The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Estonia has strongly criticised the relocation of a monument to those Estonians who fought on the side of Nazi Germany during World War Two to the western Estonian town of Lihula.
The monument, which is a copy of an original kept in a museum at Lagedi, southeast of Tallinn, had been removed from the Lihula location exactly 14 years ago just a few days after its erection, and is being temporarily exhibited at Lihula by personnel from the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE).
The Russian embassy stated that the move by EKRE activists (EKRE itself, which has seven seats in the Estonian parliament at present, did not exist when the monument was first placed in Lihula, having been founded in 2012) represents a glorification of Waffen-SS troops in particular, something which it says is taking on cult proportions in Estonia at the moment.
Nazis, Soviets both drafted Estonians into their ranks
Whilst Estonians would have been drafted into all arms and services of the occupying German forces between 1941 when the Germans took over occupation of the country from the Soviet Union, to 1944 when the Soviets returned, this time for over 45 years, it is the SS which attracts the most attention and opprobrium.
One of Estonia's most-decorated soldiers of the war, Alfons Rebane (1908-1976), was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in 1944, raised to Knight's Cross with Oakleaves in 1945 in what remained of Nazi-occupied Europe. He was reportedly one of only two non-Germans to be awarded the medal, and was also promoted to Waffen-Standartenführer, shortly before surrendering to the British at the end of the war. The Waffen-SS, the field units of Hitler's paramilitary SS (Schutzstaffel) organisation remain at the very least highly controversial due to various war crimes attributed to them, not only on the eastern front, but also in the west including the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre in France. There is no concrete evidence to date that Rebane himself participated in or witnessed atrocities, however.
"We note with growing concern that the glorification of former fighters who served in the Waffen-SS, an organisation declared criminal by the [post-war] Nuremberg trials, is taking on the nature of a cult in Estonia, combined with ignorance of the generally accepted assessments given to the anti-human nature of the Nazi regime, the horrendous violence committed by Hitler's followers and their henchmen, including in the territories occupied by Germans in World War II, among them Estonia," the Russian Embassy statement reads, as reported by the Baltic News Service.
Authorities turning a blind eye
According to the embassy, it is especially difficult to grasp how or why the Estonian authorities seem to be turning a blind eye to the activities at Lihula, as with the commemoration of Estonians Rebane, and Harald Nügiseks (1921-2014) who also served in the Waffen-SS. A plaque commemorating Mr. Rebane, who after the war worked for the British intelligence services, was unveiled earlier in the year, affixed to a house in the south Estonian town of Mustla.
"What complacency like this leads to is vividly demonstrated by the recent vandalisation of the monument to Jews and Gypsies who perished at the hands of Hitler's followers at Kalevi-Liiva,'' the embassy statement continues, referring to an incident on the weekend of 18-19 August.
''It is a link in the same chain," the statement adds, demanding an end to be put to the supposed exaltation of those people who fought in the German military.
The removal of a Soviet era war memorial, the so called 'bronze soldier', in April 2007, led to several nights' rioting in Tallinn and one death.
Representatives of EKRE, have pledged to have the original monument, whose inscription reads "To the Estonian men who fought against Bolshevism and for the restoration of the independence of Estonia in 1940–1945," reinstalled at Lihula next year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte