Did you know about Nazi Germany’s Antarctic colony?

View of the Schwabenland from astern, with two seaplanes near the catapult
(Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Navy)
Stories of Nazi flying saucers and Hitler escaping to the Moon via Antarctica are firmly in the realm of science fiction, but Nazi Germany did have a short-lived colony in the Antarctic. A 1938-39 expedition was launched by the Reichskolonialbund (“Reich Colonial League) to find a suitable site for an Antarctic whaling station. Germany needed whale oil to produce margarine and soap; it was buying an annual 200,000 tons from Norway, but wanted to wean itself off of foreign dependency. The mission’s secondary goal was to also scout for a potential future naval base site.
1995 photo of the Drygalski Mountains in the central region of Neuschwabenland
(Photo: Wilfried Bauer)
The expedition was conducted by the MS Schwabenland. The ship carried two Dornier Do J Wal seaplanes that could be launched by a stream catapult then recovered from the sea by a crane. The planes flew over some 600,000 square kilometers (231,660 square miles) of the southernmost continent, taking film footage and 11,600 photographs (most of which were lost during the war). They also dropped about a dozen 3.9 ft (1.2 m) aluminum arrows with swastikas displayed on their stabilizer fins, which were supposed to stick into the ice and mark Germany’s newest and only overseas colony. The territory (which, coincidentally, had also just been claimed by Norway) was named Neuschwabenland („New Swabia“) after the ship.
Mountains in the Neuschwabenland region photographed during a 2023 expedition of polar explorer Christoph Höbenreich
(Photo: Christoph Höbenreich)
A second mission was planned with improved ski-planes that could land further inland, but the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 put an end to Germany’s Antarctic aspirations, and the territorial claims were abandoned with the fall of the Nazi regime.

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A paratrooper landing at Mont Saint-Michel, France to honor paratroopers who descended on D-Day
(Photo: U.S. Army, Army Sgt. Hannah Hawkins)

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