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Euphemisms from Estonia 2

Reader comment on item: Turkey: An Ally No More
in response to reader comment: continuing a sub-plot - peppered examples of excess from another non-religious kind totalitarian system.

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Nov 20, 2009 at 16:11

Hi, my friend!

Let me continue to answer your post.

> There was no 'descration' it was the simple relocation of a bronze statue from Tallinn city to a military cemetery 3kms away. It presented a loss of face to many of the Russians living in Estonia. Not all though.<

'As far as I remember those events what happened was that the Estonian fascists erected a monument to the Estonian SS."

> There was a plaque/monument dedicated on private land in the small city of Parnu - near Latvia on the southern coast - by a Estonian wehrmacht group . <

You speak of the 20. Waffen-SS Grenadier-Division which was more than just the Wehrmacht as you suggest. Their monument stands for all the Estonian WWII collaborators, including such hedious units like the Estonian Auxilliary Police, the "Schutzmannschaft Front Bataillon 36 Arensburg - 36. Kaitse Rindepataljon" which participated in executing Jews in Poland and others that stained their hands with Jewish blood. I have seen a picture of the monument. The plaque shows an Estonian SS-man (his runes were cunningly enough removed beforehand) with a German MP (Maschinenpistole) pointing to the east.

Now what sorts of sentiments would you cherish if you saw the plaque with the eyes of a country that almost collapsed under the onslaught of soldiers wearing the same uniforms ? What sort of sentiments would you feel if you thought of the Jews saved by the Red Army for a moment ?

> It had nothing to do with the bronze soldier monument in Tallinn.

At the beginning it really was the case. But mark the peculiar peregrinations of this unique mounment on wheels. It is officially dedicated in Pärnu in 2002, then in 2004 it moves to Lihula to be removed from there after a few days and a riot police fight with an angry Estonian mob. Finally, it lands on a private plot of land used as a museum in Lagedi in 2005. What a strange tour for a monument! I can't believe all this happened without strong political pressures from without and lesser ones from within. As a result much anger was accumulated in the Estonians seeing that their holy of holies is mistreated and moved from place to place while the Soviet Bronze 'Occupier' stands in the park in a conspicuous place. But they couldn't remove it without a legal pretext and to get this pretext a new law was needed. In early 2007 they passed a law on removal of Soviet monuments. Hidden behind this law they attacked the Soviet Monument and showed the Russians as hooligans and barbarians to the West while they aptly forgot to tell the public what sort of scenes could be seen while the Nazi monument was being removed earlier on order from a foreign political respresentative.

"... But they took revenge on the Soviet monument instead. Relegating it to the cemetery was tantamount to exposing it to desecration as the cemetery area is regularly visited by vandals and drunkards."

> There was no revenge - the incidents were unrelated. <

Unrelated ? ...The Nazi monuments are chased from one place to another and the US ambassador happens to be Aldona Zofia Wos - a Polish-born American Jewess and daughter of a holocaust survivor and a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. She arrives at a a country where monuments to SS units are erected and what do you think she does ? Nothing? She connives at that ? All is but a coincidence? She was appointed ambassador to Estonia in 2004.

> The statue was in a small park in the middle of the road in Tallinn. It was a hangout for Russian youth and having been there - I can say it was not the sort of place you'd want to walk through after dark. <

Now, a few hundred metres away from where the former Bronze Sodier stood the Estonians have erected "Monument to Estonian Liberty" – a cross ... with the old Estonian SS emblem inside – a hand with a sword and an E letter inscribed. It seems that Estonian liberty and Estonian Nazi past go quite literally hand in hand.

> Anecdotally - the only trouble I ever had in Estonia - in terms of unprovoked attacks - was with drunken Russians. But by the same token I had some good expereinces with sober Russians. So, I'll put that down to drink and the fact they realised I wasn't a local...<

How about your experiences with tipsy Estonians?

> The cemetery where the statue was relocated to (Tallinna Kaitseväe kalmistu) is the Estonian military cemetery - well cared for and maintained and not a place where vandals do their work.<

At least not before the Estonian Independence Day or the Stalin-Hitler Pact Day , I presume.

......Desecrating Soviet monuments

> Well, yes - the statues of Lenin etc have all gone - the red stars ripped from most buildings - except that big old grey warehouse buiding near Uus Linn they keep as a reminder for some reason.

Strange, when one remembers what Estonia owes Lenin personally. After all he was the first world leader to recognize de jure Estonia's independence in 1920 in exchange for Estonians' betraying Yudenich and thwarting his initially so successful thrust on Petrograd. But Estonians like most jingoists and doctrinaires have very selective memory. Anyway, I have the impression that you have never heard a single word about Yudenich during your stay in Estonia and about his story, have you?

> But mind you , they still keep the the bombed out plots of land in the middle of Tallinn where the Soviet Airforce (mostly Russian mind you - not georgian etc) bombed the wooden houses of ordinary citizens. I guess that's a soviet monument of sorts.

Interesting. How could this ruin survive "the Soviet occupation", I wonder ? And remarkable suggestion that no German soldier -or Estonian SS man for that matter -could have had an idea to seek safety in an ordinary wooden house, isn't it ? As far as my understanding of war goes it is exactly among civilians that military tend to seek safety. Didn't the good Estonians doctor the ruin a bit so that it might look more miserable like themselves ? 'Poor victims' know surprisingly well how to play the role of the oppressor.

> and glorifying Nazi symbols and past are quite common in Estonia.

> Ah yes, the glorification of war. Do they have a Veterans Day equivalent in Poland? If so - who marches? anti-Nazi Polish ex-servicemen? But what about the many anti-communist Poles? Do they (or did they - it was a long time ago) get to march too?

Thanks for bringing Poland into our discussion. It's a bit different story, but I don't mind disclosing vagaries of Polish nationalism either. Also here reality has been badly distorted by a false worldview and blind jingoism.

> In the same way - surviving Estonian Wehrmacht veterans get together once a year to relive the good and bad old days.<

First, not just the Wehrmacht, but the SS! The organizations were different and for a good reason! Second, getting together to relive the good and bad old SS days in a country where the US ambassador is a Jewess and a child of a holocaust survivor and a member of the US Holocaust Council is more than just an interesting outing into the past, if you understand what I mean. It's like playing with fire in front of a fire victim.

> Similarly, on May 9th you'll see groups of old commies swigging vodka waving their little red flags. Depending on which side of the conflict one's prejudices lie - you will have a different opinion. But rightly or wrongly it's a group of buddies reliving old times.

The difference between the two is that while the bad commies saved Jews, the other party was fighting for their destruction and yet instead of the hoped-for independence the Nazis included Estonia into 'Reichskommissariat Ostland'. By the way, the first "judenrein" state in Europe was Estonia – as early as the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. Some ten Jews survived in Estonia while 1000 were killed. So now after the apology of the SS some reading on the holocaust in Estonia might be a refreshing change, I surmise. Let me quote a passage then :

" Round-ups and killings of the remaining Jews began immediately by the extermination squad Einsatzkommando (Sonderkommando) 1A ... Arrests and executions continued as the Germans, with the assistance of local collaborators, advanced through Estonia. [...] A Sicherheitspolizei (Estonian Security Police) was established for internal security under the leadership of Ain Mere in 1942... On September 11, 1941 an article entitled "Juuditäht seljal" – "A Jewish Star on the Back" appeared in the Estonian mass-circulation newspaper 'Postimees'. It stated that[...] "all Jewish residents of Ostland from that day onward had to wear visible yellow six-pointed 'Star of David' at least 10 cm. in diameter on the left side of their chest and back. On the same day Regulations issued by the Sicherheitspolizei were delivered to all local police departments proclaiming that the Nuremberg Laws were in force in Ostland, defining who is a Jew, and what Jews could and could not do. Jews were prohibited from changing their place of residence, walking along the sidewalk, using any means of transportation, going to theatres, museums, cinema, or school. The professions of lawyer, physician, notary, banker, or real estate agent were declared closed to Jews, as was the occupation of street hawker. The regulations also declared that the property and homes of Jewish residents were to be confiscated.... These regulations also provided for the establishment of a concentration camp near the south-eastern Estonian city of Tartu. ...The Estonian State Archives contain material pertinent to the cases of about 450 Estonian Jews. They were typically arrested either at home or in the street, taken to the local police station, and charged with the 'crime' of being Jews. They were either shot outright or sent to concentration camp and shot later... Jews from countries outside the Baltics were shipped there to be killed and an estimated 10,000 Jews were killed in Estonia after having been deported to camps there from elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The Nazi regime also established 22 concentration and labor camps on occupied Estonian territory for foreign Jews. The largest, Vaivara concentration camp housed 1,300 prisoners at a time. These prisoners were mainly Jews, with smaller groups of Russians, Dutch, and Estonians. Several thousand foreign Jews were killed at the Kalevi-Liiva camp. Units of Estonian auxiliary police participated in the extermination of the Jews in Estonia and Pskov region of Russia and provided guards for concentration camps for Jews and Soviet POWs (Jägala, Vaivara, Klooga, Lagedi ), where the prisoners were killed .. From 1941 to 1943 Karl Linnas had commanded a Nazi concentration camp at Tartu, Estonia, where he directed and personally took part in the murder of thousands of men, women, and children who were herded into anti-tank ditches."

> There is an extremely well kept German war cemetery in Rakvere - maintained by the Germans. I didn't note similarly well kept soviet war graves - maintained and paid for by Russia. Does that tell us the Russians care less<

Yes, it does. I am not going to deny that. I remember the Russians coming in early 1990-ies to Poland to sell anything including their WWII medals. I have bought one too for a few cents. What a shame to this nation's great and heroic past!

> Most Estonians do see the Soviet era as a Russian occupation.

"...And how do they see the Hitler era -1941-1944 ?"

> A return to a previous more benign status quo <

.. unless someone had bad luck to be a Jew in 'more benign' Nazi-occupied Estonia. Anyway, it's interesting that while on 23.08 the Estonians march in streets carrying the posters with the Soviet and Nazi flags and national symbols and speak of the great betrayal , they quickly forget to wave swastikas and Nazi flags on their other national holidays. Why speak of Hitler-Stalin pact and be silent of – let's call it – "Hitler-Uluots" pact ? (Uluots was the last prime minister of the first republic of Estonia ). Nazi-Estonian friendship and alliance seems to be more durable than the Soviet-German one which lasted just for two years. Even 70 years afterwards the memories of good Nazi days are still appreciated and cherished in Estonia.

"Anyway, with their record of century-long occupation these Soviet years after the 20 years of self-rule must seem like 'back to normalcy' era. It's interesting that after WWI they also saw the tsarist era like occupation and the German aristocrats who could trace their pedigree back to the 13th century as 'occupiers'. Had the Germans won in 1918 there would be no Estonia and - cynically speaking- all the great problems small nationalisms cause."

> Seeing the Baltic Germans ruled there for so long - it's a fair bet the Estonians preferred treatment under the Germans to be better than their treatment under the Soviets.

I don't think so. In the depth of their soul these nationalists reject them all –German and Russians. What they dream of is "Estonia for Estonians only"! If an ooportunity were given to them, they would betray all to make Estonia purely Estonian.

> That's why many jouined the Wehrmacht when Germany 're-arrived' in 1941.<

Didn't the good Estonians tell you that many Estonians had also fought in the Red Army ? On the other hand, the mass collaboration in the Baltic is a well-known historical fact. Do you think Stalin was wrong when he persecuted the collaborators after 1944 ? And yet he was milder with them than with the Russian collaborators. When Russians did the same (the Vlasov Army), they were killed on the spot or sent to the uranium or lead mines whence no one returned alive. Many Baltic Nazis were sent back home and somehow survived. Another example showing that the Russians suffered under Stalin more than the Estonians.

. "........ during the Stalin era ALL , not just the Estonians or Latvians, were persecuted independently of their nationality and Russians suffered probably even more than other nationalities."

> except possily the Ukranainians

I don't know if the famine and cannibalism on the Volga in the early 20-ies or the suppression of the Tambov peasant uprising by Tukhachevski or extermination of the Don or Kuban cossacks cost fewer human lives than the collectivization of agriculture in the Ukraine. Maybe you're right.

"It's a wilful historical error to identify the persecutions in the Baltic provinces after 1940-1941 and 1944-1953 as engineered by Russians against the Estonians. The NKVD/KGB officials were bolsheviks coming from many nationalities - Beriya being Georgian. Nationality played no determining role here although the persecutors spoke Russian. Estonian jingoists prefer to see everything in national terms and thus they distort the facts.'

> Well break it down by percentages - is it likely that more than 90% of the perpetrators were actually Russian - or were Georgians heavily over-represented?

It's hard for me to see the problem in national terms as communism by its very nature is not nationalistic. You may as well blame the Jews for Communist crimes, as the Latvians, Lithuanians and Ukrainians and many Estonians did by staging anti-Jewish pogroms immediately after the Germans arrived in 1941. For them communism was a Jewish plot. Many Russians saw it also in these terms. Russia before 1917 was a state ruled by Russians – the tsar was a Russian surrounded by Russian or russified German-Baltic aristocracy, assisted by Russian officers and clergymen and administration. The communists took over this country in 1917 but to rule it they had to eliminate its old ruling elites, i.e. the ruling Russian elite. And what we see after 1917 is a Latvian Division - the Latvian Riflemen - as the backbone of the new regime, a Polish nobleman Felix Dzierzhinski head of the Red Security Force Cheka, Jew Leo Lrotsky reorganizing the Red Army and Georgian Stalin regulating the nationality problems and soon taking all power into his hands to mould the country's destiny.

"Sure, I have. My father was a landless peasant, a village labourer. The Russians had given his grandfather liberty and the Soviets gave him land. I'll always remember what I owe them. if they ahdn't done it, I'd be a serf nowadays."

> So you owe a debt of gratitude to the Russians. Were there many Poles who did not get such benign treatment? <

Almost all landless peasants were given some land and different other social benefits like free higher education for their children. The nationalist regime established after 1989 has done its best to ruin free Polish peasantry and make free higher education virtually inaccessible to most poor families. By the way, 17% of people here live under the poverty line. Under communism I saw no beggars and homeless. Since the fall of communism I have seen them everywhere. Fine national "progress" and promised land of "equality" and "prosperity", isn't it ?

> I know Czechs and Hungarians who don't speak so rosily of their treatment , maybe it was different in Poland. I simply don't know.

The Hungarians should be reminded of their role in WWII while the Czechs like Poles implemented brutally thanks to the bad Soviets their century-long dream of expelling the Germans from their territories. They owe it all to Stalin and the Russians. But as the Greeks used to say "Nothing grows old as quickly as human gratitude".

Submitting....

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