Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brewing Controversy between Germany and Uruguay

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the relatively little-known Battle of the River Plate and Uruguay's role in the sinking of a Nazi ship that remains in Montevideo's harbor to this day. Lillie over at Memory in Latin America had a nice little post about Uruguay raising the Nazi eagle and swastika from the ship's wreckage a few years ago, and about the controversy it is now causing.

It's the swastika that is causing the trouble. The German government, as represented by its ambassador in Uruguay, is opposed to the display of the eagle with the Nazi cross. Germany, understandably enough, is sensitive about the ultimate symbol of National Symbolism. Public display of it is generally illegal in Germany although exceptions are made for historical and educational purposes.

There now seems to be some uncertainty about the ownership of the eagle. Germany believes the ship to be part of its cultural heritage. According to Uruguayan law, sunken ships predating 1973 in their waters are generally considered property of the Uruguayan state. Uruguayan businessman Alfredo Etchegaray has the rights to salvage the wreck and he doesn't believe that Germany even has the right to express an opinion on the matter. He points out that Germany has its own share of historical relics from other countries, including the head of Nefertiti which Egypt would very much like back. Uruguayan newspaper El Pais notes that Germany contributes money to the preservation of concentration camp Auschwitz, in modern-day Poland.
It's pretty interesting, and well worth checking out in its entirety.