the last German surrender

Today exactly 75 years ago the Blaasel, a Norwegian sealing vessel, sailed into Rijpfjord on the northern shores of Nordaustlandet. Deep into this fjord, there were 11 German soldiers eagerly waiting for this ship. These 11 men were manning a secret weather station and were the last German soldiers that hadn’t surrendered yet. Not because they wanted to keep on fighting, but mainly for the lack of people to surrender to.

Haudegen station in 2015

Wilhelm Dege was dropped with his 10 companions in the summer of 1944 in the inner parts of Rijpfjord by a German U-boat (U-307) and the supply vessel Karl J. Busch. They brought supplies with them: food, building materials for their plywood cabin, weapons and ammunition, radio equipment and, of course, their meteorological equipment. They were supposed to man a weather station and sent 5 coded weather forecasts each day to the (German-occupied) weather station in Tromsø.

Haudegen was one of several of those secret weather stations the Germans places in the Arctic (spread out over East Greenland, Spitsbergen and Franz Joseph Land) between 1941 and 1945 (see a map here). For the Germans, it was very important to have good weather forecasts from the high Arctic, as this is vital for making good forecasts for the North Atlantic, which was important for their ships in that area. Two other well-known weather station on Spitsbergen are the ones in Krossfjord: Knospe and Nussbaum. The latter was discovered by allied forces and was bombed, leaving only some rusty scrap metal behind.

Being a geologist, Wilhelm Dege spent a lot of the time he had between the weather forecasts studying the geology of the area. After the official surrender of the Germans in Europe, the men were forgotten. Dege continued making his weather forecasts and sent them now uncoded and they tried to reach ships in order to get rescued. This didn’t seem to work and the men started preparations to spent another winter in their small hut. But fortunately, in the night of 3 – 4 September 1945, almost 4 months after the official surrender by general Jodl in Berlin, captain Albertsen onboard Blaasel came to the rescue.

The two main huts

After they shared a meal, it was time for the official surrender. However, Albertsen, being the skipper on a sealing vessel, had no clue how to handle this. Wilhelm Dege replied with that he didn’t know how to handle it either. He handed over his pistol, as a form of formal surrender, which made them the last German soldiers to surrender in the Second World War.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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