The Dramatic History of Yantarny

Its isolated location, approximately forty kilometers from Kaliningrad, gives the small settlement of Yantarny a barren and forgotten atmosphere. But mostly, the town is weighed down by horrific memories and a terrifying event that has cast a shadow over Yantarny for years to come. Not even the amber riches, on which it stands, can rid this land from continuous hard labor and the dream of a better future.

Yantarny is not a well visited destination in Russia, as all it has to offer is the amber mines, a town with half built buildings, with much falling into disrepair and the unforgiving winds from the Baltic Sea. It was once known as Palmnicken, and was founded in year 1234 by the Teutonic Knights. From 1525 to 1871, the town formed part of Prussia and in 1827 the mining of amber in Palmnicken developed a lucrative industry that is still the supplier of ninety percent of the world's amber. The German Empire took control of the town in 1871, and it was the threat of the advancing Soviet Red Army in 1945, that set the wheels in motion for one of the holocaust's most unforgiving acts of violence.

It was during the month of January, during the Second World War, that the Red Army was starting to advance towards Palmnickel and the Stutthof concentration camp. While the world's attention was fixed on the horror camp Auschwitz that was liberated on 27 January 1945, and trying to come to terms with the unspeakable terrors that took place there, seven thousand women and a few men were being marched from Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad), to the town of Palmnickel. Many were near death, and had barely survived the camps. Those too weak to walk the fifty kilometers were shot dead along the road. On reaching the town, these defenseless women, barely dressed and skeletal, where forced into the freezing cold water of the Baltic Sea and shot; only twelve people survived. A memorial stands as reminder to this inhumane event and has been relived through authors such as Martin Bergau, who was a young boy when he witnessed the slaughter of thousands. His first book “The boy from the Amber Shore” touched the hearts of many, and he is currently doing research for his next novel, also in regard to the town of Palmnickel, later renamed to Yantarny.

Most of the estimated six thousand residents of Yantarny work in the mine, and as a destination in Russia, it has little more than the mines, memories and a monument to offer. One would think, that with the amber mine being so lucrative, that the town would be flourishing, but it is not. Wages are minimal and residents managed only to live and the town is in desperate need of repair and remodeling. The scars of history remained embedded and deeply rooted in the hearts of survivors, witnesses and culprits, of North West Russia.


User Comments & Reviews: 1 Comment(s)

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valery - 2010-08-02 15:07:56

Yantarny is charming small town with nice hotel AQUATORIA on the beach

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