- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Treasure hunters in Germany say they have located a large quantity of gold looted by the Nazis and think they are close to solving one of the most enduring mysteries of World War II —the whereabouts of the fabled Amber Room, the 18th-century chamber decoration Germany stole from the Soviet Union in 1941.

A team led by a member of the German Parliament found an underground vault last week in the German village of Deutschneudorf in the Ore Mountains near the border with the Czech Republic and says it has pinpointed 2 tons of gold with the help of electromagnetic pulse measurements.

“We have not entered the vault yet because we think it may have been booby-trapped. We don’t want any mines to blow up, and we need expert help,” Deutschneudorf Mayor Heinz-Peter Haustein told The Washington Times.

AmberRoomMap.jpgMr. Haustein, who is also a member of parliament for the opposition Free Democrat Party, has been searching for an underground vault containing looted Nazi treasures in the Ore Mountains for the past 10 years.

He says he has received numerous eyewitness accounts from an old mining region of valuables being brought there in trucks and by train to be hidden underground in the final months of World War II.

Mr. Haustein, 53, said he was “well over 90 percent certain” that the chamber was part of an underground labyrinth of storage rooms that contains the Amber Room, probably packed into crates.

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

“There was a note written next to the coordinates that the site contained Nazi Party gold in [37 pound] bars. If the gold is there, the Amber Room will be, too,” Mr. Haustein said.

“This is the place where the Nazis brought valuables by the truckload and trainload throughout the spring of 1945. I knew it was around here; I just never knew the exact location.”

“The strange thing is that I dug at exactly this spot a year ago. I just didn’t dig far enough, and we didn’t conduct these electromagnetic measurements at the time.”

Mr. Haustein said he had received assurances from regional authorities that he would get explosives experts and mining engineers to help with the excavation. He said it probably would take several weeks to secure the site.

Finding the Amber Room, described by some as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” would be a sensation in Europe because it has become the stuff of legend ever since it disappeared in the chaos of the final months of the war.

The Amber Room, made of amber panels backed with gold leaf, was created by German and Russian craftsmen in the early 18th century and given by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I to his Russian ally, Czar Peter the Great, in 1716.

It was exhibited in the Catherine Palace near what is now St Petersburg.

In October 1941, four months after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Germans disassembled it and brought it to East Prussia, to Konigsberg now the Russian enclave of Alining.

Part of it was exhibited in Konigsberg Castle during the war before it disappeared in 1945.

There have been hundreds of theories about its fate. Some historians claim it was destroyed in bombing raids on Konigsberg, others that it was lost at sea.

Over the years, various searches have failed to uncover it.

Mr. Haustein has spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money on the hunt for the Amber Room and used heavy digging equipment last week to get close enough to the vault to be able to use electromagnetic pulse measurements.

He says if he finds it, the treasure will belong to the German government as legal successor to the Third Reich.

“It would be good if the government could hand it over to the Russians without preconditions and if the Russians could then hand over the art they looted from Germany. That would be a sign of national reconciliation. That’s my goal,” Mr. Haustein said.

A painstakingly reconstructed replica of the Amber Room, partly financed by donations from Germany, was opened in the St. Petersburg palace in 2003 by President Vladimir Putin.

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