World War II Survivors Meet to Witness Surfacing of U-Boat
ANHOLT, Denmark (AP) _ German survivors of a sunken U-boat and Allied airmen who attacked it gathered Saturday to watch the surfacing of the submarine, thought to contain a treasure and secret Nazi documents.
Ever since the U-534 was sunk by a British bomber in 1945, Danes have been speculating about the content of the submarine, which has been resting on the sea bottom about 15 miles off the tiny island of Anholt.
Some believed it carried jewels and gold. Other think it carried secret documents or top Nazis trying to escape to South America as the Third Reich collapsed.
The submarine was assigned to a fleet which often transported valuables, secret documents and key Nazi officials between Germany and its ally Japan.
Salvagers said the hull of the 254-foot submarine was intact, while the tower and the periscope have been damaged by fishing trawlers. Jonathan Wardlow, spokesman for the salvaging consortium, said the three sets of anti- aircraft guns on the tower were still there.
Before abandoning ship, the crew of 52 men closed watertight hatches leading to the officers’ mess hall and quarters and to the radio room. Because of the dry compartments, the submarine is much lighter than expected and easier to bring to the surface.
Two cranes, owned by a Dutch salvage company and hired by Danish newspaper owner Karsten Ree, will lift the vessel. It will be placed on a barge and towed to port.
Surviving members of the submarine’s crew were impatient to see the ship, which salvagers say is likely to surface Sunday.
″It will be strange to see her again,″ said Werner Weins, who was a mechanic on the U-534. ″I’ve lived a whole life since.″
Weins, 71, and other German survivors said they felt no resentment when they met British navigator Neville Baker, now of Lakewood, Ohio, and three Australians: gunner Ernest Collet, co-pilot Lloyd Collins and radar operator and gunner Vincent Seery.
The airmen, all in their 70s, were among a crew of 11 aboard the British Royal Air Force Liberator bomber which sank the U-534 on May 5, 1945, the day after the surrender of Nazi troops in Denmark, northern Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.
″We feel we are even. We shot at them once, they shot at us once, and sank us,″ said 72-year-old Kurt Dittrich.
Friday night, Weins, Dittrich and six other German survivors joined the former airmen to sing wartime songs, including ″Lili Marlene″ and ″Waltzing Matilda″ at a restaurant in Anholt, halfway between Sweden and Denmark.
The Danish government has allowed salvagers to keep what they find.