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The interest in the history of wrecks has rarely been greater in Denmark than when Aage Jensen and Karsten Ree raised the escape submarine U-534. Now it can be seen in Liverpool.
U-534 was the last submarine which departed from the submarine base at Kiel during the Third Reich collapse in 1945.
Unfortunately, the Danish waters were very unpleasant for German vessels in those days. The allied aircrafts patrolled heavily in the Belts and Kattegat which was virtually transformed in to a turkey shoot.
U-534 was only one among many German vessels which sat the course due north from the Baltic region and it was not gone unheeded by the Allied. They sank up to 20 ships and submarines in Danish waters during the last days of the war.
Contrary to orders directly from the head of the German Kriegsmarine, Admiral Dönitz, Captain Herbert Nollau on U-534 refused to surrender or even sinking the submarine as part of Operation Regenbogen. Therefore, U-534 became the last submarine, which was sunk in the World War II. This happened on 5 May 1945 by British Liberator-aircrafts, which had been created to do just that with the feared German submarines.
The crew managed to escape the submarine and all survived the attack except one who drowned in the cold water. Before the boat went down, the crew shot a British aircraft down, and one of the pilots were actually rescued on board a German lifeboat. For yet unknown reasons he didn’t survive his stay in it.
Myths about the U-534
The fact that U-534 was the last submarine, which departed from Kiel, has given rise to numerous speculations. Was the submarine an escape vessel for prominent Nazis? Perhaps Hitlers right hand, Martin Bohrmann, had a one-way ticket to Argentina? Could it be packed with gold and art treasures that officers stole during the chaos of the final days of the war? Maybe it even contained the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun? There was certainly no lag of myths or rumors about the cargo and destination of U-534 until the raising in 1993.
The many rumors must be seen in the light of the testimony from the surviving crew and unusual circumstances about the submarines stay in Kiel. Especially one crewmembers drawing of some mysterious crates on the quayside that was carried on board just before departure, have caused some speculations. What was in these boxes?
One of the more occult theories is about something as spectacular as The Longinus spear that was stuck in the crucified Jesus. According to legend it was supposed to help the holder to take over the world domination. Due to Hitler’s passionate interest in both the occult and the world domination, and the fact that the spear was actually in his possession for a certain period, the theory was not completely out of the thin air. But that is another story.
U-534 was also packed with food and diesel, which was difficult to obtain in large quantities during the final days of the war. This indicates that the submarine has had a special mission and was given a high priority. But why? The theory that the course was set against Argentina is supported by the fact that the Argentine officer Endemann didn’t have any experience with submarines and he should take over command, when the submarine had passed Skagen. He was the sole officer that died north of Anholt after the attack on May 5 1945.
A clarification on these myths and theories are yet to come out of U-534, which after many years of searching was localized by “Dynamite-Aage” in 1986 and raised in 1993. As it turned out that the submarine didn’t containe large quantities of gold or religious relics, the project was quickly hailed for a bit of a failure to the publisher Karsten Ree, who funded the costly salvage.
But that conclusion may be reached a bit too early. 16 years after the submarine was raised it is not yet searched from top to bottom. Boxes need to be opened and examined, and the submarine’s hull can still hide a lot of exciting things. An assumption that is supported by the fact that the submarine spent three weeks at the base in Kiel, in which extensive design work was done.
Regardless of the commercial value measured in dollars the submarine’s contents are quite invaluable in a historical context. There are other conserved 7-series submarines around the world, but none where the content is preserved in the same extent as the U-534s. Much of the -literally- tons of historical documents, manuals and personal letters have been preserved in addition to the unique Enigma encryption machines, watches, binoculars, medicine. Simply everything the probably most important war machine needed to work on its long and deadly trips in the Atlantic Ocean. The many tonnes of documents and equipment are now in Liverpool, were a museum has been established by the transportation company Mersey Travel.
In Denmark there hasn’t been sufficient interest to exhibit the U-534, and therefore it ended up in England instead. Here it has been cut into five pieces, so that the audience can see into the narrow vessel through large windows. The museum opened in the winter 2009.
Gallery From the salvage:
Soon a gallery with some of all the items and documents from the U-boot will be online.