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Pro-Nazis Gather in Estonia

Updated on October 9, 2017
UnnamedHarald profile image

I try to make history readable and interesting, warts and all. We must look to the past to understand the present and confront the future.

Estonians Gathering at Sinimae in the Past

2009 gathering in Sinimae, Estonia. Memorial service on the 65th anniversary of the battles on the Sinimäed hills in 1944, where a number of veterans attended including including members of the W:20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonia
2009 gathering in Sinimae, Estonia. Memorial service on the 65th anniversary of the battles on the Sinimäed hills in 1944, where a number of veterans attended including including members of the W:20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonia | Source

Gathering in Sinimae

On Saturday July 30, 2011, veterans of the 20th Estonian division of the Waffen SS gathered in Sinimae, Estonia with other pro-Nazi campaigners. Sinimae, a small village of 352 people, is in the far northeast of the Baltic state of Estonia near the border with Russia. The rally was held to commemorate the anniversary of of a fierce months-long battle fought there during World War II in 1944 between the advancing Red Army and the 20th Estonian SS division, resulting in total losses as high as 200,000. The rally occurred less than a mile from a monument commemorating the Soviet dead. There was also an anti-Nazi protest rally, but members of the anti-fascist movement said Estonian authorities hampered protestors trying to get to Sinimae by detaining them at the border or having the police pull them over.

The Russian Foreign Ministry complained that the Estonian government's tacit approval of such gatherings must be investigated by the European Union, NATO and other relevant international bodies to stop the growth of Neo-Nazism. Estonia is a member of NATO and, with a population of 1.34 million, is one of the least-populous members of the European Union. Russia maintains that the 20th Estonian SS division carried out punitive operations and that 7,500 to 8,500 Jews were killed in the concentration camp at Kluga. not far from Sinimae.


SS Memorial

The marker for 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS as part of SS memorial at the Sinimae, Estonia.
The marker for 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS as part of SS memorial at the Sinimae, Estonia. | Source

Sinimae, Estonia

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Sinimae, Estonia:

get directions

Nazis Or Liberators?

Some Estonians, however, look upon the German army as liberators and the 20th Estonian SS division as freedom fighters. After the non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union was signed in 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Estonia in 1940 until the Germans broke the pact and invaded in 1941. During that occupation, tens of thousands of Estonians were deported to Siberia or summarily executed and Stalinist “destruction battalions” terrorized the countryside. The Soviets reoccupied Estonia in 1944 and ruled over it and the other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania, until 1991.

Estonia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement declaring that “Estonia has condemned the crimes of all the totalitarian regimes that occupied Estonia and denounces any ideological manipulation of this topic”. Furthermore, the government maintains the right of all who fought during the war to commemorate their dead and that the event at Sinimae was a civic initiative.

This is the morally ambiguous landscape that has fueled the growth of the Neo-Nazi movement during the last 20 years in the Baltic states and is now spreading throughout Europe. In Austria, the ultra-right party won the parliamentary election; in Finland, the True Finns Party scored impressive results in recent elections; the far-right has also gained ground in France. Just over a week before, shortly after sending out his manifesto addressed to “West European patriots”, ultra-right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik murdered 77 people on July 22 in and near Oslo.


Nuremberg Ruling: Conscripted Estonians Not War Criminals

It must be noted that during the Nuremberg trials following the war, members of the SS were classified as war criminals, but conscripted members of the Estonian20th Waffen-SS division were explicitly excluded from this classification unless they individually committed war crimes.

Also, the U.S. Declared: “The Baltic Waffen SS Units (Baltic Legions) are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States.”

Estonian SS

Estonian soldiers of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) with a Panzerschreck ("Stovepipe") anti-tank weapon. August 1944.
Estonian soldiers of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) with a Panzerschreck ("Stovepipe") anti-tank weapon. August 1944. | Source

Update July 28, 2012 Russia: Estonian Nazis; Estonia: Estonian Veterans

On Saturday July 28, 2012, the Estonian veterans of the 20th Waffen-SS division assembled once again in Sinimae. In what is becoming an annual exchange of accusations, the Russian press accused the Estonians of glorifying Nazism, while the Estonian Foreign Minister accused the Russians of maliciously maligning their complicated past.

While Neo-Nazis do take advantage of the annual gatherings to further their cause, officially, this is a gathering of Estonian veterans who fought against Soviet invaders. The Russians see nothing but Nazis who killed millions of Russians during the war.


© 2011 David Hunt

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    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks Gordon. My research has resulted in an interest in the Baltic region and Estonia in particular. Her complicated past certainly paints her in shades of gray, but it's a fascinating country and people. The same goes for Latvia and Lithuania. As a matter of fact, a colleague of mine, Chuck Larson, was U.S. Ambassador to Latvia from 2007 to 2008, which probably was the spark for my interest in the area.

    • Gordan Zunar profile image

      Gordan Zunar 

      3 years ago from New York

      The Russians took a very hypocritical stand by mentioning Klooga and not mentioning the various Gulags that they had throughout Russia's territory. For what the Nazi Germans did to the Jews, Russians were doing too at the same time, and even before them. As you said in one of the other articles, nothing is black and white.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, John, for your comment. As you point out, it is a complicated issue. I appreciate your vote up. Thank you for reading.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Excellent article. Unfortunately I think people would have voted for Hitler also. Hitler hid himself under the umbrella of Nordicism and Nationalism and tried to get other countries to follow his racial and political aim such as Britain, France and, even ours!...

      Voted up - take care

      John

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Natashalh, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Indeed, history plays such an important role. In another hub about Estonia I elaborate on the "choice" between Hitler and Stalin during the various occupations of the Baltic countries. And if we keep letting our freedoms be eaten away, one day we may find ourselves with such a choice.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      I think it's about economies and national pride. People say "How could they have thought Hitler was a good choice? How could they vote for him, support him, etc?" I think that most people today in their place in Germany in the 1930s would have made the same choice. He promised jobs and a return of national pride. Not saying that any of our candidates in the upcoming or previous presidential election are Hitler-esque, but isn't that pretty much the same thing everyone's been saying here? Shovel ready jobs, restore America, restore American face abroad- its exactly the same kind of stuff.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think uncertainty breeds such things and there is plenty of that in the world. I hope you're right and it's not one step forward and two steps back.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Very interesting. Hate groups seem to be on the rise almost everywhere, including the United States. I wonder why? Multiple reasons probably: political, racist, religious, demagoguery. Civilization takes two steps forward and one backward.

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