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First hint of Tsar's lost trove

The 50-year quest for the lost treasure of the tsars has yielded its first clue - a gold-framed mosaic identitied by Russian and German experts yesterday as the only known remnant of the Amber Room.

The picture, depicting two couples lounging in a lush garden, had hung on a bedroom wall in Bremen since the war, its current owner oblivious to its significance. The Amber Room, originally the gift of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia to Peter the Great, was plundered from the tsars' summer palace outside Leningrad by German troops in 1941. Under Hitler's orders, it was taken to the East Prussian city of Konigsberg.

Soviet troops took Konigsberg in April 1945, but by then the entire collection had vanished without a trace. For the past 50 years, every myth and legend has been followed up, but until now not a morsel of its gold and amber panels had been located.

The mosaic's owner says he inherited it from his father, who died in 1978. The father had been a Wehrmacht officer on the eastern front, and served in Konigsberg shortly before it was captured and re-christened Kaliningrad by the Soviets. He is believed to have taken the booty home to Bremen.