Raiders of the lost Amber Room

Lined with six tonnes of amber and Prussian mosaics, the long-sought-after Amber Room may just have been located in WWII German bunkers in the abandoned north-eastern Polish village of Mamerki after many a failed attempt.

A hidden entrance has been found by one of 30 WWII bunkers that constitute the Nazi-German Army Land Forces HQ (OKH), currently the site of the WWII Museum in Mamerki. Upon a hasty retreat before the Red Army in 1945, German forces failed to demolish the structures constructed over an area of approximately 200 hectares.

A number of hypotheses have since emerged regarding the objects that the retreating Germans might have left behind. The probability that the long-lost Amber Room might be just one of them exists, as when Germans entered the Tsarskoye Selo in Russia in 1941, they removed the room from its original place in the palace and transported it to Königsberg on the Baltic, now Kaliningrad, Russia. Withdrawing from the Red Army, the Wehrmacht might have secured the room in its HQ in Mamerki.

“We can easily talk about a breakthrough," said Bartłomiej Plebczyński of the WWII Museum, adding that “thanks to professional ground-penetrating radar, we were able to specify the location of an underground tunnel. After removing soil from the identified area, we indeed found a hatch that almost certainly has not been opened since the war.”

The depth of the tunnel is not yet known but several facts indicate that the entrance to the tunnel was intentionally covered up with a thick layer of soil.

“Several dozen years have passed since the entrance was buried. A tree has grown on the original 1.5x1.5 square meter lid of the tunnel hatch since [the Germans retreated],” said Mr Plebańczyk, adding that “in order to open the hatch we need to remove the soil and cut down the tree blocking the lid.”

Lifting the 100 kg lid will not be an easy task. However, once the lid and the tree are removed, the insides of the tunnel will be revealed and, possibly, the Amber Room rediscovered. A search for the lost chamber was conducted close to the tunnel in 2016-2017 but with little success.

Even if the Amber Room is not inside the tunnel or wherever it leads to, the Wehrmacht HQ was where 40 generals and around 1,500 German troops were stationed, therefore German WWII army artefacts are likely to be found.

Mr Plebańczyk expressed his hope that legal formalities will be accomplished and that the tunnel will be opened by the end of June.

Any artefacts found when the tunnel is explored will be handed over to Polish state museums.

The Amber Room was created in Germany on the order of the Prussian King Frederick William I. In 1715, it was presented as a gift to the Russian Tsar Peter the Great. Forty years later, it was moved to the imperial palace in Tsarskoye Selo, wherefrom it was removed by German troops in 1941. The room was transported to Königsberg on the Baltic, now Kaliningrad, Russia. From then on, the room vanished without a trace.