The search for one of WWII & # 39; s greatest missing treasures – an Amber Room worth £ 250 million – could soon be over, while treasure hunters say it might be in a secret tunnel they found in northeastern Poland.
The room, built for the Russian tsar Peter the Great in the 18th century and packed with amber, gold and precious jewels, was looted by the Nazis in 1941 and its contents mysteriously disappeared at the end of the WWII.
For years, hunters have been searching Europe for the missing treasure without success.
But now the bosses in the Mamerki Bunker Museum near the town of Wegorzewo say it can be hidden in a secret tunnel after finding a hidden entrance using georadar.
Discovery: Treasure Hunters hope that this part (left) can lead them to the long-lost Amber Room that was looted by the Nazis in 1941. The depicted right is an artist's impression of how the hatch – allegedly undisturbed since 1945 – could lead to an underground tunnel
Breakthrough? This diagram shows how the hatch could lead to an underground shaft and tunnel that researchers hope can lead to the Amber Room
Bartlomiej Plebanczyk of the museum said: & We can categorically say that we have made a breakthrough in the search.
& # 39; Thanks to the use of a professional georadar, we were able to determine the location of an underground tunnel.
& # 39; After digging up the location indicated by the device, we actually found a hatch that has almost certainly not been opened since the war. & # 39;
He continued: & # 39; Until the tree is cut down, there is no physical possibility to open the entrance. The presence of a tribe proves that no one has opened the manhole in recent decades. & # 39;
Treasure hunters also need permission from the government before they can dig, but the museum hopes this will be granted before the end of the month.
It has been rumored for a long time that the site, which used to be the eastern headquarters of the German army and close to Hitler & # 39; s notorious Wolf & # 39; s Lair, his first military headquarters of the Eastern Front, was home to looted treasures, including the Amber Chamber.
The Amber Room (depicted in Russia in 1917), which was full of amber, gold and precious jewels, was looted by the Nazis in 1941 and its contents mysteriously disappeared in 1945
The remains of the Amber Room after it was seized by the Nazis, who had packed the orange panels in 27 boxes and transferred them to Germany, where they disappeared and have not been seen since.
The Nazis plundered the room during their ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Upon their arrival at the White Palace of Catherine the Great near St. Petersburg, they dismantled the room, put the precious contents on a train to the castle of Koenigsberg, in what was then East Prussia, now only two hours from the bunker.
In January 1945 it disappeared mysteriously after air strikes and a fierce ground attack on the city.
While some claimed it had been destroyed by bombs, others suggested that the Nazis had brought it to safety.
Some alleged witnesses reported that 40 cars had moved away from the castle under the guise of secrecy after the city had fallen into the hands of the Red Army.
The search has been ongoing since then and bunker bosses now think they could have found it.
Plebanczyk said: & Dozens of years have passed since the entrance was buried. At that moment a tree has grown on the original plate of 1.5 x 1.5 m, which closes the entrance.
In 2003, Russia unveiled a reconstructed Amber Room made by Russian craftsmen with donations from Germany (photo)
Gift: The room was built for the Russian tsar Peter the Great in the 18th century and was full of amber, gold and precious jewels. It was a gift from Friedrich-Wilhelm I of Prussia
& # 39; To open the manhole to the tunnel, it is necessary to remove the ground and cut down the tree that is blocking the plate. & # 39;
The room was initially a gift for the Russian tsar Peter the Great (photo)
He added that even if the tunnel does not lead to the Amber Chamber, it is possible to find historically valuable documents and more.
The original room was presented to Peter the Great in 1716 by the King of Prussia.
Catherine the Great later ordered a new generation of artisans to decorate the room and move it from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to her new summer residence in Tsarskoye Selo, outside the city.
& # 39; When the work was finished, in 1770, the room was dazzling & # 39 ;, wrote art historians Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorii Kozlov.
& # 39; It was lit by 565 candles whose light was reflected in the warm golden surface of the amber and sparkled in the mirrors, gilding and mosaics. & # 39;
In 2003, Russia unveiled a reconstructed Amber Room near St. Petersburg, made by Russian artisans with donations from Germany.
Victims of war: Residents of Leningrad (now St Petersburg) flee after a German bomb attack in the winter of 1941 when the Nazis seized the Amber Room during their attack on the city
The story of the disappeared Amber Room looted by the Nazis
The Amber Room was originally supposed to be a succulent cabinet, a gift from Friedrich-Wilhelm I of Prussia to Peter the Great, who admired the work during a visit to his castle in 1716.
But instead of a cupboard, it was decided to use the panels as wall coverings, surrounded with gilt wood carvings, mirrors and even more orange panels.
The room consisted of panels with six tons of amber resin, lasted ten years, and was estimated at £ 250 million in today's money.
The sixteen-meter jigsaw puzzle panels are made from more than 100,000 perfectly fitting pieces of amber.
In 1755 it was moved to the Catherine Palace in Tsarkoe Selo, 17 miles south of the imperial Russian capital of St. Petersburg.
In 1941 the approaching Nazi army surrounded the city, then known as the Soviet name Leningrad. Tsarkoe Selo was one of the remote areas occupied by the Germans.
Russians tried to hide the walls behind wallpaper.
But the Nazis knew what was behind the everyday cover, and went around dismantling the room – a process that lasted 36 hours.
Believing that the Prussian gift was right for them, they packed the orange panels in 27 boxes and sent them to Germany.
But the contents of the room disappeared in 1945 and were no longer seen.
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