Calls to sell Nazi eagle from stern of Graf Spee in Uruguay

The Uruguay Government is currently in possession of a bronze Nazi eagle recovered from the wreckage of the Nazi battleship, the Graf Spee, located just off its coast.

The Graf Spee was Nazi Germany’s flagship battleship and was one of the most modern, and well-equipped ships of World War II.

After coming into a conflict with three British and New Zealand Navy ships in 1939, the Graf Spee’s captain decided to sink his own ship to prevent the Allies accessing the ship and its contents. Today the battle is known as the Battle of River Plate.

Many of the German crew evacuated to Uruguay, and many Germans settled there in the years after the war.

Since being recovered, the eagle has been stored by the Uruguayan Government as the dive crew’s private backers fight for ownership. The Supreme Court finally ruled this year that the eagle does belong to the Uruguayan state, but that if sold, the private backers who funded and organised the dive which recovered the eagle should take 50% of the profits.

The eagle is currently being housed in a secure warehouse protected by the Uruguayan Navy in a controlled temperature and humidity settings.

Speculation says that the eagle could be worth more than US $15 million.

The private investors have suggested that a replica of the eagle is to be made so that it can be kept as a World War II artefact. Then they could sell the original to capitalise on its current market value – benefiting the government as well, the BBC News reports.

The Uruguayan Government has still not made a decision.

On a visit to Uruguay in 2010, the then German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, raised the German Government’s concerns that if the eagle is sold, it could fall into the hands of Nazi sympathisers, which would be a catastrophe as Germany continues to distance itself from its World War II past.

German authorities have said they would like the wreckage of the Graf Spee to be properly investigated with any contents of Nazi origin to be prevented from being sold or getting into the market.

The 75thanniversary of the battle is being commemorated with events in Uruguay and Argentina.

All parties seem to agree that exhibiting a bronze eagle with a Nazi swastika under its claws would not be as easy as displaying a piece of navigation technology.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE