World War II in the News is a review of WWII articles providing thought-provoking collection of hand-picked WW2 information.

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Estonia: Nazis, Waffen SS & WWII

History of Estonia: Nazis, Waffen SS and World War II.
Latest hand-picked WWII news.

Push to honor Estonian SS Nazi unit which fought the feared Red Army sparks outrage
Plans are once again afoot in Estonia to honor as "freedom fighters" those who served in Estonian units of the Waffen SS. Similar past initiatives, which nationalists say are meant to pay tribute to those who pushed back the Soviet army, have failed. But new draft legislation to honor the Estonian SS members is being drawn up, and is expected to be introduced into the Estonian Parliament in March. In Germany, the project has been met with outrage. The Berlin Tageszeitung warns of "beatifying the SS." Despite such reflexes, it is worth taking a closer look at the Estonian initiative - for it is not an attempt to justify mass murder, but rather an understandable motion in the context of the small Baltic nation`s history.

A new book called We Were Estonian Soldiers tells some amazing WWII stories
A new book called "We Were Estonian Soldiers" has been released describing Estonia`s involvement in WWII from a soldier`s viewpoint. The stories are about 5 Estonian officers who were classmates at the Estonian Military Technical Academy 1936-1940. Their memoirs start with the Soviet occupation of Estonia and the outbreak of WWII. All were commissioned 2nd lieutenants upon their graduation from the academy in 1940, then their lives took different paths. Lt. Victor Orav started his military career in the Estonian Army which was soon disbanded and integrated into the Russian occupation forces. He deserted from the Red Army and ended up in a German POW camp. He then served in the German SS and was heavily wounded in action. At the end of the war he managed to get from Czechoslovakia to western Germany in order to not fall into Russian hands.

Estonian Arnold Meri, a Soviet war hero accused of genocide, laid to rest
Arnold Meri, a Soviet war hero put on trial in his native Estonia over his part in Stalin-era deportations, has been laid to rest in Tallinn. He denied the charge of "genocide" but admitted playing a part in the deportation of 251 civilians (Over 40 of those died) to Siberian camps in 1949. He was the last surviving Estonian to have been granted the USSR's top military medal in WWII, the Gold Star. Wounded in combat as a Soviet soldier, Meri served as an official in Estonia after the country was re-seized by the Soviets. Since gaining independence from the USSR in 1991, Estonia has been pursuing those who took part in the deportation of 20,000 Estonians to gulags.

U.S. Navy to aid Estonia solve WW2 mystery of Finnish airliner, missing American courier
U.S. naval experts will begin searching for the wreckage of a Finnish airliner that crashed into the Baltic Sea in June 1940, just days before the Soviet Union annexed Estonia. 9 people were on board the aircraft, including U.S. diplomatic courier Henry Antheil - one of the first American casualties of World War II. Most experts think the small plane (called Kaleva, a German-made Junkers Ju-52) was shot down by two Soviet fighter bombers on June 14, 1940. Antheil, based in Moscow 1933-1939, had been hurried to Tallinn once it had become clear that the Soviet Union was about to seize Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Estonia tries Arnold Meri, Hero of the Soviet Union in World War II
A Soviet war hero, Arnold Meri, has gone on trial in his native Estonia on a charge of genocide over deportations to Siberia in 1949. He denies helping to organise the deportation to Soviet labour camps but admits to playing a minor role. Meri is the last living Estonian to be made a Hero of the Soviet Union in WWII. He was granted the Gold Star medal, the USSR's highest military decoration, for his combat service in the Red Army against Nazi forces. Since winning independence from the USSR in 1991, Estonia has been prosecuting those who helped in the deportation of 20,000 Estonians to Siberian camps.

No difference between Nazis and Soviets - Estonian President
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has once again rattled Russia by drawing a comparison between the country’s experience of Nazi and Soviet regimes. "From the Estonian viewpoint, there is no difference between Nazis and Communists. Both acted brutally and repressed Estonians. Neither the Nazis nor the Communists tolerated democracy, and that's a fact any Estonian knows." He was speaking at an event to mark the short-lived independent Estonian govt which was ousted by the Red Army on Sept. 22, 1944, after Nazi troops retreated. There is a photographic exhibition featuring the members of the Otto Tief government at the Bank of Estonia.

Highly-decorated WWII Soviet Red Army soldier charged with genocide
Arnold Meri, former Soviet Communist Party official in Estonia and a highly-decorated soldier in the Soviet Red Army, has been charged with genocide for his alleged role in deportations to Siberian labour camps. He is said to have organised the 1949 deportation of 251 civilians from Hiiumaa Island. Meri has admitted participating, but says he played a minor role. Estoniam authorities say more than 40 of those deported died. Estonia has been gradually attempting to prosecute those who helped in the deportation of 20,000 Estonians to Siberian camps after World War II.

Estonian Waffen-SS veterans gather for congress   (Article no longer available from the original source)
A congress of servicemen from the 20th Waffen-SS division and other Estonian veterans who served in German military units during World War II has started in the Vaivara district. The congress started near the Sinimae hills, the scene of the worst battle in Estonia in WWII in 1944. The veterans, holding the flags of the units they served for, laid wreaths at a memorial rock in honor of the 20th SS division servicemen who were killed in action, and also to the commemorative plaques in honor of the Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian Waffen-SS legionaries who fought there.

"Nobody has ever liberated Estonia" - When giants fought in Estonia
A flick through an album of photos of Old Narva reveals an architectural treasure trove on Estonia's Russian border. Fighting in 1944 mostly crushed it to dust, the war on the Eastern Front leaving its giant footprint on Estonia. "The British did not have to live through the Stalin period. If you had lived through both regimes, you would understand that they were equally evil, there was no difference between the two except that Stalin was more cunning. Nobody has ever liberated Estonia. Anyone who ever came here and said he was liberating Estonia was really just out to rob us. Wearing a German uniform does not make you a fascist," Ilmar Haaviste says.

Estonian Clashes Over Soviet Memorial Leave One Dead
Street riots in the Estonian capital Tallinn left 1 person dead and 57 injured as a protest against the relocation of a Soviet war memorial turned violent. The bronze statue of a Red Army soldier was moved to a Tallinn cemetery after clashes between police and about 1,500 demonstrators. The statue commemorates Soviet soldiers killed when clearing Nazi troops out of Tallinn in 1944 and is a symbol for the Baltic state's Russian-speaking minority, a third of the 1.3 million population. Estonians regard the Red Army's arrival as the start of occupation, which ended with independence in 1991.

WWII T34/76A battle tank Recovered - Photographs
14 Sept 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 pulled an abandoned tank from its tomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia. The Soviet-built T34/76A tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years. From Feb to Sept 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50 km-wide, Narva front in the northeastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men were killed. During battles in the summer of 1944, the T34 tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army. It is a very rare machine, considering that it fought both on the Russian and the German sides. Plans are under way to fully restore the tank.

Memorials for Waffen SS Grenadiers of Estonian Legion
Two new memorials to soldiers of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as Estonian Legion, opened in town of Sinimäe. Guests are going to honor the memory of the fallen Dutch and Walloons who fought with the Division at World War II. Battle of Sinimäe between the Nazi and Soviet troops lasted for seven months in 1944. About 200,000 German and Soviet troops were killed, there are also a memorial of the Soviet soldiers, a memorial of Estonians soldiers who fought with the 20th Waffen SS division, and memorabilia of Waffen SS legionaries of Danish and other nationalities.

Baltics mourn deported sent to Siberia by the Soviet occupiers   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania paid tributes to the tens of thousands of persons who 65 years ago were rounded up in dawn raids and sent to Siberia by the Baltic states' Soviet occupiers. In the early hours of June 14, 1941, 10,000 Estonians, 15,000 Latvians and 16,000 Lithuanians were herded onto cattle trains and shipped out to the far eastern reaches of the Soviet Union, where many of them died. The expulsions were carried out "to persecute and silence" opponents of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union, which occupied the 3 Baltic states first in 1940, and again at the close of World War II following a few years under Nazi occupation, Latvia's Occupation Museum said.

Recognise Waffen SS as heroes, say Estonian MPs   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Estonian MPs are trying to have men who fought for the Waffen SS in the Second World War officially re-classed as freedom fighters. When German forces marched into Estonia and its neighbouring Baltic states, Lithuania and Latvia in 1941, many treated them as liberators as the countries had been occupied by the Soviets a year before and tens of thousands of people massacred by the Red Army. Thousands later joined the German army and ended up in Waffen SS units. Now Estonia's right-wing Fatherland Union and Respublika parties want to see the former SS members recognised as heroes.

Eastern Front Waffen-SS Veteran Ilmar Haaviste
I joined the German forces in 1944. There was a mobilisation, and also Estonian units on the Eastern Front were transferred to near Narva, where the 20th Estonian Division of the Waffen-SS was formed. I had heard from my schoolteacher father that in 1943 there was an Allied conference in Tehran where Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to a proposal from Stalin which in effect handed him Estonia... You have to remember the first year of Soviet power, in 1940-1941, in which it showed itself to be so appalling, we'd seen nothing like it. All the deportations, murders, destroying everything - all this turned the majority of Estonians against the communist regime.