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Montevideo, October 21st 2016 - 20:14 UTC

Germany wants “Graf Spee” Nazi eagle displayed in a museum

Wednesday, March 10th 2010 - 00:42 UTC
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The giant bronze eagle with spread wings and a swastika under its talons was salvaged from the wreckage in 2006 The giant bronze eagle with spread wings and a swastika under its talons was salvaged from the wreckage in 2006

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called Tuesday for wreckage from a Nazi-era warship recovered off the coast of Uruguay to be displayed in a museum rather than auctioned to the public.

During a brief visit to Montevideo, Westerwelle was asked about the ongoing diplomatic dispute over parts of what was once the pride of the Nazi navy, the “Admiral Graf Spee,” since they were salvaged in 2006.

“We want to prevent wreckage from the ship, in particular the Nazi symbols, from landing on the market for military insignia,” he told reporters after talks with his Uruguayan counterpart, Luis Almagro.

“We want the remains of the Graf Spee to be dealt with properly.”

The ship was scuttled in 1939 in shallow waters off Montevideo after been hounded by a British flotilla. Its wreckage includes a giant bronze eagle with spread wings with a swastika under its talons -- a favored Nazi symbol that could fetch a handsome sum at auction.

Businessman Alfredo Etchegaray and Falklands’ born marine archeologist Mensum Bound participated in an operation to salvage the eagle and Mr. Etchegaray has asserted his right to sell it.
But the German government opposes a public auction of the World War II-era relic, which adorned the legendary battleship's stern, claiming that it belongs to Berlin and should not land in the hands of Nazi-memorabilia fanatics.

“We are also willing to do our part to contribute to the necessary historical approach here” Westerwelle said. “In a museum, the historical context could be carefully presented. We are seeking a constructive solution”.

The Graf Spee's captain, Hans Langsdorff, scuttled the battleship on December 17, 1939 following one of the first naval confrontations of World War II, the battle of the River Plate.

The German Navy ship, one of the Third Reich's largest battleships, briefly sought sanctuary in Montevideo's harbor from two British ships and a New Zealand battleship which were seeking to sink it.

After sailing out of the harbor, Langsdorff ordered the Graf Spee scuttled after apparently falling for a ruse that a large British naval force was awaiting his ship in international waters. Langsdorff committed suicide in Buenos Aires days later following the naval humiliation. He wrapped himself in the traditional German Navy flag.

While in Montevideo, Westerwelle held talks with new Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, a former radical leftist rebel fighter who took office March 1, about strengthening bilateral, political and trade ties. The two countries signed a treaty to avoid double taxing.

The German minister, together with a numerous business and media delegation is on a Latinamerican tour which began Sunday with aid delivery to quake-stricken Chile followed by talks in Argentina Monday. He was set to travel to Brazil later Tuesday for a three-day visit.


Categories: Politics, International, Uruguay.

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  • Argie

    The Germany that lost the war is not the same that bears that name now. I can't see why is it then that the German government became so interested in keeping this piece of salvage now that is has been brought to land but did not move a finger after all these years to retrieve it. If the 'eagle' has a proper owner (certainly not Germany), whoever it may be, his/her/its rights include sending the piece to public auction, and if the current German government wants it that badly, it should pay for it as much as it can to have it for their museum. In my humble opinion, there is no question of countries' friendship or other traps that the powerful Germans may set to lay their hands for free on the Graf Spee's Nazionalsocialistisches Adler.

    Mar 10th, 2010 - 03:48 pm 0
  • globetrotter

    German law prohibits the public display of all / any nazi memorabilia / symbols. Technically speaking, such an item from the Graf Spee could not be placed in any museum for public display and, as Argie 1 points out above, why the interest now? Put the thing on auction and let the highest bidder reap the reward or, alternatively, present it to the residents of Villa Gral. Belgrano since, there is more memorabilia displayed on shop fronts in the highstreet than in any German museum.

    Mar 10th, 2010 - 04:21 pm 0
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