewel-encrusted panels of Russia's legendary Amber Room. Often called the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the chamber was last seen in Königsberg, Germany — present-day Kaliningrad, Russia — before it vanished into thin air in 1945.
“We have been looking for the wreckage since last year when we realized there could be the most interesting, undiscovered story lying at the bottom of the Baltic Sea,” Baltictech diver Tomasz Stachura said in a statement.
The Karlsruhe sailed from Königsberg on April 11, 1945, carrying 1,083 passengers and hundreds of tons of cargo. The massive vessel was part of Operation Hannibal, one of the largest sea evacuations in history. It was organized to rescue Nazi troops and civilians in Prussia and Poland from the Soviet military and ferry them to Germany and Nazi-occupied Denmark.
While many of the rescue ships made it safely to their destination, the Karlsruhe was not among them. Just two days after its departure, the ship was bombed by Soviet airplanes a few miles away from the shores of Poland, where it lay undisturbed until its recent discovery.
While exploring the wreckage, the divers found a treasure trove of pristinely-preserved artifacts, including WWII German military vehicles, porcelain, and, most intriguing of all— sealed crates. The Baltictech team speculates the wooden chests may be housing the long-lost Amber Room!
The 590-square-foot room, covered with the namesake amber from floor to ceiling and embellished with jewels and gold leaves, was created in 1701 for King Frederick William's Berlin City Palace. In 1716, the Prussian monarch gifted the room to Tsar Peter I of Russia, who installed it in the Catherine Palace built for his second wife, Catherine I.
In 1941, Nazi soldiers dismantled the room's panels and shipped them to the Königsberg Castle in the hopes of reconstructing the magnificent room again as part of a museum to display Germany’s wartime art and archaeological loot. However, before that could happen, the city came under severe attack from British and Russian forces, and the chamber was never seen again. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to find the intricately-carved panels, which are estimated to be worth over $200 million today. However, they have all been unsuccessful.
“We don’t want to get excited, but if the Germans were to take the Amber Chamber across the Baltic Sea, then Karlsruhe Steamer was their last chance,” the Baltictech team expressed on Facebook.
While the thrilling theory certainly sounds plausible, the mystery of the missing Amber Room will remain unsolved - at least for now. That's because there are currently no plans to excavate the chests. But that may change soon, so stay tuned!
Resources: arstechnica.com, Balitech, CNN.com