Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany

Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany

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After Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaded
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 on June 22, 1941, Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 reached Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 in July.
Initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, having arrived only a week after the first mass deportations from the Baltics. Although hopes were raised for the restoration of the country's independence, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. The Germans pillaged the country for the war effort and unleashed the Holocaust. For the duration of the occupation, Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...

.

Occupation


Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaded the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 on June 22, 1941. On the same day, Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union and three days later, on June 25, Finland declared herself to once again be in a state of war with the USSR, starting the Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

. On July 3, Stalin made his public statement over the radio calling for scorched-earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy in the areas to be abandoned. Because the northernmost areas of the Baltic states were the last to be reached by the Germans, it was here that the Soviet destruction battalions had their most extreme effects. The Estonian forest brothers
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

, numbering about 50,000, inflicted heavy casualties on the remaining Soviets; as many as 4,800 were killed and 14,000 captured.

Even though the Germans did not cross the Estonian southern border until July 7–9, Estonian soldiers who had deserted from Soviet units in large numbers, opened fire on the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 as early as June 22. On that day, a group of forest brothers attacked Soviet trucks on a road in the district of Harju
Harju
-People:*Arsi Harju , Finnish shot putter*Johan Harju , Swedish ice hockey player*Juha Harju , Finnish heavy metal musician-Estonia:*Harju County, one of 15 counties of Estonia...

. Soviet 22nd Rifle Corps was the unit that lost most men, as a large group of Estonian soldiers and officers deserted from it. Furthermore, border guards of Soviet Estonia were mostly people who had previously worked for independent Estonia, and they also escaped to the forests, becoming one of the best groups of Estonian fighters. An Estonian writer Juhan Jaik wrote in 1941: "These days bogs and forests are more populated than farms and fields. The forests and bogs are our territory while the fields and farms are occupied by the enemy [e.g. the Soviets]"".

The 8th Army
8th Army (Soviet Union)
The 8th Army was a field army of the Soviet Red Army during the Second World War.The 8th Army was formed in October 1939 from the Novgorod Army Operational Group of the Leningrad Military District with the task of providing security of the Northwestern borders of the USSR. The 8th Army was a field...

 (Major General Ljubovtsev), retreated in front of the 2nd corps of the German Army behind the Pärnu River
Pärnu River
The Pärnu is a river in Estonia that drains into the Gulf of Riga at Pärnu. It is a one of the longest rivers in Estonia - 144 km long. It has the basin area of 6,920 km² and average discharge is 64.4 m³/s.- References :...

- the Emajõgi
Emajõgi
The Emajõgi is a river in Estonia which flows from Lake Võrtsjärv through Tartu County into Lake Peipus, crossing the city of Tartu for 10 km. It has a length of 100 km...

 River line on July 12. As German troops approached Tartu
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 on July 10 and prepared for another battle with the Soviets, they realized that the Estonian partisans
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

 were already in fight with the Soviet troops. Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 stopped its advance and hung back, leaving the Estonians to do the fighting. The battle of Tartu, which the Soviets were unable to overcome, lasted two weeks, and destroyed most of the city. Under the leadership of Friedrich Kurg the Estonian partisans drove out the Soviets from Tartu on their own. While Soviets had been in the process of murdering citizens held in Tartu Prison and had killed 192 before the Estonians captured the city.

At the end of July the Germans resumed their advance in Estonia working in tandem with the Estonian Forest Brothers
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

. Both German troops and Estonian partisans took Narva
Narva
Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. It is located at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, by the Russian border, on the Narva River which drains Lake Peipus.-Early history:...

 on August 17 and the Estonian capital Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 on August 28. On that day, the Soviet flag shot down earlier on Pikk Hermann was replaced with the Flag of Estonia by Fred Ise. After the Soviets were driven out from Estonia German troops disarmed all the partisan groups. The Estonian flag was soon replaced with the flag of Nazi Germany, and the 2,000 Estonian soldiers that took part in the parade in Tartu (July 29), were disbanded.

Most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped for restoration of independence. Estonia set up a government administrations, led by Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots was an Estonian prime minister, journalist, prominent attorney and distinguished Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu....

 as soon as the Soviet regime retreated and before German troops arrived. Estonian partisans that drove the Red Army from Tartu made it possible. That all was for nothing since the Germans disbanded the provisional government and Estonia became a part of the German-occupied "Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...

". A Sicherheitspolizei
Sicherheitspolizei
The Sicherheitspolizei , often abbreviated as SiPo, was a term used in Nazi Germany to describe the state political and criminal investigation security agencies. It was made up by the combined forces of the Gestapo and the Kripo between 1936 and 1939...

 was established for internal security under the leadership of Ain-Ervin Mere
Ain-Ervin Mere
Ain Mere was an Estonian military officer. During the World War II, he was an Obersturmbannführer in the Waffen SS and also the head of the Sicherheitspolizei in Estonia following its creation in 1942.He was born in Vändra and fought voluntarily in the Estonian War...

.

In April 1941, on the eve on the German invasion, Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

, Reich minister for the Occupied Eastern territories, a Baltic German
Baltic German
The Baltic Germans were mostly ethnically German inhabitants of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, which today form the countries of Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic German population never made up more than 10% of the total. They formed the social, commercial, political and cultural élite in...

, born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia, laid out his plans for the East. According to Rosenberg a future policy was created:
  1. Germanization (Eindeutschung) of the "racially suitable" elements.
  2. Colonization by Germanic peoples.
  3. Exile, deportations of undesirable elements.


Rosenberg felt that the "Estonians were the most Germanic out of the people living in the Baltic area, having already reached 50 percent of Germanization through Danish, Swedish and German influence". Non-suitable Estonians were to be moved to a region that Rosenberg called "Peipusland" to make room for German colonists.

The initial enthusiasm that accompanied the liberation from Soviet occupation quickly waned as a result and the Germans had limited success in recruiting volunteers. The draft was introduced in 1942, resulting in some 3400 men fleeing to Finland to fight in the Finnish Army
Finnish Army
The Finnish Army is the land forces branch of the Finnish Defence Forces.Today's Army is divided into six branches: the infantry , field artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, engineers, signals, and materiel troops.-History of the Finnish Army:Between 1809 and 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of...

 rather than join the Germans. Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
Infantry Regiment 200 or Soomepoisid was a unit in the Finnish army during World War II made up mostly of Estonian volunteers, who preferred to fight against the Soviet Union in the ranks of the Finnish army instead of the armed forces of Germany....

 AKA (Estonian: soomepoisid) was formed out of Estonian volunteers in Finland.

With the Allied victory over Germany becoming certain in 1944, the only option to save Estonia's independence was to stave off a new Soviet invasion of Estonia until Germany's capitulation.

Political resistance




In June 1942 political leaders of Estonia who had survived Soviet repressions held a hidden meeting from the occupying powers in Estonia where the formation of an underground Estonian government and the options for preserving continuity of the republic were discussed.

On January 6, 1943 a meeting was held at the Estonian foreign delegation in Stockholm. It was decided that, in order to preserve the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia, the last constitutional prime minister, Jüri Uluots, must continue to fulfill his responsibilities as prime minister.

In June 1944 the elector’s assembly of the Republic of Estonia gathered in secrecy from the occupying powers in Tallinn and appointed Jüri Uluots as the prime minister with the responsibilities of the President. On June 21 Jüri Uluots appointed Otto Tief as deputy prime minister.

As the Germans retreated, on September 18, 1944 Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots was an Estonian prime minister, journalist, prominent attorney and distinguished Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu....

 formed a government led by the Deputy Prime Minister, Otto Tief
Otto Tief
Otto Tief was a lawyer, an Estonian military commander during the Estonian War of Independence and a politician. He was Acting Prime Minister of the last government of Estonia before Soviet troops occupied Estonia in 1944...

. On September 20 the Nazi German flag on Pikk Hermann
Pikk Hermann
Pikk Hermann is a tower of the Toompea Castle, on Toompea hill in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The first part was built 1360-70. It was rebuilt in the 16th century...

 was replaced with the tricolor flag of Estonia. On September 22 the Red Army took Tallinn and the Estonian flag on Pikk Hermann was replaced with the Soviet flag. The Estonian underground government, not officially recognized by either the Nazi Germany or Soviet Union, fled to Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and operated in exile until 1992, when Heinrich Mark
Heinrich Mark
Heinrich Mark was born on October 1, 1911, in Krootuse, Kõlleste Parish, now in Põlva County, Estonia. He died on August 2, 2004, in Stockholm, Sweden....

, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia in duties of the President in exile, presented his credentials to the newly elected President of Estonia Lennart Meri
Lennart Meri
Lennart Georg Meri was a writer, film director and statesman who served as the second President of Estonia from 1992 to 2001. Meri was a leader of the Estonian independence movement.-Early life:...

. On February 23, 1989 the flag of the Estonian SSR had been lowered on Pikk Hermann
Pikk Hermann
Pikk Hermann is a tower of the Toompea Castle, on Toompea hill in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The first part was built 1360-70. It was rebuilt in the 16th century...

; it was replaced with the flag of Estonia to mark Estonian Independence Day on February 24, 1989.

Estonians in German military units


The annexation of Estonia by the USSR in 1940 was complete, but never recognized internationally except by Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 countries. After the annexation, Estonians were subject to conscription into the Red Army, which by international law is illegal if Estonia is not considered to have been a part of the USSR. When the Soviets retreated from Estonia and Germany fully occupied it, in the summer of 1941, the Germans continued the practice of dragooning Estonian men, although a number joined the German Army voluntarily, often out of the desire to fight the USSR, which had made strong enemies with many groups of society in Estonia after introducing their socialist economic system. Up to March 1942 drafted Estonians mostly served in the rear of the Army Group North security. On August 28, 1942 the German powers announced the legal compilation of the so-called "Estonian Legion" within the Waffen SS. Oberführer Franz Augsberger
Franz Augsberger
Franz Xaver Josef Maria Augsberger was a Brigadeführer of the Waffen-SS.-Early life:Franz Augsberger was the son of a hotel owner in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire...

 was nominated the commander of the legion. Up to the end of 1942 about 1,280 men volunteered into the training camp. Bataillon Narwa was formed from the first 800 men of the Legion to have finished their training at Heidelager, being sent in April 1943 to join the Division Wiking in Ukraine. They replaced the Finnish Volunteer Battalion, recalled to Finland for political reasons. In March 1943, a partial mobilization was carried out in Estonia during which 12,000 men were conscripted into the SS. On May 5, 1943 the 3rd Waffen-SS Brigade (Estonian), another fully Estonian unit, was formed and sent to the front near Nevel
Nevel
Nevel is a town and the administrative center of Nevelsky District of Pskov Oblast, Russia, located on Lake Nevel southeast of Pskov. Population:...

.

By January 1944, the front was pushed back by the Red Army almost all the way to the former Estonian border. Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots was an Estonian prime minister, journalist, prominent attorney and distinguished Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu....

, the last constitutional Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia, the leader of Estonian underground government delivered a radio address on February 7 that implored all able-bodied men born from 1904 through 1923 to report for military service in the SS (before this, Uluots had opposed any German mobilization of Estonians.) Following Uluots' address, 38.000 conscripts jammed registration centers. Several thousand Estonians who had volunteered to join the Finnish army were transferred back across the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 to join the newly formed Territorial Defense Force, assigned to defend Estonia against the Soviet advance. The maximum amount of Estonians enrolled in German military units was 70,000. The initial formation of the volunteer Estonian Legion created in 1942 was eventually expanded to become a full-sized conscript division of the Waffen SS in 1944, the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian). Units consisting largely of Estonians — often under German officers – saw action on the Narva line
Battle of Narva (1944)
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II....

 throughout 1944. Many Estonians hoped that they would attract support from the Allies, and ultimately a restoration of their interwar independence, by resisting the Soviet reoccupation of their country. In the end, there was no physical Allied support, largely because they were fighting under Nazi flags.

On February 2, 1944 the advance guard units of the 2nd Shock Army
2nd Shock Army
The 2nd Shock Army was a field army of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. This type of formation was created in accordance with prewar doctrine that called for Shock Armies to overcome difficult defensive dispositions in order to create a tactical penetration of sufficient breadth and...

 reached the border of Estonia as a part of the Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive
Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva.The Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive was a campaign between the Soviet Leningrad Front and the German 18th Army fought for the eastern coast of Lake Peipus and the western banks of the Narva River from 1 February till 1 March 1944...

 which began on February 1. Field Marshal Walter Model
Walter Model
Otto Moritz Walter Model was a German general and later field marshal during World War II. He is noted for his defensive battles in the latter half of the war, mostly on the Eastern Front but also in the west, and for his close association with Adolf Hitler and Nazism...

 was nominated the leader of the German Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

. The Soviet Narva Offensive (15–28 February 1944)
Narva Offensive (15–28 February 1944)
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva.The Narva Offensive was a campaign fought between the German army detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front for the strategically important Narva Isthmus. At the time of the operation, Stalin was personally interested in taking Estonia, viewing it...

 led by Soviet General Leonid A. Govorov, the commander of the Leningrad Front
Leningrad Front
The Leningrad Front was first formed on August 27, 1941, by dividing the Northern Front into the Leningrad Front and Karelian Front, during the German approach on Leningrad .-History:...

, commenced. On February 24, Estonian Independence Day, the counterattack of the so-called Estonian Division to break the Soviet bridgehead
Bridgehead
A bridgehead is a High Middle Ages military term, which antedating the invention of cannons was in the original meaning expressly a referent term to the military fortification that protects the end of a bridge...

s began. A battalion of Estonians led by Rudolf Bruus destroyed a Soviet bridgehead. Another battalion of Estonians led by Ain-Ervin Mere
Ain-Ervin Mere
Ain Mere was an Estonian military officer. During the World War II, he was an Obersturmbannführer in the Waffen SS and also the head of the Sicherheitspolizei in Estonia following its creation in 1942.He was born in Vändra and fought voluntarily in the Estonian War...

 was successful against another bridgehead, at Vaasa-Siivertsi-Vepsaküla. On March 6, this work was complete. The Leningrad Front concentrated 9 corps at Narva against 7 divisions and one brigade. On March 1, the Soviet Narva Offensive (1–4 March 1944)
Narva Offensive (1–4 March 1944)
The Narva Offensive was an operation conducted by the Soviet Leningrad Front. It was aimed at the conquest of the Narva Isthmus from the German army detachment "Narwa"...

 began in the direction of Auvere. The 658th Eastern Battalion
658th Eastern Battalion
The 658th Eastern Battalion was an Eastern Front World War II military unit of the Wehrmacht composed of Estonians. It was formed on 23 October 1942 from Estnische Sicherungs-Abteilung 181 by the German 18th Army and fought in Northern Russia...

 led by Alfons Rebane
Alfons Rebane
Alfons Vilhelm Robert Rebane, known simply as Alfons Rebane was an Estonian military commander. He was the most highly decorated Estonian military officer in the course of the Second World War, serving in various German military units against the armed forces of the Soviet Union.After World War...

 and the 659th Eastern Battalion commanded by Georg Sooden
Georg Sooden
Georg Aleksander Sooden was an Estonian officer, serving firstly in the Estonian Army, secondly in Wehrmacht and thirdly in Waffen-SS, fighting mostly in the Estonian area....

 were involved in defeating the operation. On March 17, twenty Soviet divisions again unsuccessfully attacked the three divisions in Auvere. On April 7, the leadership of the Red Army ordered to go on the defensive. In March the Soviets committed bombing attacks towards the towns of Estonia, including the bombing of Tallinn
Bombing of Tallinn in World War II
The Soviet Long Range Aviation bombed the Estonian capital Tallinn several times during World War II. The first instance was during the Summer War of 1941 . A number of bombing missions followed in 1942–43. The largest of the bombings occurred in March 1944 in connection with the Battle of Narva...

 on March 9.

On July 24 the Soviets began the new Narva Offensive (July 1944)
Narva Offensive (July 1944)
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva.The Narva Offensive was a campaign fought between the German army detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front for the city of Narva in 24–30 July 1944....

 in the direction of Auvere
Battle of Auvere
Battle of Auvere was a battle in Estonia, stating on July 20, 1944 and ending on July 25. It was a part of the World War II campaign in Narva....

. The 1st battalion (Stubaf Paul Maitla
Paul Maitla
Paul Maitla was an Estonian military commander. He is one of the four Estonian soldiers who received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

) of the 45th Regiment led by Harald Riipalu and the fusiliers (previously "Narva"), under the leadership of Hatuf Hando Ruus
Hando Ruus
Hando Ruus was an Estonian SS-Hauptsturmführer in World War II, serving in Battalion "Narva" and in the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS...

, were involved in repelling the attack. Finally, Narva was evacuated and a new front was settled on the Tannenberg Line in the Sinimäed Hills.

On the first of August the Finnish government and President Ryti were to resign. On the next day, Aleksander Warma
Aleksander Warma
Aleksander Warma VR I/3 was an Estonian navy officer, diplomat and painter....

, the Estonian Ambassador to Finland (1939–1940 (1944)) announced that the National Committee of the Estonian Republic had sent a telegram, which requested the Estonian volunteer regiment
Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
Infantry Regiment 200 or Soomepoisid was a unit in the Finnish army during World War II made up mostly of Estonian volunteers, who preferred to fight against the Soviet Union in the ranks of the Finnish army instead of the armed forces of Germany....

 to be returned to Estonia fully equipped. On the following day, the Finnish Government received a letter from the Estonians. It had been signed in the name of "all national organizations of Estonia" by Aleksander Warma, Karl Talpak and several others, seconding the request. It was then announced that the regiment would be disbanded and that the volunteers were free to return home. An agreement had been reached with the Germans, and the Estonians were promised amnesty if they chose to return and fight in the SS. As soon as they landed, the regiment was sent to perform a counter-attack against the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front, which had managed a breakthrough on the Tartu front, and was threatening the capital Tallinn.

After an attempt to break through the Tannenberg Line failed, the main struggle was carried to the south of Lake Peipus, where on August 11, Petseri was taken and Võru
Võru
Võru is a town and a municipality in south-eastern Estonia. It is the capital of Võru County and the centre of Võru Parish.-History:Võru was founded on 21 August 1784, according to the wish of the Empress Catherine II of Russia, by the order of Riga Governor general count George Browne, on the...

 on August 13. Near Tartu
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

, the 3rd Baltic Front was stopped by the Kampfgruppe "Wagner
Jürgen Wagner
Jürgen Wagner was a Brigadeführer in the Waffen SS during World War II, he was the commander of the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland and was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves.-Early life:Jürgen Wagner was born on 9 September 1901 in Strasbourg, and was the son of Ernst...

" which involved military groups sent from Narva under the command of Alfons Rebane and Paul Vent
Paul Vent
Paul Vent was an Estonian military officer who served in the Imperial Russian Army, the Estonian Army, the Wehrmacht and in the Waffen SS. Paul Vent fought in World War I, Estonian War of Independence and World War II...

 and the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien
5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien
The 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Wallonien was formed from the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien which was a Belgian Waffen SS volunteer brigade comprising volunteers of Walloon background...

 led by Léon Degrelle
Léon Degrelle
Léon Joseph Marie Ignace Degrelle was a Walloon Belgian politician, who founded Rexism and later joined the Waffen SS which were front-line troops in the fight against the Soviet Union...

.

On August 19, 1944 Jüri Uluots, in a radio broadcast, called for the Red Army to hold back and a peace agreement to be reached.

As Finland left the war on September 4, 1944 according to their peace agreement with the USSR, the defence of the mainland became practically impossible and the German command decided to retreat from Estonia. Resistance against the Soviets continued in the Moonsund Archipelago until November 23, 1944, when the Germans evacuated the Sõrve
Sõrve
Sõrve is a village in Harku Parish, Harju County in northern Estonia. It has a population of 197 ....

 Peninsula. According to the Soviet data, the conquest of the territory of Estonia cost them 126,000 casualties. Some disregard the official figures and argue that a more realistic number is 480,000 for the Battle of Narva
Battle of Narva (1944)
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II....

 only, considering the intensity of the fighting at the front. On the German side, their own data shows 30,000 dead, which some have similarly seen as underrated, preferring at the minimum 45,000.

German administrators


In 1941 Estonia was occupied by German troops and after a brief period of military rule — dependent of the Commanders of the Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 (in the occupied U.S.S.R.
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

) — a German civilian administration was established and Estonia was organized as a General Kommissariat becoming soon afterwards part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland.

Generalkommissar


(subordinated to the Reichskommissar Ostland)
  • 1941–1944 SA-Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Sigismund Litzmann (1893)

S.S. und Polizeiführer


(responsible for internal security and war against the resistance — directly subordinated to the H.S.S.P.F. of Ostland, not to the Generalkommissar)
  • 1941–1944 SS-Oberführer Hinrich Möller (1906–1974)
  • 1944 SS-Brigadeführer Walter Schröder
    Walter Schröder
    Walter Schröder is a German rower who competed for the Unified Team of Germany in the 1960 Summer Olympics.In 1960 he was a crew member of the German boat which won the gold medal in the eights event.-External links:*...

     (1902–1973)

Lagerkommandant


(responsible for the operation of all concentration camps within the Reichskommissariat Ostland)
  • SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Aumeier
    Hans Aumeier
    Hans Aumeier was a Nazi war criminal, an SS-Sturmbannführer and the deputy commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp.-Life before the War:...

     (1906–1947)

Estonian Self-Administration



Estonian Self-Administration , also known as the Directorate, was the puppet government set up in Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 during occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany
Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany
After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Army Group North reached Estonia in July.Initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, having arrived only a week after the first mass deportations from the Baltics...

. According to Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity
Although the Directorate did not have complete freedom of action, it exercised a significant measure of autonomy, within the framework of German policy, political, racial and economic. For example, the Directors exercised their powers pursuant to the laws and regulations of the Republic of Estonia, but only to the extent that these had not been repealed or amended by the German military command.

Directors


Director General
  • 1941–1944 Hjalmar Mäe
    Hjalmar Mäe
    Hjalmar-Johannes Mäe was an Estonian politician....

     (1901–1978)


Director for Home Affairs
  • 1941–1944 Oskar Angelus (1892–1979)


Directors for Justice
  • 1941–1943 Hjalmar Mäe
  • 1943–1944 Oskar Öpik


Director for Finance
  • 1941–1944 Alfred Wendt
    Alfred Wendt
    Alfred John Wendt is a former Fijian cricketer.Wendt made his first-class debut for Fiji in 1948 against Wellington during Fiji's 1947/48 tour of New Zealand, where he played one first-class match during the tour against Canterbury.In his 2 first-class matches for Fiji he scored 67 runs at a...

     (1902)

Holocaust



The process of Jewish settlement in Estonia began in the nineteenth century, when in 1865 Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 granted them the right to enter the region. The creation of the Republic of Estonia in 1918 marked the beginning of a new era for the Jews. Approximately 200 Jews fought in combat for the creation of the Republic of Estonia and 70 of these men were volunteers. From the very first days of her existence as a state, Estonia showed her tolerance towards all the peoples inhabiting her territories. On 12 February 1925 The Estonian government passed a law pertaining to the cultural autonomy of minority peoples. The Jewish community quickly prepared its application for cultural autonomy. Statistics on Jewish citizens were compiled. They totaled 3,045, fulfilling the minimum requirement of 3000 for cultural autonomy. In June 1926 the Jewish Cultural Council was elected and Jewish cultural autonomy was declared. Jewish cultural autonomy was of great interest to global Jewish community. The Jewish National Endowment presented the Estonian government with a certificate of gratitude for this achievement.

There were, at the time of Soviet occupation in 1940, approximately 4000 Estonian Jews. The Jewish Cultural Autonomy was immediately abolished. Jewish cultural institutions were closed down. Many of Jewish people were deported to Siberia along with other Estonians
Soviet deportations from Estonia
As the Soviet Union had occupied Estonia in 1940 and retaken it from Nazi Germany again in 1944, tens of thousands of Estonia's citizens underwent deportation in the 1940s...

 by the Soviets. It is estimated that 350–500 Jews suffered this fate. About three-fourths of Estonian Jewry managed to leave the country during this period. Out the approximately 4,300 Jews in Estonia prior to the war, almost 1000 were entrapped by the Nazis.

With the invasion of the Baltics, it was the intention of the Nazi government to use the Baltics countries as their main area of mass genocide. Consequently, Jews from countries outside the Baltics were shipped there to be exterminated. Round-ups and killings of Jews began immediately following the arrival of the first German troops in 1941, who were closely followed by the extermination squad Sonderkommando 1a under Martin Sandberger
Martin Sandberger
Martin Sandberger was an SS Standartenführer and commander of Sonderkommando 1a of the Einsatzgruppe, as well as commander of the Sicherheitspolizei and SD in Estonia. He played an important role in the mass murder of the Jews in the Baltic states...

, part of Einsatzgruppe A led by Walter Stahlecker. Arrests and executions continued as the Germans, with the assistance of local collaborators, advanced through Estonia.


Unlike German forces, some support apparently existed among an undefined segment of the local collaborators for anti-Jewish actions on the political level, but not on a racial basis. The standard form used for the cleansing operations was arrest 'because of communist activity'. The equation between Jews and communists evoked a positive response among some Estonians because of the behavior of part of the Jewish population during the first Soviet occupation, and attempts were made by Estonian police to determine whether the arrested person indeed supported communism. Estonians often argued that their Jewish colleagues and friends were not communists and submitted proofs of pro-Estonian conduct in hope to get them released.

Estonia was declared Judenfrei
Judenfrei
Judenfrei was a Nazi term to designate an area free of Jewish presence during The Holocaust.While Judenfrei referred merely to "freeing" an area of all of its Jewish citizens, the term Judenrein was also used...

quite early by the German occupation regime at the Wannsee Conference
Wannsee Conference
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior officials of the Nazi German regime, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich...

. Jews that had remained in Estonia (921 according to Martin Sandberger, 929 according to Evgenia Goorin-Loov and 963 according to Walter Stahlecker) were killed. Fewer than a dozen Estonian Jews are known to have survived the war in Estonia. The Nazi regime also established 22 concentration and labor camps on occupied Estonian territory for foreign Jews. The largest, Vaivara concentration camp housed 1,300 prisoners at a time. These prisoners were mainly Jews, with smaller groups of Russians, Dutch, and Estonians. Several thousand foreign Jews were killed at the Kalevi-Liiva
Kalevi-Liiva
Kalevi-Liiva are sand dunes in Jõelähtme Parish in Harju County, Estonia. The site is located near the Baltic coast, north of the Jägala village an the former Jägala concentration camp...

 camp. Four Estonians most responsible for the murders at Kalevi-Liiva were accused at war crimes trials in 1961. Two were later executed, while the Soviet occupation authorities were unable to press charges against two who lived in exile. There have been knowingly 7 ethnic Estonians
Holocaust trials in Soviet Estonia
A number of Holocaust trials in Soviet Estonia were held in the 1960s.The best-known trial was brought in 1961, by the local Soviet authorities against Estonian collaborators who had participated in the execution of the Holocaust during the Nazi German occupation...

: Ralf Gerrets, Ain-Ervin Mere
Ain-Ervin Mere
Ain Mere was an Estonian military officer. During the World War II, he was an Obersturmbannführer in the Waffen SS and also the head of the Sicherheitspolizei in Estonia following its creation in 1942.He was born in Vändra and fought voluntarily in the Estonian War...

, Jaan Viik, Juhan Jüriste, Karl Linnas
Karl Linnas
Karl Linnas was an Estonian who was sentenced to capital punishment during the Holocaust trials in Soviet Estonia in 1961. He was later deported from the United States to the Soviet Union...

, Aleksander Laak and Ervin Viks that have faced trials for crimes against humanity.
Since the reestablishment of the Estonian independence markers were put in place for the 60th anniversary of the mass executions that were carried out at the Lagedi, Vaivara and Klooga (Kalevi-Liiva) camps in September 1944.

There are two Estonians who have been honoured with The Righteous Among the Nations
Righteous Among the Nations
Righteous among the Nations of the world's nations"), also translated as Righteous Gentiles is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis....

: Uku Masing
Uku Masing
Uku Masing was an Estonian philosopher, translator, theologist and folklorist. He developed Estonian analytical philosophy. Masing also wrote poetry, mostly on religious issues...

 and his wife Eha.

Estonian military units' involvement in crimes against humanity


The Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity  has reviewed the role of Estonian military units and police battalions in an effort to identify the role of Estonian military units and police battalions participation during World War II in crimes against humanity.

The conclusions of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity are available online. It says that there is an evidence of Estonian units' involvement in crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide; however, the commission noted

Controversies


Views diverge on history of Estonia during World War II and following the occupation by Nazi Germany.
  • According to Estonian point of view, the occupation of Estonia by Soviet Union lasted five decades , only interrupted by the Nazi invasion of 1941-1944. Estonian representatives at the European Parliament
    European Parliament
    The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

     even made a motion for a resolution acknowledging the 48 years of occupation as a fact. The final version of the resolution of European parliament, however, only acknowledged Estonia's loss of independence lasting from 1940 to 1991 and that annexation of Estonia by Soviet Union was considered illegal by Western democracies.

  • The position of the Russian Government: Russia has denied that Soviet Union illegally annexed the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1940. The Kremlin's European affairs chief Sergei Yastrzhembsky: "There was no occupation." Russian State officials look at the events in Estonia in the end of World War II as the liberation from fascism by the Soviet Union.

  • Views of World War II veteran, an Estonian Ilmar Haaviste fought on the German side: “Both regimes were equally evil — there was no difference between the two except that Stalin was more cunning”.

  • Views of World War II veteran, an Estonian Arnold Meri
    Arnold Meri
    Arnold Meri was an Soviet Red Army veteran of World War II and Hero of the Soviet Union who was charged with genocide for his role in the deportation of women and children to the inhospitable regions of the USSR. He was the cousin of former President of Estonia, Lennart Meri...

     fought on the Soviet side: "Estonia's participation in World War II was inevitable. Every Estonian had only one decision to make: whose side to take in that bloody fight — the Nazis' or the anti-Hitler coalition's."

  • Views of World War II veteran, a Russian fought on the Soviet side in Estonia answering a question: How do you feel being called an "occupier"? " Viktor Andreyev: "Half believe one thing half believe another. That's in the run of things."


In 2004 controversy regarding the events of World War II in Estonia surrounded the Monument of Lihula
Monument of Lihula
Monument of Lihula is the colloquial name of a monument commemorating the Estonians who fought for Estonia against the Soviet Union in World War II, located in Lagedi near Tallinn, the capital of Estonia....

.

In April 2007 the divergent views on history of World War II in Estonia centered around the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn
Bronze Soldier of Tallinn
The Bronze Soldier is the informal name of a controversial Soviet World War II war memorial in Tallinn, Estonia, built at the site of several war graves, which were relocated to the nearby Tallinn Military Cemetery in 2007...

.

See also

  • 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)
  • Estonian resistance movement
  • Judenfrei
    Judenfrei
    Judenfrei was a Nazi term to designate an area free of Jewish presence during The Holocaust.While Judenfrei referred merely to "freeing" an area of all of its Jewish citizens, the term Judenrein was also used...

  • Klooga concentration camp
    Klooga concentration camp
    Klooga was a Nazi labor subcamp of the Vaivara concentration camp complex established in September 1943 in Harju County, during World War II, in German-occupied Estonia near the northern Estonian village Klooga...

  • Reichskommissariat Ostland
    Reichskommissariat Ostland
    Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...


External links