Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germanyinvaded the Soviet Unionon June 22, 1941, the Wehrmachtreached Estoniain (July 1941). Although initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, and 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.
German Occupation in Estonia 1941-1944
Nazi Germanyinvaded the Soviet Unionon June 22, 1941. On June 25, Finland sided with Germany and declared war on the USSR, starting the Continuation War. On July 3, Stalinmade his public statement over the radio calling for scorched-earth 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, numbering about 50,000, inflicted heavy casualties on the remaining Soviets; as many as 4,800 were killed and 14,000 captured.
Germans crossed the Estonian southern border on July 7-9. The
Russian 8th Army(Major General Ljubovtsev), retreated in front of the 2nd corps of the German Army behind the Pärnu River- the Emajõgiline on July 12. As German 'troops' approached Tartuon July 10 and prepared for another battle with the Soviets, they realized that the Estonian partisans were already in fight with the Soviet troops. Wehrmachtstopped its advance and hung back, leaving the Estonians to do the fighting. The battle of Tartu 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 July the Germans resumed their advance in Estonia working in tandem with the Estonian
Forest Brothers. Both German troops and Estonian partisans took Narvaon August 17 and the Estonian capital Tallinnon 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. [Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler by Dave Lande on Page 188, ISBN 0760307458] The Estonian flag was soon replaced with the flag of Nazi Germany.
Most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped for restoration of independence. Estonia set up a government administrations, led by
Jüri Uluotsas 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". A Sicherheitspolizeiwas established for internal security under the leadership of Ain-Ervin Mere.
In April 1941, on the eve on the German invasion,
Alfred Rosenberg, Reich minister for the Occupied Eastern territories, a Baltic German, born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia, laid out his plans for the East. According to Rosenberg a future policy was created:
# Germanization (Eindeutschung) of the "racially suitable" elements.
# Colonization by Germanic peoples.
# 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. Estonia and the Estonians (Studies of Nationalities) Toivo U. Raun ISBN 0817928529]
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 Armyrather than join the Germans. Finnish Infantry Regiment 200AKA (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.
Estonian National "Underground Government"
In June 1942 political leaders of Estonia who had survived Soviet repressions hold 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. [http://www.historycommission.ee/temp/pdf/tables/chronology.pdf Chronology] at the EIHC]
January 61943 a meeting hold at the Estonian foreign delegation in Stockholm. In order to preserve the legal continuation of the Republic of Estonia, the last constitutional prime minister, Jüri Uluots, must continue to fulfill his responsibilities as prime minister was decided.Mälksoo, Lauri (2000). [http://www.springerlink.com/content/3e5hl9ux79vj213x/ Professor Uluots, the Estonian Government in Exile and the Continuity of the Republic of Estonia in International Law] . " Nordic Journal of International Law" 69.3, 289-316.]
On June 1944 – the elector’s assembly of the Republic of Estonia gathers in secrecy from the occupying powers in Tallinn and appoints Jüri Uluots as the prime minister with responsibilities of the President. On June 21 – Jüri Uluots appoints Otto Tief as deputy prime minister.
As the Germans retreated in September 1944, on September 18
Jüri Uluotsformed a government led by theDeputy Prime Minister, Otto Tief. On September 20 The Nazi German flag on Pikk Hermannwas replaced with the 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, Swedenand operated in exile until 1992, when Heinrich Mark, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia in duties of the President in exile [ [http://www.president.ee/en/estonia/heads.php?gid=81981 Heinrich Mark] at president.ee ] , presented his credentials to the newly elected President of Estonia Lennart Meri. On February 23. 1989 The flag of the Estonian SSR had been lowered on Pikk Hermann, it had been replaced with the flag of Estonia on February 24, 1989.
Estonians in German Military Units in 1941-1944
Due to the forcible annexation of Estonia into the USSR in 1940, the Republic of Estonia ceased to exist de facto, but not de jure. The Soviets conscripted Estonians into the Red Army in contravention of international law after the annexation. When the Soviet Russians were driven out by Hitler's occupation regime in summer of 1941, the Germans continue the practice of dragooning Estonian men, although some joined the German Army voluntarily, often out of the desire to fight against the Soviet regime which had wreaked a great deal of damage on Estonia during 1939, 1940 and 1941. 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 Augsbergerwas 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. [ESTONIAN VIKINGS: Estnisches SS-Freiwilligen Bataillon Narwa and Subsequent Units, Eastern Front, 1943-1944] In March 1943, a partial mobilisation was carried out in Estonia during which 12,000 men were called into service. On May 5, 1943 the 3rd Waffen-SS Brigade (Estonian) - as in "made up of Estonians" - was formed and sent to the front near Nevel.
By January 1944, the front was pushed back by the Red Army almost all the way to the former Estonian border.
Jüri Uluots, the last constitutional Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia [ [http://www.president.ee/en/estonia/heads.php?gid=81975 Jüri Uluots ] at president.ee] , the leader of Estonian underground governmentdelivered a radio address on February 7 that implored all able-bodied men born from 1904 through 1923 to report for military service (Before this, Uluots had opposed mobilization of Estonians.) The call drew support from all across the country: 38.000 volunteers jammed registration centers. [Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler by Dave Lande on Page 200 ISBN 0760307458] Several thousand Estonians who had joined the Finnish army came back across the Gulf of Finlandto join the newly formed Territorial Defense Force, assigned to defend Estonia against the Soviet advance. The maximum amount of Estonians in German military units was 70,000.cite book|author=Estonian State Commission on Examination of Policies of Repression|url=http://www.just.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=12709/TheWhiteBook.pdf|publisher=Estonian Encyclopedia Publishers|title=The White Book: Losses inflicted on the Estonian nation by occupation regimes. 1940 – 1991|year=2005|format=PDF] The initial formation of the volunteer Estonian Legion created in 1942 was eventually expanded to become a full-sized conscript division of the Waffen SSin 1944, the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian). Units consisting largely of Estonians - often under German officers - saw action defending the Narva line throughout 1944. It was hoped that by engaging in such a war Estonia would be able to attract Western support for the cause of Estonia's independence from the USSR and thus ultimately succeed in restoring the independence that had been taken from her. [ The Baltic States: The National Self-Determination of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Graham Smith p.91 ISBN 0312161921 ]
On February 1, 1944 the Red Army reached the border of Estonia as a part of the great offensive which began on January 14. Field Marshal
Walter Modelwas nominated the leader of the German Army Group North. The Soviet attack led by Soviet General Leonid A. Govorov, the commander of the Leningrad Front, began on February 13. On February 24 ( Estonian National Day) the counterattack of the so-called Estonian Division to break the Soviet bridgeheads began. A battalion of Estonians led by Rudolf Bruus destroyed the Soviet bridgehead. Another battalion of Estonians led by Ain - Ervin Meri liquidated another bridgehead of Vaasa-Siivertsi-Vepsaküla. On March 6, the task was fulfilled. The leadership of the Red Army draw 9 corps under Narva against 7 divisions and one brigade. On March 1, a new Soviet offensive began in the direction of Auvere. The assault was stopped by the 658th battalion led by Alfons Rebane. On March 17, Soviets attacked with the forces of 20 divisions against 3 defensive, but could not break the defense. On April 7, the leadership of the Red Army ordered to go over to defense. In March the Soviets organised many bombing attacks towards the towns of Estonia incl. bombing of Tallinn on March 9.
On July 24 the Soviets began a new attack in the direction of Auvere . They were stopped by I battalion (Stubaf Paul Maitla) of the 45 regiment (Riipalu) and the fusiliers (previous "Narva") under the leadership of Hatuf Hando Ruus. Finally The evacuation of Narva was organised and front was settled on the line of "Tannenberg" in the Sinimäe heights.
On August 1 the Finnish government and President
Rytiwere to resign. On the next day, Aleksander Warmathe Estonia's Ambassador to Finland (1939-1940(1944)) [http://www.president.ee/en/estonia/heads.php?gid=81977 Aleksander Warma] at president.ee ] announced that the National Committee of the Estonian Republic had sent a telegram, which stated "Estonians return home!" On the following day, the Finnish governmentreceived 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. In the letter, the Finnish government was asked to send the Estonian volunteer regiment back to Estonia fully equipped. It was then announced that JR 200 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 were to return. As soon as they landed, the regiment was sent to perform a counter-attack against the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front, which had managed a break-through on the Tartu front, and was threatening the capital Tallinn.
When the break-through in Tannenberg Line/Sinimäed failed, the main struggle was carried to the south of the Lake Peipus, where on August 11, Petseri was taken and Võru on August13. Near Tartu the Red Army was stopped by the military groups sent from Narva under the command of
Alfons Rebaneand Paul Vent and 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonienled by Léon Degrelle.
As Finland left the war on September 4, 1944 according to the peace agreement with Soviets the defence of the mainland became impossible and the command of the German Army decided to evacuate from Estonia. Resistance against the Soviets continued on the Estonian islands until November 23, 1944, when Sõrve was evacuated. According to the Soviet data, the conquering of the territory of Estonia cost them 126,000 casualties, in the German data the number is 170,000. On the German side, their own data shows 30,000 dead which is most likely underrated, the more realistic figure would be 45,000. Fact|date=June 2008
Administrators of German occupied Estonia 1941 - 1944
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(in the occupied U.S.S.R.) - a German civilian administration was established and Estonia was organized as a General Kommissariat becoming soon afterwards part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland.
(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)
Walter Schröder(1902 - 1973)
(responsible for the operation of all concentration camps within the Reichskommissariat Ostland)
Hans Aumeier(1906 - 1947)
Estonian Self-Administration ( _et. Eesti Omavalitsus), also known as the "Directorate", was the
puppet governmentset up in Estoniaduring occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany. 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." [http://www.historycommission.ee/temp/conclusions.htm Conclusions of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity] - " [http://web-static.vm.ee/static/failid/051/1941-1944_ik.pdf Phase II: The German occupation of Estonia in 1941–1944] "]
Landsdirector - General
*1941 - 1944
Hjalmar Mäe(1901 - 1978)
Landsdirector for Home Affairs
*1941 - 1944
Oskar Angelus(1892 - 1979)
Landsdirectors for Justice
*1941 - 1943 Hjalmar Mäe
*1943 - 1944
Landsdirector for Finance
*1941 - 1944
Holocaust in Estonia 1941 - 1944
Historical background main|History of the Jews in 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. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Estonia.html?title=Jews_in_Estonia&action=edit The Virtual Jewish History Tour - Estonia ] ]
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 by the Soviets. It is estimated that 350-500 Jews suffered this fate.Weiss-Wendt, Anton (1998). [http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/12/2/308.pdf The Soviet Occupation of Estonia in 1940-41 and the Jews] . "
Holocaust and Genocide Studies" 12.2, 308-325.] Berg, Eiki (1994). [http://www.springerlink.com/content/g706h1273r679nr8/fulltext.pdf The Peculiarities of Jewish Settlement in Estonia] . " GeoJournal" 33.4, 465-470.] [http://depts.washington.edu/baltic/papers/holocaust.html The Holocaust in the Baltics ] ] About three-fourths of Estonian Jewry managed to leave the country during this period. [ [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005448 Estonia ] ] Out the approximately 4,300 Jews in Estonia prior to the war, almost 1000 were entrapped by the Nazis.Birn, Ruth Bettina (2001), [http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=81766 Collaboration with Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe: the Case of the Estonian Security Police] . " Contemporary European History" 10.2, 181-198.]
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 Einsatzkommando (Sonderkommando) 1A under
Martin Sandberger, part of Einsatzgruppe Aled 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 Estonian population 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.Birn, Ruth Bettina (2001), Collaboration with NaziGermany in Eastern Europe: the Case of the Estonian Security Police. "
Contemporary European History" 10.2, 181-198.]
Estonia was declared "
Judenfrei" quite early by the German occupation regime at the Wannsee Conference. [http://motlc.learningcenter.wiesenthal.org/text/x07/xr0707.html Museum of Tolerance Multimedia Learning Center ] ] Jews that had remained in Estonia (921 according to Martin Sandberger, 929 according to Evgenia Goorin-Loovand 963 according to Walter Stahlecker) were killed. [http://www.rel.ee/eng/communism_crimes.htm#F6] 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 camphoused 1,300 prisoners at a time. These prisoners were mainly Jews, with smaller groups of Russians, Dutch, and Estonians. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Vaivara.html Vaivara ] ] Several thousand foreign Jews were killed at the Kalevi-Liivacamp. 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: Ralf Gerrets, Ain-Ervin Mere, Jaan Viik, Juhan Jüriste, Karl Linnas, 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. [ [http://www.heritageabroad.gov/projects/estonia1.html Holocaust Markers, Estonia ] ]
There are 2 Estonians who have been honoured with The
Righteous Among the Nations: Uku Masingand his wife Eha. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=s18psZJJjbYC&pg The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust By Sir Martin Gilbert; P.31] ISBN 0805062602]
Estonian military units' involvement in crimes against humanity
Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity[http://www.historycommission.ee/temp/conclusions.htm Conclusions of 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 the 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, commission noted:"Given the frequency with which police units changed their personnel, the Commission does not believe that membership in the cited units, or in any specific unit is, on its own, proof of involvement in crimes. However, those individuals who served in the units during the commission of crimes against humanity are to be held responsible for their own actions."
Views diverge on history of Estonia during the WWII and following the occupation by Nazi Germany.
*The position of the Estonian Government: Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany ended with five decades of Soviet occupation of the Baltic nations. [ [http://newsfromrussia.com/cis/2005/05/03/59549.html Estonia says Soviet occupation justifies it staying away from Moscow celebrations - Pravda.Ru ] ] The European parliament has issued a resolution on the issue supporting the positions of The Estonian Government: as an independent Member State of the EU and NATO, has the sovereign right to assess its recent tragic past, starting with the loss of independence as a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 and including three years under Hitler’s occupation and terror, as well as 48 years under Soviet occupation and terror whereas the Soviet occupation and annexation of the Baltic States was never recognized as legal by the Western democracies, [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+MOTION+B6-2007-0215+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN]
*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." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4517683.stm BBC NEWS | Europe | Russia denies Baltic 'occupation' ] ] Russian State officials look at the events in Estonia in the end of the WWII as the liberation from fascism by the Soviet Union . [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1714401.ece Russia threatens Estonia over removal of Red Army statue - Times Online ] ]
*Views of WWII 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 WWII veteran, an Estonian
Arnold Merifought 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 WWII 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." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6637895.stm BBC NEWS | Europe | When giants fought in Estonia ] ]
In 2004 controversy regarding the events of WWII in Estonia surrounded the
Monument of Lihula.
In April 2007 the diverge views on history of WWII in Estonia centered around the
Bronze Soldier of Tallinn.
20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)
Estonian resistance movement
Klooga concentration camp
*Birn, Ruth Bettina (2001), [http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=81766 Collaboration with Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe: the Case of the Estonian Security Police] . "
Contemporary European History" 10.2, 181-198.
* [http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/eng_captions/55-5.html Estonian volunteers to the Waffen SS]
* [http://wehrmacht.pri.ee/fotod/waffenss/waffenss.html Estonian SS-Legion (photographs)]
* [http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=35868 Estonian SS-Legion (photographs)]
* [http://www.eesti.ca/forum/board_entry.php?id=393&page=0&category=all&order=subject&descasc=ASC Estonian SS volunteers, Russia 1944]
* [http://www.postimees.ee/150405/esileht/162956_foto.php Hjalmar Mäe]
* [http://www.ekspress.ee/Arhiiv/2000/8/Pildid/sisu3.jpgHjalmar Mäe (photograph)]
* [http://www.hot.ee/vaikal/ajalugu-6.html Saksa okupatsioon Eestis]
*Weiss-Wendt, Anton (2003). [http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/17/1/31 Extermination of the Gypsies in Estonia during World War II: Popular Images and Official Policies] . "
Holocaust and Genocide Studies" 17.1, 31-61.
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