Hitler’s secret plans thwarted by polar bears | Polarjournal
For the first time, the remains of the weather station known as “Schatzgräber” were rediscovered in the summer of 2016. (Photo, Evgeniy Ermolov)

There are many conspiracy theories about Nazi institutions in the Polar Regions. But there were also ventures that actually existed. However, the mission of the weather station “Schatzgräber” had to be cancelled due to a bizarre incident.

The sparse remains are scattered widely. (Photo: Evgeniy Ermolov)

East of Spitsbergen, on the former Soviet archipelago Franz Joseph Land, another German weather station was established under the pseudonym “Schatzgräber”. The station was equipped with the latest technology at the time. They received supplies by submarine or parachute drop. The weather observations and measurements are said to have been aimed at carrying out strikes on central areas of the former USSR or at preventing arms deliveries from the West to the Soviet Union via the Barents Sea.

Some utensils could still be assigned to their purpose. (Photo, Evgeniy Ermolov)

On May 30, 1944, the weather inspector Gerhard Wallik and Lance corporal Werner Blankenburg killed a polar bear whose meat was processed into minced meat by the latter – at the same time cook of the weather station – and eaten by the crew in raw condition. After a few days, Blankenburg, who had eaten most of the Tatar, became the first to suffer from pain in his legs and a high fever. Within a month, nine other members of the weather squad fell ill, except for the paramedic Gerhard Hoffmann, who had not eaten the raw meat because he was a vegetarian. Trichinellosis was detected by the ambulance service of the naval command in Oslo by radio remote diagnosis. The detachment was then cancelled and an evacuation by plane with Focke-Wulf 200 Condor was ordered immediately. On 11 July, the aircraft landed in Trondheim with a landing gear repaired on Alexandra Land and with all members of the “Schwatzgräber” weather squad on board. The observation station was later dismantled by soldiers and transported by submarine.

The sick soldiers were evacuated by plane.

The mine belt designed to protect the weather station could not be removed during the pick-up of the weather squad. When the veterans of the enterprise became aware in the 1950s that the Soviet Union had now set up its own weather station nearby, the Germans tried to contact the Soviet leadership to inform them of the location of the mines, which was ignored by the Soviet side. It was not until 1990 that the mines were secured and defused by an expedition by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The old mine maps of the weather squad Schatzgräber served as the basis.

The former station “Schatzgräber” is located on Alexander Island in the west of the Franz Joseph Land archipelago, not far from the Russian military base Nagurskaya

More than 70 years later, Russian scientists stand in the ruins of the fabled station to unravel the last secrets. “There are many myths about the German Polar operation, but there is little evidence,” says expedition leader Evgeniy Ermolov. Currently, these latest finds are being prepared for transport to Arkhangelsk.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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