Bronze eagle from the Nazi warship the Admiral Graf Spee
Bronze eagle from the Nazi warship the Admiral Graf SpeeREUTERS

The president of Uruguay has axed a plan to turn an 800-pound World War II bronze eagle adorned with a swastika into an artistic representation of peace, citing concerns that the plan undermined the item's historical significance.

The predicament of what to do with the eagle, currently housed in a naval warehouse, has been a source of contention in Uruguay since it was retrieved from the remains of the Admiral Graf Spee - a sunken Nazi cruiser or "pocket battleship" - by private explorers in 2006. Initially showcased as a historical artifact, the display was subsequently withdrawn due to accusations of glorifying Nazism.

Four years ago, a Uruguayan court ruled that the government should auction the emblem and allocate the proceeds to the investors who financed the recovery mission. However, the auction was halted due to protests from Jewish organizations and the German government. Last year, a Jewish businessman expressed interest in purchasing the eagle with the intention of destroying it.

On Friday, President Luis Lacalle Pou proposed an alternative idea: having the Uruguayan sculptor Pablo Atchugarry melt down the relic and transform the Nazi eagle into a symbol of peace—a dove.

At first, local Jewish leaders welcomed the presidential announcement. However, criticism emerged against the plan.

Uruguayan historian and humorist Diego Delgrossi argued that turning a Nazi artifact into a peace dove would be akin to if "Mexico turned its Aztec sacrificial stones into camping tables." Anibal Gloodtdofsky, a former lawmaker, compared it to "transforming Auschwitz into a nude camp."

Mercedes Vigil, a Uruguayan writer, responded to the government's announcement on Twitter, stating, “If the cultural heritage of humanity followed these criteria, jewels like the Roman Circus, Cappadocia, the Wailing Wall and more, today would be scorched earth.”

This Sunday President Lacalle Pou formally abandoned the plan, stating in a press conference, “If one wants to generate peace, the first thing to generate is unity. And that is what is not happening,” adding “I still think it’s a good idea, but a president has to listen.”