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Danube drought reveals parts of hidden WWII history – Brospar Daily News

PRAKHOVO, Serbia (AP) — Europe’s worst drought in decades has not only scorched farmland and hampered river traffic, it has also revealed a nearly forgotten part of the history of the Second World War: The deaths of dozens of German warships during World War II. The wreckage appeared due to the lower water level of the Danube.

In the middle of the great river that separates Serbia and Romania near the port of Prahovo, Serbia, the rusted hull, the broken mast that caused the swastika to fly, the upper deck of what was once the command bridge, containing possibly fuel – or even explosives – leaning against a cobbled dune emerging from the water.

The ships, some still loaded with ammunition, belonged to Nazi Germany’s Black Sea Fleet, which was deliberately sunk by the Germans as they retreated from Romania as Soviet troops advanced.

Historians say that in September 1944, as many as 200 German warships sank near Prahovo in the Danube Gorge known as the Iron Gate, under orders from the fleet commander under heavy fire from the Soviet artillery. The idea behind the deliberate sinking was to at least slow down the Soviet advance in the Balkans. But that did not help Nazi Germany to surrender a few months later in May 1945.

Scientists have linked the unusually hot weather in Europe this summer to global warming and other factors. Falling water levels have created dangerous conditions for navigation on many of the continent’s rivers, including the Danube, Europe’s second longest river, which crosses 10 countries. Serbian authorities use dredging to keep ships moving.

The wrecks emerging from the depths are impressive, but they have been causing problems for river users for decades and now the Serbian government, with the support of the European Union, plans to act against them.

After the war, Yugoslav communist authorities removed some of the debris from the river. But most of them remain, hampering navigation, especially in the summer months when water levels are low. Removing the boats from the muddy waters had been planned for years, but the operation was deemed too risky due to the explosives they were carrying, and it was only recently carried out.

Today the European Union and the European Investment Bank agreed to provide loans and to withdraw some ships near Prakhovo to increase the capacity of the Danube. The total cost of the operation is estimated at 30 million euros.

“The ships sank and since then they have been lying on the riverbed,” said Emanuele Giaufret, European Union ambassador to Serbia, during a recent visit to the wreck site. “It’s a problem. It’s a problem for traffic on the Danube, it limits mobility, it’s a danger because some ships still have unexploded ordnance.

Giaufret was accompanied by Alessandro Bragonzi, director of the European Investment Bank in the Western Balkans.

He said the project included the removal of 21 wrecks.

“It is estimated that more ships are under water, up to 40, but there are currently 21 ships hampering the conditions of the Danube Canal, especially during low water,” Bragonzi said.

Experts say the salvage operation will involve removing explosives from the wreckage and then destroying the wreckage, rather than dragging the boat out of the river.

The wreckage of a German World War II warship is seen on the Danube near Prahovo, Serbia, Monday August 29, 2022. Europe’s worst drought in decades has not only scorched land agricultural land and hampered river traffic, it exposed an almost forgotten part of the world’s WWII history. The hulls of dozens of German battleships emerged from the vast Danube as the water level of the Danube dropped.
AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic.

The wreckage of a German World War II warship is seen on the Danube near Prahovo, Serbia, Monday August 29, 2022. Europe’s worst drought in decades has not only scorched land agricultural land and hampered river traffic, it exposed an almost forgotten part of the world’s WWII history. The hulls of dozens of German battleships emerged from the vast Danube as the water level of the Danube dropped.
AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic.

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