War is the ultimate form of universal loss. When a war is waged, people lose their lives, their livelihoods, and at times, even their faith in humanity.
The human cost alone is devastating, but there are other things that tend to get lost in war that most people don't really think about until years after the war's ended. I'm talking about historic treasures, of course.
War's unique brand of chaos makes it easy for soldiers to loot and pillage everything from palaces to small family homes. Due to the nature of human beings, this means that priceless treasures tend to go missing during war—never to be seen again.
Over the centuries, many priceless artifacts have vanished this way. Here are some of the most important treasures lost during wars of the past, and why their loss is such a tragedy.
The Amber Room
One of the most famous treasures lost during wars wasn't just a treasure; it was an entire room!
The Amber Room was a part of the Russian Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg, and prior to its disappearance, was considered to be the "Eigth Wonder of the World" during its known existence.
Given as a peace gift to Tsar Peter the Great, the Amber Room was an entire room composed of several tons of amber, gold, and jewels. When Nazis stormed the palace during World War II, the Amber Room vanished.
To this date, no one really knows for sure where the Amber Room is. Some believe it may be in a German bunker, but it's not been proven quite yet. Should it be discovered, this treasure would offer a huge slice of Russian history for all to enjoy.
The room has been remade; however, it's still not the same as the original. The original Amber Room would likely be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and may even carry major secrets about the Russian royal family too.
La Noche Triste Treasure
Prior to the time that Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, the Aztecs had a civilization that owned massive amounts of gold. This was actually the reason why the legend of El Dorado spread like wildfire among conquerers—and honestly, there may have been some truth to the legends.
The royal home of Montezuma II was a great example of the mind-blowing impressiveness of Aztec wealth. His royal room housed an astonishingly large storage of gold, silver, and precious stones...
All of which vanished during the Spanish conquest of Latin America. No one knows who took it or what happened to it. Could it be that Montezuma II ordered the treasure to be hidden from the conquerors?
Strange as it may seem, some people believe that the Aztec treasure ended up in Utah, and some evidence suggests this is true. How it ended up there, or who put it there, remains to be explained.
Not all of the treasures lost during wars involve gold and jewels. Some are priceless because of the historic and anthropological value they would offer scientists.
Such is the case with the Peking Man, which is a skull of a Homo Erectus man dating back beyond 500,000 BC. The skull was one of the first discovered of its kind, and heralded a huge advancement for understanding how human evolution began.
As war began to break out, Peking Man's remains were placed into crates and sent on a ship from Peking destined to New York City. The crates never made it to America, and many believe they were taken by the Japanese army during a raid.
The Honjo Masamune
The Honjo Masamune might just be one of the most famous swords in the world, and sadly, it's also one of the many priceless treasures lost during wars. The sword was created by master swordmaker Gorō Nyūdō Masamune in the 13th century.
Ever since the sword gained its name from an owner who took it as a war trophy in the 16th century, it became a symbol of victory in Japan. For centuries, the Honjo Masamune was passed from shogun to shogun. It remained in the Tokogawa family until World War II.
Americans allegedly confiscated the sword, and from there, the story gets fuzzy. Some believe Masamune was destroyed, while others believe it was stolen. No one knows for sure.
The Florentine Diamond
If you look online, you will find tons of lists featuring treasures that went missing during World War II. However, that doesn't mean that it's the only modern war to have caused priceless treasures to vanish. Some of the greatest treasures lost during wars happened as a result of World War I's fallout—such as the Florentine Diamond.
The Florentine Diamond had a pretty lengthy history shrouded in mystery. No one knows where it came from, but it eventually found its way into Italy's Medici family. Once the last Medici family member died, it was placed into the Habsburg family crown jewels.
One of the facts you might not know about World War I is that it saw the end of many royal families in Europe. Sadly, this was true about the Habsburgs as well.
When the Habsburgs realized that their country, Austria-Hungary, was about to lose World War I, they placed the diamond in a Swiss bank. They then trusted lawyer by the name of Bruno Steiner to sell it as a way to help them get enough money to live out their days comfortably.
Unfortunately, no one knows who bought the diamond or if it's even still in one piece. Many believe that it was cut into multiple smaller diamonds and sold off piece by piece.
The Menorah from the Second Temple
In 66 AD, Jewish rebels began to rise up to fight Roman occupation in Jerusalem—and as you can imagine, Rome wasn't happy about it. By 70 AD, Jerusalem was captured by Titus and his army.
The Arch of Titus showed what happened to Jerusalem's Second Temple, and it wasn't pretty. The temple itself was destroyed, and soldiers took all treasures inside the temple back to Rome. One of the treasures that was looted from the temple was a menorah.
If the menorah were to be found today, it would likely be a priceless religious artifact. Sadly, it's been missing for about 2000 years, so that probably will not happen any time soon.
The Royal Casket
If you haven't noticed, many of the world's most impressive relics and artifacts went missing thanks to World War II. This one is no different in that respect, and as you can guess from the name, also shows how little regard Nazis had for history that didn't involve them.
Poland's Royal Casket housed the artifacts of Poland's royal family, and included priceless works of art, treasure, and royal jewels. Though it did not involve a dead body, the Royal Casket can be considered a casualty of World War II.
Among Americans, one of the little-known facts about World War II is that the Royal Casket went missing. For Polish people, though, it is common knowledge and a country's tragedy.
The American Civil War saw quite a few famous Southern families lose all their fortune and status. Destitute as they became, that wealth had to go somewhere, right?
According to rumors and legends, many Southern families had gold artifacts that were taken by Union soldiers during the war. Some of that gold was allegedly buried in Lake Michigan shortly after the war.
Many people have claimed to have found Confederate gold while treasure hunting, but to date, there has been no confirmed findings that are specifically linked to the Civil War.
Kafka's Love Letters
Another one of the many treasures lost during wars would have made literature fans pretty upset. The strange and imaginative mind of Franz Kafka is one that we all wish that we would have a better glimpse into, especially when it came to his love life.
His love letters were known for being moving, beautiful works of art. Sadly, Nazis destroyed Kafka's last love letters during the earlier part of World War II.
Hitler was the most infamous war criminal of World War II, and from that title alone, is tied to quite a large number of historic treasures lost during wars. One of the most famous artifacts he owned that was lost as the war came to a close is his globe.
If you have ever watched Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, you probably remember the scene where he played with a giant globe. That globe was a rendition of a real artifact, a limited edition globe that was roughly the size of a car belonging to Hitler himself.
The globe was one of a small series of handmade globes called "Columbus globes." Each Columbus globe was gifted to a Nazi party leader and had a personalized stand. The globe was so famous, it remains a part of pop culture's psyche today.
No one knows what happened to Hitler's famous globe after he committed suicide. However, people have been trying to find it and hopefully track it down in order to preserve history associated with the Holocaust.