The Russian Embassy has lambasted the recent unveiling of a bust of Harald Nugiseks, an Estonian merited with the Iron Cross for his service in the Waffen SS forces of Nazi Germany, at Laupa Basic School in Järva County, where Nugiseks himself had been a student.
"The ceremony represents yet another attempt to heroize Nazi criminals and their abettors," the Russian Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement. "The words uttered in Laupa that the immortalizing of the memory of this 'hero' will facilitate the growth of patriotism among the students and their love for their motherland can be described as nothing but blasphemy and scoffing at the memory of those who perished in the fight against fascism."
The statement continued, "Those who attempt to bring up the young generation by such examples should remember that the verdict handed down on the leaders of the fascist Reich in Nuremberg and the criminal organizations they have founded, including the SS, is still in force, and vain attempts to justify the crimes against humankind that they perpetrated are deeply unscrupulus and immoral."
Kaarel Aluoja, principal of the basic school in Laupa village, said at the unveiling of the bust at the school on Friday that any attempt to try and rank Järva County natives by how well they are known will see Harald Nugiseks at the top of the list. He also said that the bust would help instill patriotism in the school's pupils, according to regional newspaper Järva Teataja.
Nugiseks, born in the territory of the former Särevere Municipality, now Türi Municipality, in 1921, served as a volunteer in the 20th (Estonian) Waffen SS division. He was one of four Estonians to be awarded the Iron Cross for his courage in battle and had never been accused of a war crime.
Taken prisoner on Czech territory in May 1945 and sent to a prison camp in Siberia, Nugiseks was released in November 1946, after which he was arrested again in February 1947 and sentenced to ten years in prison.
Nugiseks was amnestied in 1953 but only returned to Estonia in 1958.
Following the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia, then-Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Maj. Gen. Aleksander Eiseln awarded Nugiseks the rank of Retired Captain (erukapten) on Feb. 21, 1994.
In 2001, Nugiseks was also awarded the White Cross of the Estonian Defence League, Third Class as well as the Gold Cross of the Estonian Reserve Officers' Association. In 2008, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church awarded Nugiseks the Cross of Merit, and later that year he was likewise presented with the Estonian Medal of Gratitude.
Following his death in 2014 at 92, Nugiseks was buried in Tori Cemetery.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla