Estonia in World War II

of August 1939.

World War II losses in Estonia, estimated at around 25%, were among the highest in Europe. War and occupation deaths have been estimated at 90,000. These include the Soviet deportations in 1941, the German deportations and Holocaust victims.Encyclopædia Britannica: [ Baltic states, World War II losses] ]

World War II began with the invasion and subsequent partition of an important regional ally of Estonia — Poland, by a joint operation of Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.


Before World War II, the Republic of Estonia and USSR had both signed and ratified following treaties:

Kellogg-Briand Pact

:August 27, 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact "renouncing war as an instrument of national policy" Ratified by Estonia and USSR on July 24, 1929 [ [ Kellogg-Briand Pact] at Yale University ]

Non-aggression treaty

:With USSR on May 4, 1932 [League of Nations Treaty Series, Vol. CXXXI, pp. 297-307.]

The Convention for the Definition of Aggression

:On July 3, 1933 for the first time in the history of international relations, aggression was defined in a binding treaty signed at the Soviet Embassy in London by USSR and among others, The Republic of Estonia. [ [,9171,753798,00.html Aggression Defined] at Time Magazine] [League of Nations Treaty Series, 1934, No. 3391.]

:Article II defines forms of aggression. "There shall be recognized as an aggressor that State which shall be the first to have committed one of the following actions":

:Relevant chapters:

:*"Second — invasion by armed forces of the territory of another State even without a declaration of war.":*"Fourth — a naval blockade of coasts or ports of another State."

Declaration of Neutrality

:Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania jointly declared their neutrality on November 18, 1938, in Riga, at the Conference of Baltic Foreign Ministers with their respective parliaments passing neutrality laws later that year. Estonia passed a law ratifying its neutrality on December 1st, 1938, which was modelled on Sweden's declaration of neutrality of May 29, 1938. [ [ Estonian Neutrality Law of December lst, 1938] ] Also importantly, Estonia had asserted its neutrality in its very first constitution, as well as the Treaty of Tartu concluded in 1920 between Republic of Estonia and the Russian SFSR.

The Beginning of World War II

*September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland.
*September 3, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand declare war on Germany.
*September 14, the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł reached Tallinn, Estonia.
*September 17, Soviet Union invaded Poland.
*September 18, Orzeł incident, the Polish submarine escaped from internment in Tallinn and eventually made her way to the United Kingdom, Estonia's neutrality questioned by the Soviet Union and Germany.On September 24, 1939, with the fall of Poland to Nazi Germany and USSR imminent and in light of the Orzeł incident, the Moscow press and radio started violently attacking Estonia as "hostile" to the Soviet Union. Warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports, Soviet bombers began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. [,9171,762664,00.html Moscow's Week] at Time Magazine on Monday, Oct. 09, 1939] Moscow demanded that Estonia allow the USSR to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for the duration of the European war. [ The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0415285801 ] The government of Estonia accepted the ultimatum signing the corresponding agreement on September 28. 1939.

The Pact was made for ten years:
*1) Estonia granted the USSR the right to maintain naval bases and airfields protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga;
*2) Soviet Union agreed to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea;
*3) USSR and Estonia undertook to defend each other from "aggression arising on the part of any great European power"
*4) It was declared: the Pact "should not affect" the "economic systems and state organizations" of USSR and Estonia.

There is no consensus in Estonian society about the decisions that the leadership of the Republic of Estonia made at that time.

When the Soviet troops marched into Estonia the guns of both nations gave mutual salutes, bands played both the Estonian anthem and the Internationale, the anthem of USSR at the time. [ [,9171,762736,00.html Negotiator Stalin] at Time Magazine on Monday, Nov. 06, 1939]

Similar demands were forwarded to Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. Finland resisted, [ [,9171,762817,00.html Finnish Finish] at Time Magazine on Monday, Nov. 20, 1939 ] and was attacked by the Soviet Union on November 30. [ [,9171,763007,00.html 36-to-1] at Time Magazine on Monday, Dec. 11, 1939] Because the attack was judged as illegal, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations on December 14. [ [,9171,762112-2,00.html Minus a Member] at Time magazine on Monday, Dec. 25, 1939 ] Finland held out in the Winter War until March 1940, when the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed.

The first population loss for Estonia was the repatriation of about 12,000-18,000 Baltic Germans to Germany. [ Estonia in World War II] by Hannes Walter] [,9171,772242-1,00.html Balts' Return at] TIME Magazine on Monday, Oct. 23, 1939]

oviet occupation

was ordered to be ready for the reception of 58,000 prisoners of war.

On June 12, 1940 the order for a total military blockade on Estonia to the Soviet Baltic Fleet was given: according to the director of the Russian State Archive of the Naval Department Pavel Petrov (C.Phil.) referring to the records in the archive [fi icon [ Pavel Petrov] at Finnish Defence Forces home page] [ru icon [ documents published] from the State Archive of the Russian Navy]

, the French couriers and other passengers were killed in the crash. [ [ The Last Flight from Tallinn] at American Foreign Service Association]

On June 16 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia. [,9171,764071-2,00.html Five Years of Dates] at Time magazine on Monday, Jun. 24, 1940 ] The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia, some 90,000 additional Soviet troops entered the country. Molotov had accused the Baltic states of conspiracy against the Soviet Union and delivered an ultimatum to Estonia for the establishment of a government the Soviets approve of. The Estonian government decided according to the Kellogg-Briand Pact not to use war as an instrument of national policy. Given the overwhelming Soviet force both on the borders and inside the country, not to resist, to avoid bloodshed and open war. [The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith p.19 ISBN 0415285801]

On June 17, the day France surrendered to Germany, Estonia accepted the ultimatum and the statehood of Estonia de facto ceased to exist. The military occupation of the Republic of Estonia was complete by the June 21 1940 and rendered "official" by a communist coup d'état supported by the Soviet troops. [Estonia: Identity and Independence by Jean-Jacques Subrenat, David Cousins, Alexander Harding, Richard C. Waterhouse ISBN 9042008903]

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Single Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. There was one dead, several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Single Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed. [et icon [ 51 years from the Raua Street Battle] at Estonian Defence Forces Home Page]

On the same day, June 21, 1940 the Flag of Estonia was replaced with a Red flag on Pikk Hermann tower, the symbol of the government in force in Estonia.

14-15 July rigged elections were organized in which only Soviet-supported candidates were permitted to run [ A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups; p238; ISBN 0313309841] ] Those who failed to have their passports stamped for so voting were allowed to be shot in the back of the head. [,9171,764407,00.html Justice in The Baltic] at Time magazine on Monday, Aug. 19, 1940 ] Tribunals were set up to punish "traitors to the people." those who had fallen short of the "political duty" of voting Estonia into the USSR. The "parliament" so elected proclaimed Estonia a Socialist Republic on July 21, 1940 and unanimously requested Estonia to be "accepted" into the Soviet Union.citation Estonia was formally annexed into the Soviet Union on August 6 and renamed the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. [Magnus Ilmjärv "Hääletu alistumine", ("Silent Submission"), Tallinn, Argo, 2004, ISBN 9949-415-04-7] The 1940 occupation and annexation of Estonia into the Soviet Union was considered illegal and never officially recognized by Great Britain, the United States and other Western democracies. [ [ U.S.-Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship] at U.S Department of State ]

oviet regime of terror

The Soviet authorities, having gained control over Estonia, immediately imposed a regime of terror. Order № 001223 "On the Procedure for carrying out the from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia" was issued.

During the first year of Soviet occupation (1940-1941) over 8,000 people, including most of the country's leading politicians and military officers, were arrested. About 2,200 of the arrested were executed in Estonia, while most others were moved to prison camps in Russia, from where very few were later able to return alive.On July 19, 1940 the Commander-in-chief of the Estonian Army Johan Laidoner was captured by the NKVD and deported together with his spouse to the Town of Penza. Laidoner died in the Vladimir Prison Camp, Russia on March 13, 1953. [ [ General Johan Laidoner] at The Estonian War Museum ] President of Estonia, Konstantin Päts was arrested and deported by the Soviets to Ufa in Russia on July 30, he died in a psychiatric hospital in Kalinin (currently Tver) in Russia in 1956.800 Estonian officers i.e. about a half of the total were executed, arrested or starved to death in prison camps.

On June 14, 1941, when mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic countries. In Estonia one night alone over 60,000 civilians were deported to Siberia and other remote areas of the Soviet Union, where nearly half of them later perished. Of the 32,100 Estonian men who were forcibly relocated to Russia under the pretext of mobilisation into the Red Army after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, nearly 40 percent died within the next year in the "labour battalions" through hunger, cold and overworking. During the first Soviet occupation of 1940-41 about 500 Jews were deported to Siberia.

When Estonia was proclaimed the Soviet Republic, the crews of 42 Estonian ships in foreign waters refused to return to homeland (about 40% of Estonian pre-war fleet) These ships were brought into requisition by the British powers and were used in the Atlantic convoys. During the time of the war, approximately 1000 Estonian seamen served at the British militarised merchant marine, 200 of them as officers. A small number of Estonians served in the Royal Air Force, in the British Army and in the US Army, altogether no more than two hundred.

oviet repression of ethnic Russians

Ethnic Russians in Estonia: Sergei Zarkevich, an activist of Russian organizations in Estonia, The owner of a book store "Russian Book": arrest order issued by NKVD on June 23, 1940, executed on March 25, 1941.Oleg Vasilovski, a former General in the Russian Imperial Army. Arrest order issued by NKVD on July 1, 1940. Further fate unknown.Sergei Klenski, one of the former leaders of the Russian Peasants Labor Party. Arrested on July 22. On November 19 1940, sentenced to 8 years in a prison camp. Further fate unknown. Mikhail Aleksandrov, Arseni Zhitkov. [ [ fate of individuals arrested] at EIHC] Other ethnic Russians in Estonia arrested and executed by different Soviet War Tribunals in 1940-1941.Ivan Salnikov, Pavel Mironov, Mihhail Arhipov, Vassili belugin, Vladimir Strekoytov, Vasili Zhilin, Vladimir Utekhin, Sergei Samennikov, Ivan Meitsev, Ivan Yeremeyev, Konstatin Bushuyev, Yegor Andreyev, Nikolai Sausailov, Aleksandr Serpukhov, Konstatin Nosov, Aleksandr Nekrasov, Nikolai Vasilev-Muroman, Aleksei Sinelshikov, Pyotr Molonenkov, Grigory Varlamov, Stepan Pylnikov, Ivan Lishayev, Pavel Belousev, Nikolai Gusev, Leonid Sakharov, Aleksander Chuganov, Fyodor Dobrovidov, Lev Dobek, Andrei Leontev, Ivan Sokolov, Ivan Svetlov, Vladimir Semenov, Valentin Semenov-Vasilev, Vasili Kamelkov, Georgi Lokhov, Aleksei Forlov, Ivan Ivanov, Vasili Karamsin, Aleksandr Krasilnikov, Aleksandr Zhukov, etc. Full list at: [ [ Individuals executed] at EIHC]

Historical Soviet sources

Up to the reassessment of Soviet history in USSR that began during Perestroika, before the USSR had condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and itself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries including Estonia. [ [ The Forty-Third Session of the UN Sub-Commission] at Google Scholar]

The events in 1939 according to the pre-Perestroika Soviet sources were following: in a prior province of the Russian Empire: The Governorate of Estonia (Russian: Эстляндская губерния) Soviet power was established in the end of October 1917. The Estonian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Narva on November 29 1918 but fell to counter-revolutionaries and the White movement in 1919. In June 1940 Soviet power was restored in Estonia as workers had overthrown the fascist dictatorship in the icon [ State Symbols - Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic] ] Endel Vanatoa, Estonian SSR, a Reference Book, Perioodika Publisher, 1985, p.11, [ available at Google Print] ] Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, entry on "СССР.Население", available online [ here] ] The Government of the Soviet Union suggested that the Government of the Republic of Estonia conclude a mutual assistance treaty between the two countries. The pressure from Estonian working people forced the Estonian government to accept this suggestion. On September 28, 1939 the Pact of Mutual Assistance was signed [ru icon [ 1939 USSR-Estonia Mutual Aid Pact (full text)] ] which allowed the USSR to station a limited number of Red Army units in Estonia. Economic difficulties, dissatisfaction with the Estonian government policies 'that had sabotaged fulfillment of the Pact and the Estonian government' and political orientation towards Nazi Germany lead to a revolutionary situation on June 16 1940. A note from the Soviet government to the Estonian Government suggested that they stick strictly to the Pact of Mutual Assistance. To guarantee fulfillment of the Pact additional military units entered Estonia, welcomed by the Estonian workers who demanded the resignation of the Estonian government. On June 21 under the leadership of the Estonian Communist Party political demonstrations by workers were held in Tallinn, Tartu, Narva and other cities. On the same day the fascist government was overthrown, and the People's government lead by Johannes Vares was formed. On July 14-15 1940 elections for the Estonian Parliament, the State Assembly(Riigikogu) were held. The "Working People’s Union", created by an initiative of the Estonian Communist Party received with 84.1% electorate participation 92.8% of the votes. [ [ POLITICS, MIGRATION AND MINORITIES IN ESTONIA, 1918-1998] , pdf, p.79] .Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., entry on "Эстонская Советская Социалистическая Республика", available [ online] ] On July 21 1940 the State Assembly adopted the declaration of the restoration of Soviet power in Estonia and proclaimed the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. On July 22 the declaration of Estonia's wish to join the USSR was adopted and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR was addressed accordingly. The request was approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on August 6 1940. On July 23 the State Assembly proclaimed all land to be People's Property while banks and heavy industry were nationalized. On August 25 the State Assembly adopted the Constitution of the Estonian SSR, renamed itself the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR and approved the Council of People's Commissars of the Estonian SSR.

German occupation

After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, On June 25, Finland sided with Germany in the Continuation War. On July 3, Stalin made his public statement over the radio calling for Scorched earth policy in the areas to be abandoned. In Estonia, the assault of the Soviet destruction battalions was the worst, because the northernmost areas were the last to be "liberated," allowing the Soviet occupiers more time to linger. The Estonian forest brothers, numbering about 50,000 inflicted heavy casualties on the remaining Soviets with as many as 4800 were killed and 14000 captured.

The 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 Emajõgi line on July 12. As German troops approached Tartu on July 10 and prepared for another battle with the Soviets, they realized that the Estonian partisans were already fighting the Soviet troops. The Wehrmacht stopped 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. Meanwhile the 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 Narva on August 17 and the Estonian capital Tallinn on August 28. On that day, the red 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 replaced shortly with the flag of Germany.

Most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped for restoration of independence. Estonia set up government administrations, led by Jüri Uluots as soon as the Soviet regime retreated and before German troops arrived. Estonian partisans who drove the Red Army from Tartu made this possible. This was all for nothing since the Germans disbanded the provisional government and Estonia became a part of the German-occupied "Ostland". A Sicherheitspolizei was 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 Army rather than join the Germans. Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 AKA (Estonian: "soomepoisid") was formed out of Estonian volunteers in Finland.

In June 1942 political leaders of Estonia who had survived Soviet repressions held a meeting hidden 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. [ Chronology] at the EIHC]

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

On 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 responsibilities of the President. On June 21 – Jüri Uluots appointed Otto Tief as deputy prime minister.

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 military units in 1941-1944

In 1941 it was announced in Germany that additional Combat Support Forces, the Waffen-SS Verfügungstruppe units would be raised from non-German foreign nationals. The goal was to acquire additional manpower from occupied nations. Some of these formed foreign legions included volunteers from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, and the Netherlands.

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 Estonian Legion within the Combat Support Forces, the Waffen SS Verfügungstruppe units. Oberführer Franz Augsberger was nominated the commander of the legion. As of October 13, 1942 500 volunteers had appeared. In the Spring 1943 additional men were drafted from the police and the number rose to 1.280.Estonia and the Estonians (Studies of Nationalities) ISBN 0817928529] 90% of the volunteers had lost a relative in the Red Terror. [ [ ESTONIAN VIKINGS] at Naval&Military Press] Batllion Narwa was formed from the first 800 men of the Legion to have finished their training at Dębica (Heidelager in 1943), 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 the German occupying powers turned to mobilization by conscripting men born in Estonia between 1919 and 1924. Until August 1943 5300 men were drafted for the Estonain Legion and 6800 for support service (Hilfswillige) to the German Wermacht. A moblization in October 1943, calling up men born in 1925-1926. On May 5, 1943 the 3rd Estonian Waffen-SS brigade was formed and sent to front near Nevel.A consequence of the 1943 mobilizations was the wave of an estimated 5.000 Estonian men fleeing to Finland in order to avoid the German draft. Over half of these men volunteered for service in the Finnish armed forces. About 2.300 joined the army and 400 the navy.

By January 1944, the front was pushed back by the Red Army almost all the way to the former Estonian border.On January 31. 1944 general conscription-mobilization was announced in Estonia by the German authorities. [ mobilisation in Estonia] ] Jüri Uluots, the last constitutional prime minister of the republic of Estonia, [ [ Jüri Uluots] at] the leader of the Estonian underground government delivered a radio address on February 7that implored all able-bodied men born from 1904 through 1923 to report for military service (Before this, Uluots had opposed Estonian mobilization.) The call drew support from all across the country: 38.000 men were drafted. [Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler by Dave Lande on Page 200 ISBN 0760307458] After the mobilization there were some 50.000-60.000 Estonians under arms in Estonia. 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) as other Estonian units that had fought on various fronts on the German side were rushed to Estonia. In addition six border defence battalions were also formed [ [ ОНИ О НАС / 1944: ТРАГИЧЕСКИЙ ГОД В ИСТОРИИ ЭСТОНИИ. 60 ЛЕТ ЭСТОНСКОЙ ТРАГЕДИИ. МАТЕРИАЛЫ МИНИСТЕРСТВА ИНОСТРАННЫХ ДЕЛ ЭСТОНИИ ] ] In autumn 1944 it is estimated that there was the same number of Estonians under arms as at the time of the Estonian War of Independence, in total about 100,000 men.

With these reinforcements the Soviet advance was halted for about six months and the front was settled on Narva line until September 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 achieving independence. [ 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 Leningrad-Novgorod strategic offensive operation which began on January 14. Field Marshal Walter Model was nominated the leader of the German Army Group North. The Soviet attack lead 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 Estonian Waffen-SS division to break the Soviet bridgeheads began. The Estonian 43/II Battalion lead by Freiwilligen-Haupsturmführer Rudolf Alfred Bruus nov 1943- jan 1944) [ [ :: View topic - 20.Infanterie-Division (mot.) ] ] destroyed the Soviet bridgehead.Fact|date=January 2008 The Estonian 46/I Battalion leaded by Waffen-Sturmbannführer Ain-Ervin Mere (aug. 1944 transferred to Generalinspector's office) [ [ :: View topic - 20.Infanterie-Division (mot.) ] ] liquidated another bridgehead of Vaasa-Siivertsi-Vepsaküla.Fact|date=January 2008 On March 6, the task was fulfilled. The leadership of the Red Army drew 9 corps against Narva against 7 divisions and one brigade. On March 1, a new Soviet offensive began to the south of Narva to outflank and surround the citadel. The assault was stopped by the 658th battalion leaded by Alfons Rebane. On March 17, Soviets attacked with the forces of 20 divisions against 3 divisions in defensive positions, but could not break the defence.Fact|date=January 2008 On April 7, the leadership of the Red Army ordered their troops to go over to defence. In March the Soviets organised many aerial bombing attacks towards the towns of Estonia including bombing of Tallinn on March 9.

In March the first Estonian volunteer Battalion SS-Waffen-Füsilier Battalion 20 (former battalion “Narva” from division „Wiking“) returned to Estonia, and was reformed in April to join the Estonian devision on the Narva front.

On July 24 the Soviets began a new attack in the direction of Sillaväe via Auvere . They were stopped by 45/I Battalion (Waffen-Haupsturmführer Paul Maitla ) of the Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 45 “Estland” (estnische nr. 1) (Riipalu) and the SS-Waffen-Füsilier Battalion 20 (former battalion “Narva” from division „Wiking“) under the leadership of Waffen-Obersturmführer Hando Ruus. Finally the evacuation of Narva was organised and front was settled on the line of "Tannenberg" in Sinimäed on July 26.

On August 1 the Finnish government and President Ryti were to resign. On the next day, Aleksander Warma the Estonia's Ambassador to Finland (1939-1940(1944)), announced that the National Committee of the Estonian Republic had sent a telegram, which stated "Estonians return home!" 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. 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 August 13. Near Tartu the Red Army was stopped by the military groups sent from Narva under the command of Alfons Rebane and Paul Vent and 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien leaded by Léon Degrelle.

On August 19, 1944 Jüri Uluots called in a radio broadcast for holding back the Red Army until a peace treaty was reached.

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. Estonian islands showed resistance 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.

Other volunteers that paricipated in the Battle of Narva and the Battle of the Tannenberg Line within the Waffen-SS were from Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium.

As the Germans retreated in September 1944, on September 18 Jüri Uluots formed a government led by theDeputy Prime Minister, Otto Tief. On September 20 the Nazi German flag on Pikk Hermann was 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 Red flag. The Estonian underground government, not officially recognized by either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, fled to Stockholm, Sweden and operated in exile until 1992, when Heinrich Mark, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia in duties of the President in exile, [ [ Heinrich Mark] at ] 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, having been replaced with the flag of Estonia on February 24, 1989.

Estonian Rifle Corps in the Red Army

In June 1940 while the Estonian army was integrated into the Soviet military structure, where in June 1940 there were 16,800 men, was changed into "22nd Territorial Rifle Corps" 5,500 Estonian soldiers served in the corps during the first battle. 4,500 of them went over to the German side. In September 1941, when the corps was liquidated, there were still 500 previous Estonian soldiers.

Having mobilized some 33,000 Estonians as the Soviets were evacuating in the summer of 1941, no more than half of those men were used for military service, the rest perished in labour battalions, mainly in the early months of the war.

Estonian National military Units within the Red Army began to be formed in January 1942 from among ethnic Estonians living in the USSR, A Soviet source suggests that in May 1942 there were nearly 20,000 Estonians in the national units. The Eight Estonian Rifle Corps, as these units came to be called after September 1942, reached the front in Velikie Luki in December 1942 and suffered heavy losses in battle as well as the defection of about 1,000 men to the German side. After Velikie Luki the Rifle Corps was replaced with other nationalities from USSR. The corps' major activity in the latter part of the war was participation in the battles for Estonia.

The Holocaust

Historical background

granted them the right to enter the region. with a certificate of gratitude for this achievement. [ [ Estonia] at Jewish Virtual Library]

There were, at the time of Soviet occupation in 1940, approximately 2000 Estonian Jews. Many of Jewish people were deported to Siberia along with other Estonians by the Soviets. It is estimated that 500 Jews suffered this fate. 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. Out of the approximately 4,300 Jews in Estonia prior to the war, between 1,500 and 2,000 were entrapped by the Nazis. [ [ The Holocaust in the Baltics] at University of Washington] and an estimated 10,000 Jews were killed in Estonia after having been deported to camps there from elsewhere in Eastern Europe. [ [ Estonia at] Jewish Virtual Library ] There have been knowingly 7 ethnic Estonians: Ralf Gerrets, Ain-Ervin Mere, Jaan Viik, Juhan Jüriste, Karl Linnas,Aleksander Laak and Ervin Viks who have faced trials for crimes against humanity.Since the reestablishment of the Estonian independence Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity has been established. [ [ historycommission] at www ] Markers were put in place for the 60th anniversary of the mass executions that were carried out at the Lagedi, Vaivara [ [ Vaivara] at Jewish Virtual Library] and Klooga (Kalevi-Liiva) camps in September 1944. [ [ Holocaust Markers, Estonia] at US CFPAHA ]

In May 2005, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip gave a speech while visiting Klooga: "Although these murderers must answer for their crimes as individuals, the Estonian Government continues to do everything possible to expose these crimes. I apologise for the fact that Estonian citizens could be found among those who participated in the murdering of people or assisted in the perpetration of these crimes." [ [ Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Address by Prime Minister Andrus Ansip in Klooga, Estonia. May 8, 2005] ]

Estonia (together with Austria, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Syria and Ukraine) has been given the grade Category F-2: Failure in practice by the Simon Wiesenthal Center Status Report on Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals for both 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. [ [ Wiesenthal Center Status Report on Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals (2006)] ] [ [ Wiesenthal Center Status Report on Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals (2007)] ] As Estonian prosecutors have closed the case of WWII crime suspect Harry Männil now resident in Venezuela, on basis of no proof found linking Männil to crimes against humanity. Estonia's security police had opened a criminal case in March 2001 on the basis of Efraim Zuroff's petition to investigate whether Männil was connected with the persecution and killing of civilians in 1941-42 when he worked as an assistant with the wartime political police in Tallinn. [ [ Estonian prosecutors close case of WWII crime suspect at]]

oviet return

Soviet forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva river and on the Tannenberg Line (Sinimäed). In 1944, in the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, 80000 people fled from Estonia by sea to Finland and Sweden, becoming war refugees and later, expatriates. 25,000 Estonians reached Sweden and a further 42,000 Germany. During the war about 8 000 Estonian Swedes and their family members had emigrated to Sweden. After the retreat of Germans, about 30,000 partisans remained in hiding in the Estonian forests, further on leading a massive guerrilla war. In 1949 27,650 Soviet troops still led the war against the local partisans. Only the 1949 mass deportation when about 21,000 people were taken away broke the basis of the partisan movement. 6600 partisans gave themselves up in November 1949. Later on the failure of the Hungarian uprising broke the resistance moral of the 700 men still remaining under cover. According to the Soviet data, up to 1953, 20,351 partisans were disarmed. Of these, 1510 perished in the battles. During that period, 1 728 members of the Red Army, NKVD and the militia were killed by the "forest brothers". August Sabbe, the last surviving "Forest Brother" in Estonia, was discovered by KGB agents and killed himself in 1978. [ Laar, Mart. War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944-1956. ISBN 0-929590-08-2 ]

During the first post-war decade of Soviet regime, Estonia was governed by Moscow via Russian-born Estonian governors. Born into the families of native Estonians in Russia, the latter had obtained their Red education in the Soviet Union during the Stalinist repressions at the end of the 1930s. Many of them had fought in the Red Army (in the Estonian Rifle Corps), few of them had mastered the Estonian language. [Biographical Research in Eastern Europe: Altered Lives and Broken Biographies. Humphrey, Miller, Zdravomyslova ISBN 0754616576]

Although the United States and the United Kingdom, the allies of the USSR against Germany during World War II, recognized the occupation of the Republic of Estonia by USSR at Yalta Conference in 1945 de facto, the governments of the rest of the western democracies did not recognize the seizure of Estonia by the USSR in 1940 and in 1944 de jure according to the Sumner Welles' declaration of July 23, 1940 [ [ Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State] at U.S Department of State] [The Baltic States and their Region: New Europe or Old? by David J. Smith on Page 48 ISBN 9042016663] [Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences by Marko Lehti on Page 272: "Soviet occupation in Baltic countries - a position supported by the fact that an overwhelming majority of states never recognized the 1940 incorporation de jure." ISBN 0714683515] Such countries recognized Estonian diplomats and consuls who still functioned in many countries in the name of their former governments. These aging diplomats persisted in this anomalous situation until the ultimate restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991. [Diplomats Without a Country: Baltic Diplomacy, International Law, and the Cold War by James T. McHugh , James S. Pacy, Page 2. ISBN 0313318786]

In August 1994 the last Soviet troops withdrew from the Republic of Estonia. [ Baltic Military District]]


Views diverge on history of Estonia during World War II:

The position of the European Court of Human Rights

The Court notes, first, that Estonia lost its independence as a result of the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact"), concluded on 23 August 1939, and the secret additional protocols to it. Following an ultimatum to set up Soviet military bases in Estonia in 1939, a large-scale entry of the Soviet army into Estonia took place in June 1940. The lawful government of the country was overthrown and Soviet rule was imposed by force. The totalitarian communist regime of the Soviet Union conducted large-scale and systematic actions against the Estonian population, including, for example, the deportation of about 10,000 persons on 14 June 1941 and of more than 20,000 on 25 March 1949. After the Second World War, tens of thousands of persons went into hiding in the forests to avoid repression by the Soviet authorities; part of those in hiding actively resisted the occupation regime. According to the data of the security organs, about1,500 persons were killed and almost 10,000 arrested in the course of the resistance movement of 1944-1953.Interrupted by the German occupation in 1941-1944, Estonia remained occupied by the Soviet Union until its restoration of independence in 1991.

Position of the Estonian government

The occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany ended with five decades of Soviet occupation of the Baltic nations. [ [ Moscow celebrations] at newsfromrussia] 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, it 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. [ [ Motion for a resolution on the Situation in Estonia] by EU]

Governments of the Western democracies

According to USA, EU: 48 years of Soviet occupation and annexation of the Republic of Estonia was never recognized as legal by the Western democracies. [ [ Motion for a resolution on the Situation in Estonia] by EU] [ [ U.S.-Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship] at ]

Position of the Russian government

Russian government and officials however continue to maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate [ [ Russia denies Baltic 'occupation'] by BBC News] and that the Soviet Union liberated the countries from the Nazis [ Bush denounces Soviet domination] by BBC News] They state that the Soviet troops had entered the Baltic countries in 1940 following the agreements and with the consent of the governments of the Baltic republics. They maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of the three Baltic states, therefore, the argument goes, the word 'occupation' can not be used. [ [ Russia denies] at newsfromrussia ] [ [ the term "occupation" inapplicable] at newsfromrussia] "The assertions about [the] 'occupation' by the Soviet Union and the related claims ignore all legal, historical and political realities, and are therefore utterly groundless." (Russian Foreign Ministry)

Russia maintains that Soviet forces liberated the Estonian SSR from Nazi occupation

Positions of the soldiers from both sides

*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 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." [ [ When giants fought in Estonia] by BBC News]

In 2004 controversy regarding the events of World War II in Estonia surrounded the Monument of Lihula.

In April 2007 the diverging views of World War II history were a factor in the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn controversy.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • German occupation of Estonia during World War II — Main article: Estonia in World War II 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,… …   Wikipedia

  • World War II casualties — World War II was humanity s deadliest war, causing tens of millions of deaths. The tables below provide a detailed country by country count of human losses.Total human lossesThe total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II was… …   Wikipedia

  • World War II — WWII redirects here. For other uses, see WWII (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia

  • World War I — This article is about the major war of 1914–1918. For other uses, see World War One (disambiguation) and Great War (disambiguation). World War I …   Wikipedia

  • World War II — the war between the Axis and the Allies, beginning on September 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland and ending with the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945, and of Japan on August 14, 1945. Abbr.: WWII * * * or Second World War (1939–45)… …   Universalium

  • World War II in popular culture — There is a wide range of ways in which people have represented World War II in popular culture. Many works were created during the years of conflict and many more have arisen from that period of world history. Some well known examples of books… …   Wikipedia

  • World War I — the war fought mainly in Europe and the Middle East, between the Central Powers and the Allies, beginning on July 28, 1914, and ending on November 11, 1918, with the collapse of the Central Powers. Abbr.: WWI Also called Great War, War of the… …   Universalium

  • World War I in Timeline-191 — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Great War partof= Timeline 191 caption= date=1914 1917 place=Worldwide casus=Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria result=Central Powers victory (see peace treaty and results). CS also forced to… …   Wikipedia

  • Eastern Front (World War II) — Great Patriotic War redirects here. For a discussion of the term itself, see Great Patriotic War (term). Not to be confused with Patriotic War of 1812. Eastern Front Part of World War II …   Wikipedia

  • Causes of World War II — World War II seriesv · d · e …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.