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World War II Database

Estonia

Full Name 43 Republic of Estonia
Alliance Neutral or Non-Belligerent
Entry into WW2 17 Jun 1940
Population in 1939 1,122,000
Military Deaths in WW2 30,000
Civilian Deaths in WW2 50,000
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 1,500

Contributor:

ww2dbaseFollowing the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and German victories against the Russian army, the Estonian Committee of Elders of the Maapäev declared independence in Pärnu on 23 Feb 1918 and in Tallinn on 24 Feb 1918. After winning the Estonian War of Independence, the nation's independence was affirmed.

ww2dbaseWhen the European War began in 1939, Estonia declared neutrality; regardless, it fell under the Soviet zone per the secret clause of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Ultimatums from the Soviet Union came in Jun 1940, and Soviet troops crossed the border shortly after. By late Jun, a Soviet-sponsored government was formed under the guidance of Andrei Zhdanov, and mass arrests and mass deportations soon began. In the first months of the occupation, over 8,000 intellectuals were arrested, about 2,200 of them were executed in Estonia, while the rest were deported to Russia where many would die in prison camps. Of those who died in Russia included President Konstantin Päts, who died in Kalinin, Russia in 1956. In Jun 1941, another round of deportations was put in motion, and nearly 10,000 Estonians were deported. When the war with Germany began later in the same month, thousands of Estonians were conscripted into labor battalions to dig trenches and perform other forms of physical labor. The Russian émigré institutions in Estonia were wiped out during the occupation, as Soviet authorities viewed them with extreme suspicion, regardless whether they had been White Russians or even those who served the Soviet Union as spies in recent years.

ww2dbaseIn Jun 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The people of Estonia initially welcomed the Germans as liberators, but true German intentions were soon discovered. Estonia, along with the other two Baltic States (Latvia and Lithuania), were administered as a part of Reichskommissariat Ostland under Hinrich Lohse, who were under orders to Germanize "racially suitable" Estonians and to eliminate the others in order to make room for German colonists. The roughly 4,600 Estonian Jews, 500 of whom had already been deported to Siberia by the Soviets, saw equally terrible fate under German occupation. Somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 Jews were arrested by the Germans, and the most of them would not survive the war. The Germans also brought Jews across Europe to Estonia for extermination; these victims numbered in the thousands.

ww2dbaseDuring the war, Estonian nationals fought on both sides. When the country was annexed into the Soviet Union in 1940, 42 Estonian merchant ships still on the high seas instead sailed for Britain; many of them would later transport war goods for the Allies. About 1,000 Estonians would serve with the British merchant marine. About 200 Estonians served with British Royal Air Force, British Army, and US Army. Thousands of Estonians also served with Soviet and Germany armed forces, some by coercion and others willingly. The 25,000-strong Soviet 8th Estonian Rifle Corps, for example, saw combat in Tallinn, Estonia in Sep 1944, while in the same year the German 3rd Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade fought near Nevel, Russia.

ww2dbaseAs the Germans fled from Estonia, the Estonians established a national government on 21 Sep 1944. On the following day, Red Army troops entered the capital city of Tallinn, and immediately tore down the Estonian flags, replacing them with Soviet flags. The infant Estonian government, faced with yet another occupation, fled to Stockholm, Sweden, where it would remain through the Cold War. Starting in 1944, an estimated 20,000 Estonians would be deported to labor camps by the Soviet Union. Estonia would not become independent once again until 1991.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia

Last Major Update: Mar 2013

Events Taken Place in Estonia
Annexation of the Baltic States15 Jun 1940 - 9 Aug 1940
Operation Barbarossa22 Jun 1941 - 30 Sep 1941


Photographs

Men of 20th Estonian SS Volunteer Division playing with a kitten, 1944-1945; note Model 39 Eihandgranate nearby






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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
26 Feb 2017 11:00:26 AM

I love Estonia

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Estonia in World War II Photo Gallery
Men of 20th Estonian SS Volunteer Division playing with a kitten, 1944-1945; note Model 39 Eihandgranate nearby


Famous WW2 Quote
"The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945