Danube drought reveals parts of hidden WWII history

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The worst drought in Europe in decades has not only scorched farmland and hampered river traffic, it also has exposed a part of almost forgotten World War II history: The hulks of dozens of World War II German battleships have emerged from the Danube River as its water levels have dropped.

In the middle of the mighty river separating Serbia and Romania near the Serbian port of Prahovo, a rusty hull, a broken mast where the swastika flag used to fly, an upper deck where a command bridge used to be, a barrel that could have been holding fuel — or even explosive materials — lean on a pebblestone dune that has emerged from the water.

The ships, some still laden with munition, belonged to Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet that was deliberately sunk by the Germans as they retreated from Romania as Soviet forces advanced.

Historians say up to 200 German warships were scuttled in September 1944 near Prahovo in the Danube gorge known as The Iron Gate on the orders of the fleet’s commander as they came under heavy fire from the Soviets. The idea behind the deliberate sinking was to at least slow down the Soviet advance in the Balkans. But it did not help as Nazi Germany surrendered months later, in May 1945.

The unusually hot weather across Europe this summer was linked by scientists to global warming and other factors.—AFP

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