Now and Then - Catherine Palace1

Catherine palace tourist british german soldiers 1941 2020

Catherine Palace, Pushkin. October 1941 / Catherine Palace, Pushkin. October 2020

German soldiers in the Great Hall of the Catherine Palace.

I did a tour of the Catherine Palace for a British-Slovenian couple today, which is about as rare during the pandemic as seeing pink unicorns running across the street. The British gentleman courteously agreed to pose for this collage.

The picture was taken in the first few weeks after the occupation of Pushkin. In October 1941 the palace caught fire for the first time for unknown reasons, and there were several more fires in the following years. The first floor of the palace was made into a garage and the basement into a prison. A special looting commission came from Berlin which stripped the palace of everything of value. Although the Amber Room, that was the main prize, was dismantled and shipped to Koenigsberg without much difficulty, the looters were so thorough at their job they even unscrewed the bolts with which lapis lazuli panels were attached to the walls of one of the halls. The gold leaf, on the other hand, was left in its place because scratching it from the wood carvings to melt into gold bullions was not worth the cost. The glass and mirrors on the walls are protected against being shattered by shockwaves of explosions with paper crosses glued to their surface.

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