Monument to controversial forest brother opened in Saaremaa

A monument to Saaremaa's most famous forest brother Elmar Ilp and his squad was opened in the village of Luulupe on Saturday. Ilp kept the occupation forces in Saaremaa on their toes from 1944 to August 12, 1950 but was also feared by the locals.

The monument that now lies at the heart of Luulupe village displays the symbols and the names of members of the "flying death" squad – Redese Toomson, Feliks Vahter, Aleksander Tuuling and Elmar Ilp as the most famous of the group.

President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas, who was present for the opening of the monument, said with conviction that forest bothers were freedom fighters during the occupation period and that too little importance has been attached to their role so far.

"Forest brothers and later dissidents, this entire topic, their struggle, goal and ideals have been covered too seldom and with a veil of modesty. They are our heroes. They fought for Estonia's independence, our people for which we need to be grateful and have the courage to say it," Põlluaas said.

"It is said that Ilp was cruel and savage, but I had a sister and nephew ten years my juniors and he used to play board games with them and give the boys piggyback rides," local resident Selma Pahapill said of Elmar Ilp.

There are very different stories about Ilp in Saaremaa, with some saying he was a criminal with the blood of locals on his hands.

"They were not criminals, they were resistance fighters. They had definitely warned people and it must have been a very bad coincidence if people were executed right away. They warned people and then killed. They wrote on their leaflets that traitors have no place in our society," said Jaen Teär, head of the Saaremaa freedom fighters' society.

One of the missions of Teär has been the rehabilitation of forest brothers and to erect a monument in Kuressaare to all who died fighting against the occupation on different sides and wearing different uniforms throughout the decades.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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