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The collections from the Prussia-Museum – a chronicle


The collections from the Prussia-Museum: a chronicle

  • 1943
    • Wolfgang La Baume, Director of Landesamt für Vorgeschichte (department of prehistory of Prussia-Museum) takes the dramatic decision to evacuate most of the collections of the Königsberg museum. Its fragment described as Studiensammlung and the Fundarchiv is moved to Carlshof, Kreis Rastenburg (now Karolewo, distr. Kętrzyn, Poland) and deposited in the local church.
      The second part of Studiensammlung including selected pieces from so-called Schausammlung, is placed in hiding in Fort III Quednau north of Königsberg. The remainder of the same set (Schausammlung) remains in the castle in Königsberg.
  • 30th August 1944
    • The castle is bombed by the Allies and falls into ruin.
  • October 1944
    • W. La Baume applies in a letter to Wilhelm Unverzagt, Director of Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte in Berlin, to help him find a suitable location for storing the Prussia-Museum collection.
  • December 1944  – January 1945
    • Most of the collection placed in hiding at Carlshof is transported in two train wagons to Demmin in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklemburg-Western Pomerania). The contents of the second wagon are deposited in an empty barbershop at Demmin; those from the first wagon are deposited in the attic of a manor house at nearby Broock. Unfortunately, this proves to be an unsafe hiding place. The cases are looted by incoming waves of refugees, museum pieces and documents are destroyed, the more valuable items are stolen.
  • Summer 1945
    • The ruined castle in Königsberg is investigated by the first expedition led by A. Bryusov, soviet archaeologist. Museum pieces discovered by his team, including archaeological objects, 400 cases (according to other sources, 300 cases) are shipped to Moscow. To this day the fate of this shipment is unclear.
  • August  1945  – spring 1946
    • The collections left behind at Carlshof fall prey to the soviet army unit stationed in the area (destroyed or stolen). In the third week of August members of the local administrative authority (Starostwo Powiatowe) in Rastembork (now Kętrzyn) – Zofia Licharewa and Eugeniusz Gałdziewicz – undertake to rescue and protect the survivors (see – Strange twists of fate). In the spring of 1946 they are joined in their efforts by Jerzy Antoniewicz, staff member from the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw, and commissioner from the Head Office of Museums and Monuments Protection (Naczelna Dyrekcja Muzeów i Ochrony Zabytków) of the Ministry of Culture and Art. More than 1500 museum objects from the Prussia-Museum collections and items of archival documentation pass to the regional museum in Olsztyn (then, Muzeum Mazurskie now, Muzeum Warmii i Mazur).
  • April 1946
    • A lucky year for the collections deposited on the estate at Broock. Lothar Diemer, merchant, subsequently, Museumsleiter (museum chief)) and Kreisdenkmalpfleger (district conservation officer) at Demmin, took charge of the damaged collections, repacked them (he had to do this over a single week-end!) and placed in storage in a safe place until 1949.
  • August 1949
    • 125 cases with museum objects and documentation of the Prussia-Museum secured by Diemer, are taken to the Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Institute of Prehistory and Early History of the German Academy of Sciences) in Berlin (of the later eastern zone of Berlin). The cases are deposited in a basement at 3-4 Leipziger Straße and for the next 40 years are lost sight of. As early as in April 1948 W. La Baume starts to enquire about the surviving collections of the Königsberg museum; he is anxious to have the cases unpacked and the materials sorted with the help of the former functionaries of the Landesamt in Königsberg. However, this was never done. During the 1980s some researchers from Poland apply to East German archaeologists for information on the collections of Prussia-Museum, without success however.
  • Summer 1945 - end of 60. XX cent.
    • For more than twenty years the ruins of the castle in Königsberg are explored, legally and not, for the museum objects from the Prussia-Museum. Only a fraction of archaeological and historical objects discovered on this occasion finds its way to the regional museum in Kaliningrad, the fate of the remainder remains unknown to this day. In 1967, or possibly, in 1968 (different sources give different dates), Viktor Strokin, enthusiast of the local heritage, discovers in the cellars of the southern wing of the castle documentation of the Prussia-Museum in the form of a few inventory books. The castle ruins are blown up by the local authorities in late 1960s. This stage of the search for the collections of the Prussia-Museum is closed. The next stage will come only in the 21st century. In 2007 a part of documentation found its way to professional conservation specialists in the State Archive in Olsztyn.
  • 1950
    • The regional museum in Kaliningrad (now Museum of History and Art) buys from A. Maksimov, Chief Architect, and from Mr. Neumark, collector, a few hundred objects they discovered in the western wing of the castle, e.g, items of weaponry from the famous Moskowitersaal, devoted to the military history of Prussia, and some ethnographic pieces as well.
  • 1967–1970
    • The first search is made in Fort Quednau at Kaliningrad, after the local authorities and museum specialists receive information that this is the location where the most valuable pieces from the collections Prussia-Museum were placed in hiding. The search is unsuccessful. The reserches  very likely mostly because the users of the Fort – i.e., the army – obstructs the proceedings, making obstacles even to official ministry-level groups. This situation is improved markedly only during the late 1990s after the army withdrew from the Fort.
  • 1969
    • A Geological and Archaeological Field Unit appointed in Kaliningrad starts a long-term excavation on the site of the former Königsberg Castle – mainly in search of the Amber Room. The latter is not found but, according to witness reports, other pieces are discovered, including some archaeological objects. Their subsequent fate to this day remains unknown.
  • 1976
    • The regional museum in Demmin submits 224 pieces from the Prussia-Museum collections to the Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte in East Berlin, presumably, they are from the set salvaged by L. Diemer.
  • 80. XX cent.
    • A vessel originally in the collections of Prussia-Museum – provenanced to the cemetery at Wackern (now Elanovka, raj. Bagrationovsk) – is identified in the storage rooms of the regional museum (Muzeum Okręgowe) in Lublin. At present this vessel is in the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw.
  • 1990–1992
    • Cases with museum objects and archival documentation from the collections of the Prussia-Museum, previously stored in  the basement of the building at Leipziger Straße in Berlin, are moved to Ost-Berliner Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, and after reorganization of the Berlin museums pass in 1992 to the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte in Charlottenburg, where they are gradually sorted and undergo conservation treatment. The size of these collections is truly impressive – some 50 000 museum objects and 80 000 pieces of archival documentation.
  • 1994
    • Archäologische Landesmuseum Mecklemburg-Vorpommern offers to Berlin some 3500 pieces from the collections of Prussia-Museum, presumably originally in the second train wagon shipped from Carlshof to Demmin which in the post-war confusion was left behind in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
  • 1998
    • The museum of the Cathedral in Kaliningrad acquires a few dozen pieces from the Prussia-Museum collections, purchased from private hands with assistance from the Deutsch-Russische Haus.
  • 1999
    • Thanks to joint action taken by the police of Kaliningrad Oblast, the community of museum scientists and the Ministry of Culture, more pieces from the Prussia-Museum collections pass from private hands to the Museum of History and Art in Kaliningrad. A part of them presumably come from illegal treasure hunting in Fort Quednau.
  • November 1999 – 2003
    • Anatoly Valuev and Konstantin Skvortsov of Museum of History and Art in Kaliningrad excavate in Fort III Quednau. They recover 30 000 objects, 90% of them fragmented. No wonder – the cases with pieces from Schausammlung placed in hiding in the fort were smashed, their contents broken and destroyed; many pieces had been stolen, presumably, soon after the war, when the army was stationing there.
  • after 2001 
    • Some 100 pieces from the collections of Prussia-Museum are purchased from private collectors in Moscow and Kaliningrad (according to information from 2008).
  • 2001–2007
    • With support from the German weekly “Die Zeit” the team from the Museum of History and Art in Kaliningrad continues to excavate the site of Königsberg Castle, recovering pieces from the Prussia-Museum collections – historical, ethnographic and archaeological objects.
  • ????
    • The chronicle of the fate of the Prussia-Museum collections seems to be still far from closed …

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