The Amber Room


Endless thread is supported by indeed. If you're hiring with indeed you can post a job in minutes set up screener questions and then zero in on your shortlist of qualified candidates using an online dashboard get started at indeed indeed dot com slash N._p._R.. PODCAST and by xfinity some things are hard to control other. Things are easy like you're in Home Wifi with xfinity x y you can set a Wifi curfew change your password and create user profiles all with the x Fi app another reason why xfinity is simple easy awesome go online call one eight hundred xfinity or visit a store to learn more more restrictions apply where my parents at boy Oh boy do we have a podcast suggestion for you guys circle round. It's a children's storytelling podcast that adapts folktales for modern audiences beloved loved by the very young and the young at heart like Ben. Oh true I would listen to it. Even if I wasn't a dad. That is how much fun it is this month. Circle Round has a special pop up series was recorded live with an all star cast cast and musicians from the Grammy Winning Boston Symphony Orchestra so subscribed to circle round wherever you get your podcasts and join the fun produced by the I lab at W._V._U.. You are Boston emory. You have seen the original Jurassic Park movie right dinosaurs eat man woman inherits the earth clever a girl so emory. You obviously remember that part in the movie where there's this little educational video for visitors to Jurassic Park explaining how dinosaurs get brought to life in modern times using D._N._a.. From ancient mosquito blood <hes> yes a movie within the movie very Meta sometimes after biting the mosquito would land on a branch of a tree and get stuck in the sun after a long time the trees have we'll get hard and become fossilized just like a dinosaur bone preserving the mosquito inside. That's how you get amber and a whole adventure park full of deadly asked Dyno's heck yeah also Jurassic Park Doc was my first understanding of the idea that fossilized Tree Sap Aka Ember is rare and valuable but I had no idea that it was this valuable amber in the fine was golden the bank this is Adrian Levy who is not talking about the Jurassic period. He's talking about Eighteenth Century Europe. Levy is Kinda like a journalist version of Indiana Jones and I live in London or though I worked around the world as an investigative journalist and producer Asia gathering photographs and documents in many different countries so I can put together large scale historic investigations which much like broken plates when you try and piece bits together to make the whole I already not like this guy. I like how serious he is about his work too because we're about to ask Adrian to tell the story of one of the greatest unsolved art mysteries supposedly unsolved mysteries of all time it is a mystery that begins with an artistic feet so massive and innovative it took up an entire room of a palace in fact it was the room a room of amber. It's legendary and it's missing. Uh I'm member Johnson I'm Ameri Silverton and you're listening to endless thread. The show featuring stories found in the vast ecosystem of online communities called read it. We're coming to you from W._B._U.. Are Boston's N._p._R.. Station today's episode assode frozen in amber so if you're into art history you've probably heard about the amber room but we heard about it through read it. It's one of those stories that gets posted over and over. It's an unresolved mystery. Today I learned into fully explain why it is perennially posted. I think we should stay with this amber conversation permanent also we should talk about Prussia <hes> which is like one of those things that as dumb American I have very little point of reference for but pressure get started in the fifteen hundreds it is this kingdom and it eventually becomes the German Empire it includes depending on when you're taking a snapshot got a whole Chunk of Poland plus. What is now Germany also chunk of Denmark look like a lot of European history from the Middle Ages and the early modern period it is complicated but Prussia is also a so called great power meaning it has global influence and that influence comes not just from military might but also from great wealth Adria Levy says literally tons of this wealth was amber wealth? It was a representation of Prussian might be used and bought what'd for a number of monarchic missions that needs to be run say wow I had no idea that amber was like a form of cash. I guess I think it would be fair to say that. The wealth of that state was underpins by the royal monopoly. Really remember which both demonstrating Mites but also shrewdness in the United States as as with gold it's fungible easy to trade limited in supply and its value only ever rose part part of this value comes from scarcity but also from mythology. I'm had mystique in these cultures in the Prussian culture especially because of its ability to catch the past there was also a rumor about it having coned charge around static quality all right. I feel like I'm in a crystal shop. In twenty nine thousand nine. You're not but <hes> definitely a similar vibe amber special properties maybe so how did these Russians get at their piles and piles of amber piles and piles of ancient forest bits underwater lychee what amber fishermen waiting into rough seas of the Baltic on huge lines and drowning running and skipping off a wintry see and by the flaked off the seabed and risen to the surface so extraordinarily difficult was it to gain large quantities that anyone who possessed such consists themselves became powerful. It's like a kind of de Beers idea with diamonds. I'm it's creating a cartel around and extremely precious commodity. This mystique of course is not lost lost on the first King of Prussia Frederick. I Frederick is this decorated military leader who rises to lead this new global power and global powers have to demonstrate how powerful they are which is how we get to an entire room of the Prussian palace constructed out of amber this gemstone that shows up an Itty bitty little pieces at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. That's the plan at least and the conception of it was that if you stepped into a room made up this substance that never never been used architecture before now own broaches or in jewelry are the kinds of jewelry that the effect would be like stepping into a time machine a room plastered with an ancient sap suspended in which are insects and pulse of leaves and that guy by many millions of years so I really extraordinarily utilization of this material. I love this idea like I think of time. Machines may be more than the average person but I always think of them. As fancy technological feats I never think of a time machine as a room constructed of gemstones with organic matter frozen inside of them for thousands of years what a beautiful thought a beautiful thought it and also a tall order. It's GonNa take years to build this one room and not just because of the detailed work required but because Frederick's basically asking for this really unique collaboration of architects sculptors jewellers years and even some chemists to build this thing it required enormous amounts of pooling of mines to work out how to make amber not brittle how to make it manageable how to shape it into panels and frames and then suspended <hes> behind gold leaf so that <hes> it would twinkle on by candle lights. The room starts being planned at the end of the sixteen ninety s and it's not really finished until over a decade later in seventeen eleven and then it's installed in the Berlin City Palace Louis which is the beginning of things getting weird for this enormous piece of artwork pretty quickly after it's installed the guy who ordered the thing in the first place Frederick dies also the lead sculptor Andrea Schlueter. He has a bit of a rough the patch he builds a big tower on a bunch of sand and the tower collapses and his career is over. He's ruined it. Do be like that. Sometimes it do next king of Prussia Frederick the first successor Frederick Doc William not a big culture guy. He's like the eighteenth century version of a super jock. He's called the soldier king he does not care for this glowing baroque time machine made out of amber unless we're talking dollar signs technically weekly Reich stoller signs but you know what I mean but the amber room is more than just tons of gemstones with suspended organic matter in them backed by gold leaf and melted into wall panels to visitors who come through the palace in Berlin its jaw dropping hoping it gets called the eighth wonder of the world it's coveted by the rich and powerful including Peter the Great of Russia so Frederick William WHO's trying to secure packed with Peter the great he says you like it. Take get it was put into enormous number of crates and given the full transportation that was available at the time it was shipped by sledge caught and dragged. If you like all the way from pressure to Russia a totally normal thing to do take an entire palace room jewel encrusted in send it to Russia as a gift for it can rich people man. I bet they weren't the ones dragon the sleds through Europe seriously and this is the beginning of an epic saga. That's really the reason why we're still talking about the amber room today. This room is on a journey worthy of a real deal time machine a journey that will cover several transports and several tear downs and rebuilds over several hundred years if anything was made a never to be transported. It probably was the hamburger I mean the substances Brittle it requires. I've been kept at constant temperatures for an in order for its maturing. Hugh it's colors to be maintains that the room must not be too cold or too hot and I certainly think we came across one account that talks about the reaction of a courtier when they open the chest and there were many many many smash pieces over it's hundreds of years of existence the ember rooms whereabouts are followed by the people who covered it because it is beautiful the people who want to discover its final resting place when it gets lost lost and also people who want to use it for political gain wise the amber room so popular well to mice volleyball missing treasure so let's start with that that headlines pretty good but the pivotal moments of the story <hes> absolutely all in the east and they are in areas where information control is absolute areas where it's extremely hard as a investigates that will scholar to gain access to resources and so what you have instead <unk> status fun whispering campaign based on Phot- law Adrian Talks about this a lot the idea that the barriers to primary source accounts lots of the amber room have allowed it to become even more legendary than it might have otherwise and he should know because Adrian's done maybe the deepest dive on the Amber Room in the book the Amber Room fate of the world's greatest loss treasure written by him and his Co author and working partner Cathy Scott Clark who he says totally would have also talked to us except she was filming with a celebrated Award Winning Documentarian Whatever Kathy seriously though we are relying heavily on Caffeine Caffeine Adrian's work here they did hundreds of interviews and have chased the amber room to the ends of the Earth looking for a work of art with a worth that some estimates put at about half a billion dollars but back to the seventeen hundreds where the ember rooms journey was just getting started after getting it as a gift and having it dragged across Europe into Russia on a bunch of Sledge's Peter the great forgot about it freaking rich people man but it was eventually reinstalled decades is later in a palace near what's now called Saint Petersburg along with the challenge of handling with care while you are transporting via sledge. We have to remember that it's not that easy to just uninstall one palace rooms worth of decadent panels and reinstall it in a totally different palace. It's not like these palaces are standardized so amber room two point. Oh gets a bunch of additional amber thrown in bringing it close to six tons of amber which really complicates it's matters in a way but nonetheless the ember room is still adored by a number of curator's who care for this incredibly fragile beautiful now almost six hundred square foot work of art for a while until Adrian says the Ember Room finds itself at the center of a struggle that will have it moving again. A lot of Adrian's work is based around conflict and war in the amber room. Story is no different hundreds of years after it was brought to Russia the room moves chiefs again because of World War Two in the incursion of Nazis into Russia also the leadership of Russia at the time while they had bigger fish to fry than the amber room lot of problems at least ninety ninety nine problems and the amber room eight one at least not one they're worried about there's a fight for survival happening here but the curator's the people who know and love the value of this great wonder carrying about this stuff it's their work work and it became obvious to them. As Nazi Germany began to wrap up against the Soviet Union that's something would need to be done to protect these classes because there were no official directives that we're coming in and <hes> interestingly asked the threat rises of I am a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union <hes> they the courageous off faced with exactly the same problem that everybody is being faced with. I'm through history with Ambro which is how to dismantle the crisis in the world and how to reassemble it and how to look at once. It's dismantled here we go again guys stopped taking it apart seriously but the good news of course is that these Russian amber loving curator's come up with a better your plan. They're going to hide it. Does it work more on that in a minute endless thread is supported by indeed when it comes to hiring. You don't have time to waste you need help getting your shortlist qualified candidates fast with indeed post a job in minutes set up screener questions then zero in on qualified candidates and when you need to hire fast accelerate your results with sponsored jobs new users can try for free when you sign up at indeed dot com slash slash N._p._R.. PODCAST terms conditions and quality standards apply and the threat is sponsored by Xfinity. Some things are hard to control like over caffeinated co workers other things. Things are easy to control like you're in Home Wifi with Xfinity X. Y.. Set WIFI curfew change your password and create user profiles all with the Exi- APP another reason why Xfinity is simple easy awesome go online line call one eight hundred xfinity or visit a store to learn more restrictions apply. I'm trying to winter. I'm telling us a little long. Welcome to chosen family. Every second week we talk about art sexuality the identity with a special guest usually queer but not always I completely struggled coming out to my parents as a comedian being in the entertainment industry for a Middle Eastern people is unheard of affecting change requires people to shake it up. Listen to chosen family wherever you get your podcasts. What sign are you by the way I'm in the area? Of course I love it so we left off in Saint Petersburg then called Leningrad which is under siege by the Nazis. The siege is devastating starvation is everywhere. There's no heat the siege will last for years. It's eventually classified as a genocide an early on the curator's in charge of the amber room they think they're going to move it and and we know from a personal account kept by the League writes a young man could chew off. That's <hes> they tried the most basic things I'm getting a Nice Wall Street driver and placing it underneath a corner of the amber and trying to present off the backing board and we also know from his account that immediate he did that of course the amber shuttered rooms now would freezing cold and makes any curator freak out I would imagine reading some descriptions prescriptions of this tightly and I think you could wind back stage and think that you know the approach of placing that butter knife under the corner of the Ambon in itself was fraught but also the city of Leningrad was starving and there was not enough cash cash to feed people let alone East Room you can imagine the condition of the room was <hes> AH pulling throw into this situation a revelation of sorts before the war a bunch of German dignitaries visited the Ember Room and the Russians Shins realized that basically these dignitaries were making a list of the stuff that they were going to take when they took over the Russians needed to protect this thing the clock was ticking now they know that the press will be the heads if they cannot succeed and in spiriting away these these treasures to keep them safe from the Nazis so they come up with a cunning ruse which is to make another room on top of the room and kitchen moss idea idea is to take wanting calling fell wedding made from felt or sheepskin and put that up against extraordinarily brittle amber room and then cover the room in rolls of ooh that have been left behind from renovations years ago so bill the fake room inside the amber room to cover it up and hide it absolutely and I think given the fact that they had no idea how to solve the jigsaw puzzle. This was a shreve moves. It's again but but it's necessary because eventually the Nazis get to the palace and they knew exactly where to come so when they were confronted by the room within the room I'm sure initially and they were nonplussed by what they saw but really within a matter of hours someone had taken a ban at two that padding realized that the amber room was behind it and used a lot more brute force than could chew of the Russian curator was prepared to strip the amber room into boxes and transported it in a quite lengthy route to what was then called Kern expert on in the Baltic coast the Baltic coast close to the waters from whence the amber was fished in the first place full circle in a way and a feather in the hat for brutal German regime that was infamous for stealing the world's greatest works of art to dubious ends and so the amber room was now beneath the castle in German territory hidden from the World Ironically enough the same fortress where the to Frederick's at the beginning of our story the PRUSSIAN leader who brought it into the world and the one who sold it to Russia for Military Pact Act were crowned kings. The ember room was back home in a way even if the reasons were despicable and the storage didn't respect it's true glory but near the end of the war the castle is destroyed bombed by the allied forces shelled by the Russians. The castle is burnt to a crisp a ruined skeleton looking something maybe like a wall panel of the amber room itself with all the brittle amber shattered and blown out and it may be that this is what happened to the room to after all it was fragile and for a freaking palace room to be deconstructed and reconstructed over and over like a jigsaw puzzle that gets a little more beat up every time it's used the the amber room had a good run but there wasn't evidence of this destruction people say there just wasn't any shattered amber in the castle ruins. This is really where the trail of the amber room goes cold or maybe just gets confused like a bunch of different potential timelines because despite the destruction of the castle a lot of the foundations the deep basements of the structure where the amber room supposedly was stored survived which is the beginning of a gazillion theories about the. Ember Room surviving stories start popping up Adrian's heard and followed them. All such was its enormous value this some kind of <hes> <hes> James Bond Villain villainous impoverished cat sits on display in an underground cave. Maybe it's North Korea submerged in a flooded mine between Czechoslovakia and Germany <hes> you know there are endless stories are selling as some of them have an internal logic to them but nearly order them defy the armie material that is available Adrian points to the fascination with the amber room as a real problem because along with this explosion of potential true timelines for what happens to it after the war comes an explosion of people trying to capitalize on the mystery story like actual treasure hunters Arcnord. 's people who really want to recover this thing so we called partnered. WHO's trying to recover things quite busy trying to recover things in fact? You're GONNA ask away. This is Christopher. Hey Maranello. He's a lawyer and the C._E._O.. Of Art Recovery International Our specialty at art recovery international is recovering stolen and looted were spar Chris uses databases contacts in the art world and a boat load of lawyer know-how also general art history knowledge to chase things down that have been lost half of his work is pro bono because he says he wants to help museums churches and even in governments get back. Most people think that law enforcement is up to the task of recovering all the stolen artwork in the world. It's simply not true. Law Enforcement is underpaid understaffed and that's why organizations exist like Art Recovery International Chris has a specialty recovering artwork stolen by the Nazis Chris also gets a lot of creative tips. I'm staring at on my screen at a twenty eight page document that somebody sent me from Serbia today of artwork that they swear available everything from Davinci's to best yet. It's it's a collection of the most horrific fakes you've ever seen so we asked him. Has He ever heard of the ember room. I get approached by a lot of people about the amber room. Usually it's people who claim they know where it is at are looking for a finders finders fee from me or from someone else you know whenever I asked for a shred a shred of evidence. Nobody's able to come up with any Chris says he's never seen a lead not one that fully convinced him. He says they would have come forward by now. There was one thing that happened a break in the case so to speak in one thousand nine hundred seven these amber mosaics are discovered from the room. It was a huge news story at the time they were in the possession of a German soldiers family but Adrian says this trail doesn't go anywhere because the pieces are actually from when the room was disassembled in Saint Petersburg so they won't help people find the location of the rest in a way hey this proves one of the theories that in the chaos of the war some of the German soldiers might have made off with pieces of the Amber Room but unfortunately Adrian our real deal expert. He is not an optimist like at all. I think I'm the person go through the theories because I'm kind of feeling like they yet. The guy who killed Sansa are there any of of the crazy theories of its continued existence that resonate with you to any of these give you a tiny glimmer could be reflected in amber of all the theories for me a crazy in none of the music liver uh Adrian so Santa clauses dead. I'd love to be proved wrong I would. I'm not a hard hard hard. I'd like I'd like someone to find it to prove them wrong. But at the moment the primary history is not tilting in that direction at least he gave us at the moment and not tilting in that direction true and also this is where the ember room story gets even more interesting over and over the amber room and who possesses it is a demonstration of might the the whole history of this eighth. Wonder of the world is tangled up in hundreds of years of these power struggles according to Adrian the continuation of the mystery actually has a lot to do with continuing power struggles after World War Two <unk> ends. I think the end of nineteen forty five is pretty much one of the first visit by a curator assigned by K._G._B.. And there's a parallel inquiry that's made them but the stars he he was not the East German a secret place and so you have two masters of untruths Moss's propaganda who become involved but also to ruthless organizations and within those organizations you also have cultural truth. Tell US curator who themselves to get the bus in the story and you know if that truth does not match the political needs then <hes> one one sees what happens to these truth tellers and so starts an era where people trying to get to the truth. Truth of the ember rooms fate meet unfortunate fates of their own a story we know because again these organizations known for being dubious for Democracy are actually pretty great when it comes to bureaucracy documenting everything and in the first trunch of documents that came to line we see that the K._G._B.. And the Ministry of Culture had joint mission the mission sense an extremely capable investigator and archaeologists and if you've been working in Moscow he fought a report back to Moscow his conclusions were that it was likely the amber room was destroyed. Immediately submits that report and the report passes passes its way up towards Moscow reaching the inner circles of offer of governments. He is exiled is never forgiven. I'm for coming up with the answer to the question of where is now an object that is elevated by the K._G._B.. As Russia's greatest treasure even suppression treasure you know how people talk about how many instances of something equals at trend there are enough examples of bad things happening to people around the amber room that there is talk of a curse General Gustav Russian intelligence officer talks about it to a journalist killed in a car crash a former German soldier George Stein who has hunting for the artwork also dies unexpectedly in Bavarian forest. These things happened years years ago but obsession with the amber room and really strange political theater around it continues today with for instance the current leader of Russia Vladimir Putin and his eleven million dollar reconstruction of the ember room which appropriately also also took over a decade to finish twenty five years. Actually you know he might make great play of the fact that this this new one the had been resurrected as a memorial to the loss Russia's lost to Germany and one of the <hes> the key funders of the amber room and of the launch party was a German gas company that was looking for Egress into rushing business. The idea of opulence in excess being associated with wheeling and dealing in between the powerful and potentially corrupt is familiar right the room itself is <hes> is a massively Gordy. Almost <hes> plastic hated Nouveau Riche Footballer's Wife Life Nightmare. It's awful really it's it's amazing. How similar Putin and trump are when you really <hes> that room would be perfect and more log okay take issue with this comparison if you want but just for the record you know those pictures of President Trump's New York City penthouse with the gold toilet and all the gold leaf everywhere <hes> <hes> it's supposed to evoke the style of the palace of Versailles? It's all kind of got similar vibes right but digs on the nouveau riche aside the ember rooms legacy might have important lessons about negotiation between world powers so will the original amber room ever be found Adrian says no way it was almost definitely blown to smithereens in colonels Berg Castle but it's still being used not just for negotiation for manipulation so whenever the Germans complains the Russians would point to the amber room when anyone talks about loss they would use the amber room is the symbol of loss cultural loss financial lost the rape and pillage of palaces and cities and it became a resonant propagandistic tool in so what's not to love in this has a bit for everybody I think if you have a passion for history and a passion for seeing the way in which things become totems and those totems are then elevated in order to extract attract meaning then <hes> it's it's endlessly informing about how we live the times we live and the way in which all governments use these totems for their eye Maine's whether it be the savings or or be the study Ozzie so maybe the number room really is a kind of time machine of sorts making sure we remember history yeah and you don't have to have seen Jurassic Park to know that if you don't remember history you are doomed doomed to be torn to shreds by Gaggle of raptors endless. Threat is a production of W._B.. You are Boston's N._p._R.. Station in partnership with red it Josh Schwartz is our producer her and after looking at the pictures of the Amorim he classified it as designed Porn Iris Adler is our executive producer who says hidden information is still technically the truth mix and sound design by Paul vicous who believes that the amber room was built to watch people die inside Michael Pope is our advisor read it and he still thinks the simpsons did it extra production assistance from James Lindberg. Our interns are Magdala Mata Maggie sign and no Boston Austin with a beat on read it we our endless underscore thread. If you WANNA contribute art for an upcoming episode or give us a juicy story tip so we can tell it like we did today. It is up there my co host and producer Amorous Iverson. I'm senior producer and Co host Ben Brock Johnson. I'll let myself out support for.

Coming up next