The wreck of a Nazi submarine linked to rumors about the secret smuggling of the Nazi elite to South America at the end of WWII has been discovered off the Danish coast.
The submarine, called U-3523, was recently discovered by the Sea War Museum Jutland over 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the coast of Skagerrak, Denmark’s most northern town. This class of submarine, a Type XXI U-boat, was one of Germany’s most formidable pieces of naval technology during the war. Unlike most submarines at the time, it was able to operate for long periods submerged underwater at speeds of up to 31.9 kilometers (19.8 miles) per hour.
Multibeam imaging scans of the wreck revealed that submarine was laying on the floor of the sea at a depth around 123 meters (400 feet). Unusually, it was resting with its nose pointed diagonally into the seabed, with its stern remaining some 20 meters (65 feet) above the seafloor.
The U-3523 set off on December 14, 1944, but sank within months after a depth charge attack by a British bomber airplane in May 1945. Documents suggest that the U-boat had a crew of 58 people, however, there are no signs of any remains among the wreckage.
“This was a very special U-boat. It was the most modern submarine the Germans built during the [Second World] war. It was highly modern and well ahead of its time,” Gert Normann Andersen, director of the Sea War Museum Jutland, told Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.
“Only two of the 118 that were ordered actually entered service,” Andersen added. The vessels that survived the war were later used by the US, the UK, France, and the Soviet Union to study the technology of Nazi-era Germany.
It’s because of these unique abilities that U-3523 has fired up so much speculation over the past decades. According to the Sea War Museum Jutland, many have argued the U-3523 was the first real submarine that could have sailed all the way across the Atlantic in one stretch at deep depths. The Museum even suggests that due to the fact the German forces in Denmark, northwest Germany, and Holland had just surrendered, the sub was actually on the run when it sank. Perhaps then, this was the vessel that fleeing Nazis used to escape to Latin America?
Others have argued that the submarine was used to transport the much-romanticized "Nazi gold". While a select few of the top Nazis – including the infamous Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele – are known to have escaped to parts of South America, there's not much evidence to say that this submarine was involved in any of these post-war activities.
After all, most agree that the U-3523 submarine was lying on the Danish seabed by the time WWII had ended in September 1945.