This story comes from a writing challenge on BookLikes to give an account of what really happened to The Amber Room – which disappeared without a trace in 1945. It’s all fiction… except for the history of The Amber Room and Brezhnev’s orders. Enjoy.
“The Amber Room”
©Mike Finn 2019
Extract from MI6 Debriefing of subject NAME REDACTED on defection in 1989
Security Classification: SECRET
DEBRIEFER: Tell us about your first meeting with Yuri Andropov.
SUBJECT: It was in 1968. In the Kremlin. I was one of the youngest Lieutenant Generals in the Technical Corp of the greatest army in the world. I was proud of the two stars on my black epaulettes and hungry for a third. So when my men made the discovery in Kaliningrad, I used what influence I had to bring the report to the attention of the newly appointed KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov.
SUBJECT: I believed that if I could bring something as glorious as this to the right people in the Kremlin, I would be seen as a man with the bright future I thought I deserved. As I say, I was young.
DEBRIEFER: And Andropov met with you to receive your report?
SUBJECT: Of course not. I presented the report to a cousin of mine in the KGB. He brought it to Andropov, who, I was told, had taken it to Brezhnev. I was called to Andropov’s office after he and Brezhnev had met.
DEBRIEFER: What was in the report?
SUBJECT: We had found The Amber Room – or most of it – in the basement of Königsberg Castle.
DEBRIEFER: The Amber Room that was reported as destroyed during the RAF firebombing in 1945?
SUBJECT: Yes. Of course yes. What other Amber Room is there? The Nazis had stolen it from the Catherine Palace in 1941 and taken it back to Prussia to be reassembled in Königsberg Castle. We thought it was destroyed in 1945 but there were always rumours. In 1968, some of my men were assessing the work needed to restore the Castle as People’s Palace when they broke through what looked like a wall that had been erected hastily and found hundreds of containers with parts of the Amber Room in them. I had the men involved isolated. Wrote a report on the find myself and ensured that it found its way to the KGB.
DEBRIEFER: Tell us what happened at the meeting.
SUBJECT: What I should have expected to happen but what I was too blinded by my excitement to let myself see.
Andropov had the report and my file open on his desk, where I could see them. He did not invite me to sit. He did not say anything for some minutes. He just looked at me.
Then he said. “Your file says that you are intelligent, competent and ambitious. Today I will decide if you are also a man suited for higher rank.”
I stood straighter but knew enough to remain silent.
“The General Secretary has read your report and has issued orders as a result. Orders that you will carry out personally.”
He handed me the orders. I read them while he watched.
Brezhnev had ordered the complete destruction of Königsberg Castle and everything in it, on the basis that it was a symbol of Prussian militarism that had no place in the Soviet Union.
I thought about the containers in the basement and about the men who had found them, now held in isolation. I thought about what it would mean if the Amber Room had not been destroyed by the RAF but had been partly damaged by the Red Army’s bombardment of the Castle and what it meant that the Army has failed to find the Amber Room for more than thirty years. And, of course, I thought about myself and how a third star would look on my shoulders.
“Do you have any questions?”, Andropov asked.
I looked up from the orders in my hand.
“No, Mr Chairman. I have no questions.”
“Then I see that your file is accurate and your future is bright. Report to me when everything is done. The KGB needs men with your… flexibility.”
DEBRIEFER: And then?
SUBJECT: I carried out my orders. Shortly afterwards I joined the KGB with a rank equivalent to General.