Plaque commemorating SS recipient of Iron Cross to be unveiled in Mustla ({{commentsTotal}})

Alfons Rebane (left) together with fellow Estonians Harald Nügiseks and Harald Riipalu, in the uniform of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division (1st Estonian) of the SS.
Alfons Rebane (left) together with fellow Estonians Harald Nügiseks and Harald Riipalu, in the uniform of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division (1st Estonian) of the SS. Source: weebly.com

A regional war memorial society is set to unveil a memorial plaque to Alfons Rebane, a decorated Estonian army officer who fought in the ranks of both the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS during World War II, on the external wall of a house in the southern Estonian town of Mustla on Friday, as reported by local newspaper Sakala.

Rebane was an instructor in the Estonian Defence League (Kaitseliit) in the late 1930s, in Mustla, and the plaque is to be affixed to the wall of the last of several residences he lived in in that town, according to Jaanika Kressa, from the Estonian Warriors' Sakala Society.

The plaque, carved by local stone carver Kalev Pehme, depicts Rebane in a SS uniform with the Estonian coat of arms on the sleeve.

"From the location on the wall, Rebane will be 'looking' across the road towards the memorial to the fallen of the 1918-1920 War of Independence in Jaani Park, which was first installed with his help, and later reinstalled after the restoration of Estonian independence," Kressa said.

Alfons Rebane held the German Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, something bestowed on a total of two non-Germans: in addition to Rebane, Belgian Leon Degrelle was also so decorated.

The son of a railway official born in 1908, this Sunday, 24 June, would have been his 110th birthday; Rebane started his military career in the 1920s and was commissioned as an officer in 1929.

In May 1941, amid Soviet reprisals in Estonia, Rebane went underground to fight against the Soviets in Viru County.

A few months later, after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, he became a leader of the Forest Brothers at the Kavastu partisan camp.

He later joined the German armed forces and attracted attention as the commander of the 658th Estonian Battalion. During the war, he managed to break out of no less than 13 encirclements, It is reported.

With the ending of World War Two and the Soviet Occupation of Estonia seemingly more permanent, Rebane left Estonia for the UK, and subsequently started work with the UK intelligence services. However his attempts to help the Forest Brothers (Metsavennad) movement, which conducted guerilla operations against occuypying Soviet troops, from that base, were ultimately unsuccessful.

In 1961, Rebane retired from the British intelligence services and moved to Germany, where remained until his death in Augsburg  in 1976.

Rebane was buried in Augsburg with full military honours the same year, and 13 years later reinterred in Tallinn's Metsakalmistu (Forest Cemetery).

The Viljandi county governor, Alar Karu, commenting on the potentially controversial move, stated that since the memorial plaque will be attached on the wall of a private building, no permission from the municipality is required.

"Since Rebane is a part of Mustla's history, perpetuating his memory is welcome," he added.

The director of Viljandi Museum, Jaak Pihlak, concurred: "Rebane definitely deserves to be remembered as a soldier," he averred.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BNS



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