The government of Uruguay has been told to sell an enormous bronze eagle with a swastika that divers recovered from the wreck of a Nazi battleship in 2006.
The 800 lb eagle, which adorned the stern of the Admiral Graf Spee battleship, was retrieved as part of a privately-funded recovery effort and later displayed in the Uruguayan capital before it was impounded owing to complaints.
Among the complainants were Uruguayan Jews, who asked that the swastika be covered by cloth, and the German government, which accused Uruguay of displaying “Nazi paraphernalia”.
Since the eagle was recovered, the government has sought the views of the Jewish community as regards what to do with the giant relic.
In 2007 Israel Buszkaniec, president of the country’s Jewish Central Committee, said: “Our concern is that the eagle doesn’t generate a Nazi sanctuary in Uruguay that will draw Nazis from all over the region.”
The sale is expected to net a hefty profit for the private investors who funded the recovery effort, with one 12-year old offer reportedly valued at £45 million.
The Graf Spee sank several Allied merchant vessels in the first few months of the Second World War, before it was pursued, located and damaged by three ships from Britain and New Zealand in the Battle of River Plate in December 1939.
The captain took the Graf Spee into the harbour of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital. He removed the dead and injured, scuttled the battleship a few miles out, then killed himself several days later. In 1940 British spies purchased the wreck through a Uruguayan front company in order to assess the ship’s sophisticated technology.