European Union, U.S. and Canada Remain Silent about Estonian Glorification of Nazi Collaboration

26 Aug

– Margus Tegleb –

On July 27, 2013, the annual get-together of the former Estonian 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel or “protective squadron”) was held in the Sinimae Hills of eastern Estonia, site of a fierce battle between the Red Army and Nazi troops, including the Estonian SS division, in 1944. The Soviet victory liberated the Klooga concentration and murder camp, rescuing 2,000 prisoners. Sinimae is a major neo-Nazi celebration, held since 1994, which openly uses banned Nazi symbols such as the swastika and is attended by Nazis from all over the world. The celebration includes the Erna military competition, named after the reconnaissance group that provided the Nazis with data about the Red Army during the Second World War. In the past, the Estonian state has actively protected the Waffen-SS veterans’ rally by banning anti-Nazi protest rallies and by arresting prominent anti-Nazi activists.

The Hitlerites began creating non-German Waffen-SS divisions in 1940, which by the end of the Second World War made up about 60 per cent of the Waffen-SS. During the war, 80,000 Estonians joined the Nazi forces and another 3,000 fought against the USSR in the Finnish Army. As did the other Waffen-SS Divisions, the Estonian Division committed countless war crimes, yet no Estonian government since the so-called independence in 1991 has prosecuted a single Nazi war criminal, some of whom, such as Martin Jensen who (died in 1992), fled to Canada under the protection of the Canadian state. The Estonian Waffen-SS massacred civilians in Estonia, the Soviet Union, Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland; attacked small groups of Red Army soldiers and killed Communist Party and Soviet activists; slaughtered Jews, ethnic Russians, prisoners of war, and any peasants who supported land reform; and participated in the transportation of civilians to concentration camps such as Klooga for execution. The President of the Middle East Institute Yevgeny Satanovsky (former president of the Russian Jewish Congress) said that the Waffen-SS was the same structure as the “death squads,” i.e., killing squads that hanged and burned old men, women and children in the territories occupied by Nazis.[1]

Executives of Estonia’s ruling political party have in the past officially attended the July Nazi gathering at Sinimae. In 2011, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip feebly claimed that the meeting had nothing to do with Nazi ideology, even though the Waffen-SS was the armed military force of the SS, an organ of Hitler’s Nazi Party commanded by Heinrich Himmler. This year the Estonian state kept a low profile with only the Minister of Defense Urmas Riensalu sending greetings to the gathering and no government officials onsite. The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a protest but no objections emanated from the European Union.

Although the Nuremburg Trials clearly declared the Waffen-SS to be a criminal organization, the Estonian ruling circles defend the Waffen-SS criminals with the well-worn lies that they were either coerced into joining the Nazis or else were patriots fighting against “Soviet occupation” for Estonian independence.[2] These fabrications are readily exposed by the fact that 30,000 Estonians voluntarily fought on the Red Army side against the Nazi occupiers, as well as by the fact that it was obvious that under Hitler’s Germany, Estonia could only ever have been a vassal state of the Third Reich.

The openly pro-Nazi orientation of the Estonian ruling circles became clear soon after 1991. On June 26, 1999, during the Mart Laar administration, the remains of Estonian Waffen-SS Colonel Alfons Rebane were transferred from Germany to Tallinn’s Metsakalmistu cemetery after a state funeral, despite an organized protest.[3] In 2002, Mart Laar and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tirvimi Velliste characterized the Battle of Sinimae as a “second war of liberation.” In 2005, the Estonian state funded a museum in Lagedi which memorialized the Waffen-SS Division. In 2006, Laar declared that sooner or later a law would be passed recognizing those Estonians who fought for Nazi Germany. In April 2007, Estonian authorities ordered the dismantling of a Soviet war memorial in the capital, Tallinn, which commemorated the victory over Nazism. Thousands of people attempted to protect the monument but police arrested over 1,000 activists and killed one Russian national.

In 2007, the Bronze Soldier, the Estonian war memorial to Soviet soldiers who liberated the capital Tallinn was removed from a place on honour in central Tallinn following pressure from anti-Soviet forces and taken to an out of the way military cemetery, pictured above.
What is the significance of this state-backed Nazi revival in Estonia and other countries? People understand that it is not just an aberration to be found in only one or two places. Recently the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union party of Angela Merkel in Germany staged a mock demolition of the statue of the communist leader Ernst Thaelmann in Berlin. Thaelmann was the leader of the German Communist Party during most of the Weimar Republic. He was imprisoned by Hitler in 1933, kept in solitary confinement for 11 years and then shot in the Buchenwald concentration camp 60 years ago on August 18, 1944. Attempts to remove the statue besmirch his memory and defile the memory of the German people. Behind it all is a company which wants the prime real estate to build condominiums.

These forces want to obliterate the memory of the heroic role the communists played. But behind this, it is clear that the revival of anti-communism by the most reactionary sectors of the ruling classes which have usurped positions of power in Europe and North America is a deliberate concerted attack. This assault is meant to smash the resistance of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries and of the peoples of the world to the global neo-liberal anti-social offensive and U.S. imperialist plans to redivide the world. Remnants of the family of the Russian Czar and his retinue and similar so-called royal families of Europe, the same aristocratic dregs that funded the earliest rise of the Nazi Party, continue to scheme. They wish to repossess the properties justly expropriated by the people during the Russian Revolution and as a result of the peoples’ striving for empowerment during and after World War II.

Monument to Ernst Thaelmann in Berlin, Germany.

This is why these representatives of the monopolies and their parties and governments are now endorsing openly fascist resolutions. Such statements declare the deeds of the communists such as events which permitted the great Second World War victories at Stalingrad and Kursk to be crimes against humanity “worse” than the crimes of the Nazis. They condone the crimes of the Nazis, claiming their aim was to save humanity from Bolshevism. But the peoples of the world will never conciliate with new imperialist wars of occupation and other crimes against the peace and humanity carried out in the name of freedom, democracy and human rights. The peoples of the world despise both the old and new Nazis. Every effort must be made to oppose the comparison of the deeds of the communists with the crimes of the Nazis, otherwise we face worldwide disaster in the same way that the Anglo-American policy of conciliation with the Hitlerites inexorably led to the tremendous calamities and suffering during the Second World War.

Notes

1. For more details of these war crimes, see Estonia: The Bloody Trace of Nazism, 1941-44. The document can be found at http://common.regnum.ru/documents/eston.pdf
2. In 1950, the U.S. High Commissioner in Germany, John J. McCloy, who later pardoned all the Nazi war criminals jailed by the Nuremburg Trials, began official “rehabilitation” of the Baltic Waffen Divisions by declaring that they were “separate” from the Nazi SS and therefore were not a movement “hostile to the Government of the United States.” As is well-known, the U.S. imperialists recruited thousands of Nazis after the Second World War, e.g., through Operation Paperclip to work on the American missile program.
3. Laar’s reactionary credentials are prodigious. He is on the international board of the U.S. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Committee, which is the inspiration for the Canada-based Tribute to Liberty’s anti-communist monument campaign. He is also a member of the misnamed International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, billionaire George Soros’ so-called Human Rights Foundation, the anti-communist Mount Pelerin Society founded by Friederich Hayek, and many other similar organizations.

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