Montevideo / Punta del Este (Uruguay), Dec 15 (EFE) .- A Nazi eagle rests in the Fortaleza del Cerro, a military unit of the Uruguayan State. This was one of the remains rescued from the bottom of the bay of Montevideo, where the framework of the imposing battleship Admiral Graf Spee rests, sunk in 1939, now 80 years ago.
After the defeat before the British in the Battle of the Río de la Plata, which took place in Punta del Este (southeastern Uruguay) on December 13, 1939, the German ship headed to the Montevidean port to repair the damage suffered and bury Your fallen in combat.
However, the outcome was another. After 72 hours marked by the Uruguayan authorities to leave the Montevidean coast, Captain Hans Langsdorff exploded the ship on December 17 to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
During the decades that have passed, many people were interested in the sunken remains in the depths of the bay of Montevideo. Among them, the businessman Alfredo Etchegaray and the researcher Daniel Acosta and Lara explain to Efe how, before the curiosity to know what is hidden in that impressive warship, they undertook an arduous way of rescue.
THE EAGLE OF GRAF SPEE
The Graf Spee was the pride of the Kriegsmarine (War Navy) of Nazi Germany and, during the first months of World War II, he panicked as a privateer on the trade routes of the South Atlantic.
Etchegaray explains that it has about 40 drawers with thousands of documents about the ship. His obsession with knowing every detail about this battleship led him to collect photos, videos, plans, academic documentation and even newspaper and magazine clippings that addressed the issue.
His relationship with the ship began several decades ago and in 2004 he managed to remove the impressive rangefinder that is displayed today in the facilities of the port of Montevideo.
Two years later, the work team discovered the bronze eagle, with its wings extended, over 300 kilos, two meters high and 2.8 meters wide located on the bow of the ship. The swastika in the lower area caused "an impact on the press worldwide," he says.
"It was said that there was the possibility of the eagle, which the Germans could have withdrawn secretly; also the English who had divers working there. However, the eagle was there with its bolts and in very good condition," he recalls.
For his part, Acosta and Lara, expert in the history of the ship and author of the book "Graf Spee. 1939-2009 From Wilhelmshaven to the Rio de la Plata", says he began investigating German artillery and then joined the Etchegaray group to contribute your knowledge
He describes as "impressive" the moment to extract the eagle from the brown waters of the Río de la Plata and notes that it was he who proposed to cover the swastika -when the piece was publicly exhibited- because of the sensitivity it awakens in the Jewish community.
"Emotionally it had an impressive effect for me to see the eagle emerge. Not because I have any inclination for the Nazi images, quite the opposite. When they ask me about the ship I say that it was well sunk and I'm always interested in clarifying that," he emphasizes.
Acosta and Lara says that it is not possible to withdraw the boat from the river in its entirety because it is very deteriorated and diving in the Montevidean coasts "is totally blind."
Both highlight their pride in having achieved, with the collaboration of diver Héctor Bado (deceased in 2017), this piece of incalculable value and the difficulties to be able to decide on his destiny.
WHAT TO DO WITH NAZIS SYMBOLS?
Since its extraction, the eagle has gone back and forth and those who took it out cannot access it, since it is guarded by the Ministry of National Defense in the Fortress of the Cerro de Montevideo.
The fear that it is used to venerate Nazi symbology has caused the Uruguayan authorities to resist authorizing its sale.
Although its value is immense, Etchegaray ensures that there are interested in acquiring the piece and none belong to neo-Nazi groups but, on the contrary, they are academics or people who want to donate the piece to the Holocaust Museum.
The situation was put in the hands of the Justice, which decided months ago that the Ministry should give the conditions for it to be sold.
Once the deadline for the appeal of the Defense portfolio has expired and, after a negotiation process between both parties, the matter is in the hands of the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, who is expected to issue "a decree that benefits with economic resources to the State and also comply with the contract and the opinion of Justice, "explains Etchegaray.
The businessman says he was looking forward to going for more remains, but it has cost him to get the authorization of the Government.
"The boat is bland, in a very bad state but it doesn't matter, you have to let it be seen. It's not the boat, it's the whole cultural context, how was Montevideo," he explains.
For the entrepreneur, the reflection "is one of the most important things", since it helps not to make mistakes of the past and with that spirit he considers that this element must be exposed so that people become aware of the atrocities of Nazism. Federico Anfitti and Santiago Carbone
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