Uruguayan authorities have decided to reverse their previous plans to melt down a bronze eagle recovered from a sunken Nazi ship and transform it into a symbol of peace, according to President Luis Lacalle Pou’s announcement on Sunday.
The bronze eagle, a significant artifact weighing 350 kilograms (771 pounds) and holding a swastika in its claws, was retrieved from a German destroyer from World War II that sank off Uruguay’s coast 17 years ago.
On Friday, President Lacalle Pou had expressed his intention to convert this “symbol of violence and war” into a “symbol of peace and unity.”
However, the proposal raised concerns from both cultural and political perspectives.
By Sunday, the president had reversed his decision, acknowledging that “there is an overwhelming majority that does not support this choice” of melting and recasting the eagle.
“If our goal is to foster peace, the first step should be to promote unity,” he added. “Clearly, this approach has failed to achieve that.”
The bronze eagle originally adorned the stern of the Admiral Graf Spee, a battleship involved in one of the earliest naval clashes of World War II.
Following the Battle of the River Plate off the Uruguayan coast on December 17, 1939, the Graf Spee’s captain, Hans Langsdorff, intentionally sank the battleship, which was one of the largest vessels of the Third Reich.
The sculpture was discovered in 2006 after a decade-long search, but determining its fate has been a subject of controversy.
The German government expressed its displeasure when the artifact was briefly exhibited in Montevideo after its discovery, with Berlin discouraging the display of Nazi memorabilia.
In 2010, the German foreign minister voiced his desire “to prevent the remnants of Nazi regime symbols from being commercialized” and discouraged selling the bronze eagle to private collectors, fearing that it might end up in the hands of Nazi sympathizers.