Tsar's missing art treasure that was looted and hidden by Nazis is now 'found'

Daily Mail 20 February 2008
By Julian Gavaghan

Archeologists claim they have found one of the world's greatest missing art treasures after it was reportedly hidden by the Nazis in the dying days of the war.  

A team in Germany say they located the Russian Tsar's Amber Room after discovering two tonnes of gold in a man-made cavern 60ft undergound.

The chamber - often described as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" - has alluded seaches by the KGB, Stasi and many others in the 63 years since it went missing.

But MP Heinz-Peter Haustein, who has led a decade-long dig in the Ore Mountain region near the Czech border today said he is confident they have finally found the room valued at £200million.

"I'm well over 90 percent sure we have found the Amber Room," he said after electromagnetic tests revealed the cavern.

"The chamber is likely to be part of a labyrinth of storage rooms that the Nazis built here."

Mr Haustein, 53, who is also the mayor of Deutschneudorf, near where he claims the treasure is, added: "I knew it was in this area. I just never knew exactly where."

The Amber Room - consisting of 100,000 pieces of carved amber panelling covering 592 square feet was commissioned by Frederick I of Prussia in 1701 and later presented to the Russian Tsar Peter the Great.

It decorated the Catherine Palace, near St Petersburg, until September 1941 when invading German troops carried it off to Königsberg in East Prussia (now the Russian city of Kaliningrad).

But, when towards the end of the war, the Soviet Army recaptured the city, all traces of the Amber Room had vanished. And the mystery begun.

Mr Haustein has long been convinced the treasure was buried somewhere near a long-abandoned railway station.

"A friend told me before he died that the Nazis sent truckloads and trainloads of valuables to this area throughout the spring of 1945," he told German magazine Der Spiegel.

He said the coordinates for the chamber had come from fellow treasure hunter Christian Hanisch, who had found them when he was going through the documents of his father, a Luftwaffe signaller, after he died in October.

"There was a note written next to the coordinates that the site contained Nazi party gold in 12-kilo bars. If the gold is there, the Amber Room will be too," he said.

He said he had dug in exactly the same spot a year ago but had not conducted any electromagnetic tests that time.

However, he said it would probably take him until Easter to get into the chamber because it may contain booby traps and has to be secured by explosives experts and engineers.

"This has got too risky for us to do it alone," Mr Haustein, who has spent tens of thousands of pounds on the search, explained.

He has now persuaded regional authorities to help with the excavation.
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