A World War II shipwreck has been currently sighted off the coast of Poland. It is assumed to have held the broken pieces of the Amber Room, a Russian treasure taken bounty by the Nazis in 1945.
The remains of the German steamship Karlsruhe has been located at 88 meters (290 feet) below the surface of the Baltic Sea and a few dozen kilometres north of Ustka, the resort town of Poland. Despite being on the bottom for 75 years, it continues to maintain its excellent shape according to the divers’ team of 10 from Baltictech who spotted the wreck in June and announced its discovery in early October. It seemed to be almost intact as per the official version of Baltictech diver Tomasz Stachura.
On April 1945, the Karlsruhe sailed from Königsberg ferrying hundreds of tons of cargo and 1,083 passengers for evacuating ahead of a Soviet military attack into Prussia and Poland. Karlsruhe and the other ally ships were part of Operation Hannibal, considered one of the greatest evacuations by the sea in history. The Germans combined warships, merchant’s vessels, and fishing boats to carry about 350,000 Nazi troops and 800,000 civilians across the Baltic Sea to Germany and Nazi-occupied Denmark.
Majority of the 150 troops and 913 civilians aboard the Karlsruhe couldn’t attain success. On April 13, Soviet aircraft blasted the convoy, and it took just three minutes for Karlsruhe to sink. The ally ships managed to pull out merely 113 survivors from sinking.
Baltictech divers started their search operation in 2019, with the help of surviving documents from both sides of the war to facilitate their search. The odd miscellany of cargo spotted by the divers in the wreck underscores the mixed nature of the German evacuation. According to Stachura, they figured out military vehicles, porcelain, and many crates with unknown contents. The crates are especially rare. There is least possibility that they could grab any remains of the Amber Room, one of the greatest treasures looted by the Nazis looted during World War II.
Despite a three-year-long military operation that took approximately 2 million civilian lives, Nazis couldn’t capture St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad). In 1941, they almost managed to capture the Catherine Palace, 30km (19 miles) south of the city. Soviet curators tried their best to remove and hide the amber and panels before the Nazi forces arrived.
The Germany Army Group North couldn’t be fooled by the curators’ last-ditch effort to conceal the amber panels behind wallpaper. They dismantled the panels within about 36 hours and transported them to Königsberg, where the Nazi regime wanted to reconstruct the Amber Room and put it for an exhibition.
The find of Karlsruhe is amazing in its own right, with or without the Amber Room. It’s a time capsule of Germany’s panic-stricken collapse during the last days of World War II when the Nazi regime had started accepting that it was losing ground. A few hundred wartime casualties are also resting there forever.