Estonian Jewish community marks Holocaust mourning days in September

Memorial stone at the site of the Jägala concentration camp.
Memorial stone at the site of the Jägala concentration camp. Source: Jewish Community of Estonia

Thursday, Sept. 5 marks one of several days of mourning in the month of September, in connection with the Holocaust in Estonia, the Jewish Community of Estonia announced on its social media page.

On Sept. 5 1942, the first train to arrive at the Jagala concentration camp arrived, carrying about 1,500 Jews from the Terezin, or Theresienstadt, ghetto in the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia. This was followed two weeks later with a train transporting Jews to the camp from Berlin and Frankfurt.

The Jagala concentration camp was located in Jõelähtme parish, 30 km east of Tallinn. It was established by Nazi German occupation authorities in August 1942, and functioned until September 1943.

The camp consisted of four barracks surrounded by barbed wire, with coal towers in the corners. Executions were carried out at nearby Kalevi Liiva, a total of about 2,000 people, the Jewish Community of Estonia reports. Most of the victims were transported to Estonia from Poland and the Czech Republic.

Estonia itself had a thriving, though relatively small, Jewish community prior to World War Two, with several synagogues situated in the country, including a notable building in Tallinn which was destroyed in the Soviet bombing of the city in 1944. A faculty of Jewish studies existed at Tartu University in the 1930s, and according to a 1936 Jewish Chronicle report, the Jewish community enjoyed relative cultural autonomy.

However, following the Nazi occupation of Estonia in summer 1941, the vast majority of Jews who had not already fled the country were arrested and executed soon after, a number close to 1,000 people, leading to the country being declared "Judenfrei" at the notorious Wannsee Conference in January 1942.

Two Estonians, Uku Masing and his wife Eha, were honored with the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Israel after aiding an individual to escape.

Sept. 5 also marks 47 years since the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Münich Olympics in Germany.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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