See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.
Kloty of Gedanken über Estland draws attention to [ger] information in Estonian media that the country's Defence Ministry is allegedly financing the controversial Waffen-SS war veterans’ organizations.
An Estonian friend who escaped during the war says: these “men deserve the support. They fought out gunned and out numbered more than 10 to 1 almost to the last man standing defending their country from the reinvading Soviet Army that ended up occupying Estonia for 50 years after the end of WW II. I would not be here today if it was not for the bravery of these men. They volunteered strictly to protect their country from the Russians who had executed and sent to Siberia thousands of Estonian men, women and children during the first occupation at the beginning of the war. These men are heroes not a bunch of fanatical Nazis. The handful of veterans who survived the onslaught were executed or sent to Siberian Gulags for a minimum of 25 years. About half of these survivors died of hunger, cold and hard labor before they were released from the Russian concentration camps.
To get an idea of what I’m talking about you may want to read Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (Basic Books, 2010) by Timothy Snyder a professor of history at Yale.” In short, they were fighting for Estonia not “for” the Germans to keep Russians out of Estonia. Not a black and white situation, it appears.
Ned, please stop repeating nonsense from your Estonian friend and switch your brain on. On the other side of the front, there were about 60.000 Estonians fighting for the same idea, liberation of Estonia from occupation through fascistic forces. The Estonian government does not care for these veterans, they don’t call them heroes, they even sue them. Maybe your Estonian friend could also tell you about concentration camps in Estonia, where hundert thousands of innocent people were murdered. If not this senseless fighting in Sinimäe, how many lives could be saved, since the Germans and their Estonian helpers would not able to kill all prisoners in the camps? But they had enough time, because these “heros” delayed the arrival of Red Army.
I would even excuse them, that they did not know about camps like Klooga, so they were really thinking they were fighting on the right side. But now 70 years later, they know exactly who they were helping and they are still proud of it. This cannot be excused.
First of all, Global Voices refers to what others write – here Kloty of Gedanken über Estland – and we do not epxress opionions ourselves except for the basic principles of our organization.
As for Estonia and Estonians during WW II, it is not easy to have an opinion, as conditions were so shifting. Historically, it is quite clear that atrocities were committed by Nazis, Soviets – and Estonians. Having followed Estonia since 1987, this is really what I can say. Personally, there are times when I get really mad at what is going on in Estonia, but that goes both for the actions of ethnic Estonians and Russian speakers.
So, where I would personally agree with you, is that there are seldom any black-and-white situations. Still, that does not mean that people should not be held personally accountable for crimes they have committed, in accordance with the laws of war and international conventions. Also, this is one example where such norms have been considered so universal that new international law was implemented retroactively, e.g. during the Nuremberg and other trials after World War II.
As to allegations about financing from our Defence Ministry, that is not true. The government does not get involved in these events. It was our tragedy that two occupying powers both included Estonians in their forces – in most cases against their will – and in many cases there were even members of the same family fighting on different sides (I have an example from my grandpa’s family as well…). There are altogether about one million Estonians – and about 60 000 men were recruited in Red Army, 39 000 to German side. This is why almost every Estonian has some sort of family connection to these events and it is a sensitive issue.
As to Estonians committing atrocities – undoubtedly there were also Estonians who did that. But they were used as tools by two totalitarian regimes and you could say that about any nation that was involved in the war, willingly or unwillingly. Occupation and collaboration are two terms that tend to exist hand in hand…
So, would you claim that the documents published by baltija.eu are proven forgeries? Input on this would be interesting, not least from a citizen media point of view.
What you address concerning the greyscale of guilt and innocence is perhaps what still make people think about these matters. Also, the mixed emotions when confronted by a variety of historical stories and destinies from both the Nazi and the Soviet years, are perhaps reasons why these things still surface on a regular basis, where – what seems like – bad judgement tends to produce international media attention. For instance, just a few weeks ago, the town of Viljandi celebrated the 70th anniversary of Nazi occupation.
Of course, most Estonians distance themselves from much of the above, but they go on occurring as some sort of freak accidents. From a citizen media perspective, these are themes, which cannot be ignored.
This site is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Please read our attribution policy to learn about freely redistributing our work
Some Rights Reserved