Crimes against humanity in Estonia 1941-44

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Reigo
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Crimes against humanity in Estonia 1941-44

Post by Reigo » 07 Jun 2004 12:06

I had the chance to obtain a manuscript of an unpublished article by Estonian historian Argo Kuusik. He deals with some aspects of the German elimination policies in Estonia during the WW II. The author has used previously published sources, but has also worked in German and Estonian archives. Here is a short summary of parts of the article which deal directly eith crimes.

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During the German occupation 7 800 Estonian citizens or permanent inhabitants were killed or died in inprisonment. Of them 70% Estonians, 15% Russians, 12% Jews. From 7 800 70% were killed/died during the period until July 1942. During 1943 259 people were killed or died (of them 44% died during their serving of punishment).

Until 1st July 1942 in Estonia there were arrested 17 692 people accused in Communist activities. Of them 4 691 were executed, 5 563 sentenced into prison/KZ camp, 7 438 were released.

By September 1941 50 Jews were shot in the Tartu KZ camp.
By the end of 1941 in Tallinn there were shot 610 Jews (the executioners were Estonians from the Omakaitse and Political Police).

There seems to be uncertainity whether about 400 Jewish women and children were killed in Estonia or not. According to Martin Sandberger's (the head of SD in Estonia) testimony he recieved in September or October order to execute all Jews inmprisoned in Estonia.
Sandberger said however that he sent them into internment camp in Pskov, where they were shot in February 1942 according to the orders of Friedrich Jeckeln (Ostland's higher Police and SS chief). (But it seems that this version isn't sure and all the Jews could be killed also in Estonia - Reigo)

In September 1942 about 2 100 - 2 200 Czhecoslovakian Jews were brought to Estonia and they were shot in Kalevi-Liiva, except 450-500 people who were sent into the Jägala camp (created in August 1942, officially Work and Educational camp, subordinated to the Estonian SiPo. The Czhecoslovakian Jews were the only inmates there) and other 100 into oil-shale industry.
The executioners were from the SiPo special company in Tallinn (the text doesn't indicate whether the men in this company were Estonians or not, but considering that vast majority of the SiPo workers in Estonia were Estonians, it is likely that the special company was too composed of Estonians - Reigo) and some Estonian camp-guards including the Estonian commandant. Alltogether 70-75 men took part in the executions. Until the spring of 1943 part of the Jews from the Jägala camp were also killed in Kalevi-Liiva because of the loss of working ability. Also 40-60 Gypsies were executed by then there. The Jägala camp was closed in September 1943. By then part of the Jews were also transfered to other camps. When the camp was closed there were about 30 people. It can be estimated that 1 600 - 1 700 people were shot in Kalevi-Liiva. The later Soviet claim that there were "over 5 000" victims in Kalevi-Liiva is not based on any research.

In the summer of 1943 in Estonia the so-called Vaivara camp-system was established for the oil-shale industry. It can be estimated that about 10 000 Jews, mostly from Latvian and Lithuanian gethos, were brought to these camps. The camps were: Auvere, Aseri, Illinurme, Ereda, Goldfields, Narva-Jõesuu, two camps in Vaivara, Viivikonna, Jõhvi, Lagedi, Narva, Sonda, Soski, Putki, Kunda, Kuremäe, Kiviõli, Klooga, Kukruse, Saka. The camps were subordinated to SS. The camp commandants were Germans. The guards were German SS-men and 35th and 287th Police Battalions, which were composed of Estonians.

Before the Germans retreated from Estonia, part of the Vaivara system camp inmates were evacuated. Part of the Jews - those who had lost working ability - were executed. Also there were greater mass-murders in Ereda, Lagedi and Klooga.

The Ereda camp itself (1 960 Jews) was evacuated on 28th July 1944. However later it was started to transport Jews from other camps to the Ereda camp where they were killed. The number of victims is unknown. The Soviet comission who investigated these murders put the starting date for the executions on 9th September and estimated the number of victims 2 000. However the comission didn't consider that the original camp was evacuated and the murdered ones were brought from other camps, instead the comission supposed that all the original inmates (who in reality were evacuated) were executed.

On 22nd August 500 Jews from the Klooga camp were sent to the Lagedi camp, where 20 inmates were at this moment. The evacuation of the Lagedi camp started on 18th September but instead of evacuation probably all the inmates were murdered -- they were transported on trucks into woods about 7-8 km away and shot there.

About 1 800 Jews, who couldn't be evacuated to Germany because of the fast pace of advancing Soviet troops, were executed in the Klooga camp on 19th September 1919. The camp was guarded by the 3rd Company/287th Police Battalion. According to the witnesses testimonies the executionaries were from a German SS commando which came on trucks.

It can be estimated that alltogether about half of the prisoners in the Vaivara-system camps perished.

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Post by David Thompson » 07 Jun 2004 16:10

Reigo -- Thank you for the very interesting post.

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Post by michael mills » 09 Jun 2004 04:10

The data shows that Jews were sent to Estonia primarily for exploitation as slave labour rather than for extermination.

If the primary purpose had been extermination, then all the Jews in the labour camps in Estonia would have been killed when the German occupation forces retreated before the Soviet advance. However, many were evacuated; only those that could not be evacuated were killed just before the Germans fled. That situation was similar to that in Galicia at the end of June 1941, when NKVD troops massacred the political prisoners they could not evacuate before the advancing Germans.

In accordance with the usual German policy, Jewish political prisoners who became unable to work through sickness or exhaustion were "euthanased". The 2000 or so Czech Jews who arrived in September 1942 must have come from from Theresienstadt, and probably contained a large proportion of older people incapable of being used for work; that is probably why most of them were shot on arrival.

The survival rate of the Jewish working prisoners in the Vaivaraq camp system, about 50%, is remarkable. Far higher than the survival rate of German soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviets prior to 1944.

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Post by Reigo » 09 Jun 2004 19:29

The 2000 or so Czech Jews who arrived in September 1942 must have come from from Theresienstadt, and probably contained a large proportion of older people incapable of being used for work; that is probably why most of them were shot on arrival.
I must admit that I made a mistake: 1000 - 1150 people were indeed, like you correctly assumed, brought from Theresienstadt (Terezin), but the others were brought from Germany from Frankfurt am Main and Berlin. It is claimed that at first all these people were planned to send to Riga, but by some unknown reason they were sent to Estonia.

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Post by Panzermahn » 09 Jun 2004 19:47

DOn't forget that the Soviets had their own fair share of crimes against humanity in Estonia during the period of 1939-1941 and 1944 to the 50s

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Post by Earldor » 10 Jun 2004 09:50

michael mills wrote:The data shows that Jews were sent to Estonia primarily for exploitation as slave labour rather than for extermination.
The data shows that Jews were brought into Estonia after the Estonian Jewish population had been wiped out. Some Estonian Jews had "escaped" to the SU, but around 1000 Jews were killed. Not too many remained after that, hence the Sandberger message about "Estonia free of Jews".
If the primary purpose had been extermination, then all the Jews in the labour camps in Estonia would have been killed when the German occupation forces retreated before the Soviet advance.
Well, the Estonian Jewish population was exterminated. Call me a stickler, but sounds like extermination was the primary purpose.
However, many were evacuated; only those that could not be evacuated were killed just before the Germans fled.


What's that got to do with the Nazi extermination policy?
That situation was similar to that in Galicia at the end of June 1941, when NKVD troops massacred the political prisoners they could not evacuate before the advancing Germans.
Why don't you make a distinction with regular Jewish citizens and political prisoners? Or are you saying that all Jews were politically suspect?
Last edited by Earldor on 10 Jun 2004 10:16, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Crimes against humanity in Estonia 1941-44

Post by Earldor » 10 Jun 2004 09:53

Reigo wrote:I had the chance to obtain a manuscript of an unpublished article by Estonian historian Argo Kuusik. He deals with some aspects of the German elimination policies in Estonia during the WW II. The author has used previously published sources, but has also worked in German and Estonian archives. Here is a short summary of parts of the article which deal directly eith crimes.
Tere, Reigo!

How does Kuusik's study relate to the "White Book" by Vello Salo et al.? I read somewhere that it is available at the Riigikogu site (appendix to bill 373 E) but was unable to find it in a cursorial search.

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Post by Reigo » 10 Jun 2004 18:07

How does Kuusik's study relate to the "White Book" by Vello Salo et al.? I read somewhere that it is available at the Riigikogu site (appendix to bill 373 E) but was unable to find it in a cursorial search.
I don't know if Kuusik's study is related to the White Book.

I did a search on the Riigikogu site and indeed the White Book is there:

http://www.riigikogu.ee/failid/valger.pdf

Rgds,

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Post by michael mills » 10 Jun 2004 23:05

Earldor wrote:
Well, the Estonian Jewish population was exterminated. Call me a stickler, but sounds like extermination was the primary purpose.
Actually, most of the Estonian Jews were evacuated by the Soviet authorities when they fled before the advancing German forces.

The fact that the bulk of the Estonian Jews were evacuated suggests that they were collaborators with the Soviet regime. Only members of the Soviet apparatus were evacuated.

Those Jews who remained to fall into German hands met the fate that often befalls collaborators with a hated oppressive regime.
What's that got to do with the Nazi extermination policy?
If extermination was the aim, why did the German occupiers bother to evacuate as many Jews as they could from Estonia and Latvia in the summer of 1944, when they fled the advancing Red Army? Why not just kill them in situ?

Every Jew evacuated took a place that could have been taken by a German soldier or civilian. It was a waste of scarce transport resources to transport Jews back to camps in Germany, but it was done. If the aim had been extermination, the Jews could have been killed at the camps in Estonia, saving the trouble of evacuating them.

The survivors of the Kaunas Ghetto were also evacuated en masse to camps in Germany. Again a totally inexplicable action if the german aim had simply been to exterminate all the Jews in its power.

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Post by Earldor » 12 Jun 2004 13:22

michael mills wrote:Earldor wrote:
Well, the Estonian Jewish population was exterminated. Call me a stickler, but sounds like extermination was the primary purpose.
Actually, most of the Estonian Jews were evacuated by the Soviet authorities when they fled before the advancing German forces.

The fact that the bulk of the Estonian Jews were evacuated suggests that they were collaborators with the Soviet regime. Only members of the Soviet apparatus were evacuated.
Actually this is not true. Mr. Mills is using rhetoric to defend his position. Evidence is once again lacking.

Around 500 Jews out of about 4000 in Estonia were deported by the Soviets on 14.6. 1941. I hope that you are not claiming that these were collaborators, as around ten thousand Estonians were deported all together and more from the other Baltic states. They were (info here and other places, unless stated otherwise, from http://www.historycommission.ee):

" 1) active members of so-called counterrevolutionary organisations and members of their families;
2) former leading officials of the police and prisons, also ordinary policemen and prison guards in the event that compromising materials exist (materials concerning anti-soviet activity or connections with the intelligence services of third countries were considered compromising materials);
3) former owners of extensive land property, merchants, factory owners and leading officials of former governments – together with the members of their families;
4) former officers concerning whom compromising materials were available including those who served already in the Red Army territorial corps;
5) the family members of people who had by then been sentenced to death but also of members of counterrevolutionary organisations who were in hiding;
6) individuals repatriated from Germany, also those who were subject to resettlement in Germany (in the event of the existence of compromising materials);
7) refugees from the former Poland who refused to accept Soviet citizenship;
8) criminals who continued to commit crimes;
9) former prostitutes registered with the police who continued as prostitutes."

This leaves about 3500 Jews in Estonia at the eve of Operation Barbarossa. Of these around 2500 escape to the SU, because they were "...aware of the fate that otherwise awaited them, [...] virtually all the remainder (between 950 and 1000 men, women and children) were killed before the end of 1941."

Sounds like there was a policy of extermination in effect at the time of the German invasion. Estonia was left practically Judenrein, free of Jews, ("Less than a dozen Estonian Jews are known to have survived the war in Estonia.") as was noted in the Wannsee Conference papers.
Those Jews who remained to fall into German hands met the fate that often befalls collaborators with a hated oppressive regime.
Obviously you have no scruples in calling these people collaborators, but where is your proof? Some might call this kind of branding antisemitism.
What's that got to do with the Nazi extermination policy?
If extermination was the aim, why did the German occupiers bother to evacuate as many Jews as they could from Estonia and Latvia in the summer of 1944, when they fled the advancing Red Army? Why not just kill them in situ?
Different times, different actions. The Jews in Estonia at that time were primarily from Lithuania. The Vilna ghetto was dissolved in Aug./Sept. 1943 and the inhabitants were sent to Latvia and Estonia. Some were shot, some were worked to death, some were (later on) sent to Stutthof or Majdanek (possibly other Operation Reinhard camps).

At the end of the war Germany was desperate for slave labor to keep the wheels of war economy turning.
Every Jew evacuated took a place that could have been taken by a German soldier or civilian. It was a waste of scarce transport resources to transport Jews back to camps in Germany, but it was done. If the aim had been extermination, the Jews could have been killed at the camps in Estonia, saving the trouble of evacuating them.
The Germans were often very wasteful in their policies when dealing with the Jews. Himmler often used his influence to get extra trains to transport Jews around Europe, even when the trains would have been put to better use transporting troops or supplies to the front. The idiotic and tragic death marches at the end of the war are another example.

When you compare the numbers of Jews in the Ostland at the eve of Operation Barbarossa and at the end of 1944, you are really hard pressed to still claim that there was no policy of extermination. The EGs alone managed to kill at least 900 000 Jews by the end of 1942. If your claim that the Orpo units bear relatively higher responsibility in the massacres, the numbers should be at least double. And this doesn't include the numbers accumulated by other organizations, eg. Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS. etc.

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Post by Pieter Kuiper » 04 Oct 2005 18:13

In 1997, Peeder Puide published a "documentary novel" entitled Samuil Braschinskys försvunna vrede (meaning something like "Samuil Braschinsky's lack of wrath"). Starting on page 230, he reproduces a statement that Samuil Brass (his name after emigration) made at the Zentralstelle in Ludwigsburg in 1965.

Brass explains that he lives in New York, but that he was born in Vilnius in 1922. He was ghettoized, and September 1943 deported to several camps in Estonia. Three days after he had been been moved to Klooga for the second time, the camp was liberated by the Russian army.

He presented the Zentralstelle with a photoalbum. This was material collected in September 1944 by Estonian and Russian prosecutors. He had received copies of the material as a memory.

Then he describes the images. I will translate the list here (from the Sedish translation), and I will link to image files at USHMM. If the material is not too graphic, I will also include thumbnails.
  1. Image Image 1 depicts the entrance of the Klooga camp.
  2. Image See image 1.
  3. Image This image shows my brother in his prison clothes. The image is purely posed.
  4. Image This picture shows ex-inmates, who made themselves available for this picture. My brother is furthest to the right. I do not know the names of the other depicted persons.
  5. Image This is the picture of a montage, that was published in a newspaper.
  6. This image shows a pyre, that was intened to burn after gasoline was poured over it. This pyre is one of several, but this is the only one that did not serve its intended purpose.
  7. Image Here you see the clothes that the prisoners had to take off, after which they were killed.
  8. Image I refer to image 7.
  9. This image shows part of a burnt pyre, and the placement of the bodies.
  10. See image 9.
  11. See image 9.
  12. See image 9.
  13. Close-up of image 9.
  14. Close-up of image 9.
  15. Here is shown a with the bodies placed on it completely bunt down pyre.
  16. Image Close-up of a partially burnt pyre. Person number 3 from the left is the Estonian prosecutor.
  17. Pyre with partially burnt, killed prisoners.
  18. Killed prisoners, that have been taken down from the pyre, and are prepared for burial.
  19. Partially burnt corpses of prisoners, that already were taken down from the pyres.
  20. See image 19.
  21. A photomontage made by me, that shows both partially cremated corpses, and in the bottom left corner my in Klooga perished uncle.
  22. Also here partially carbonized corpses, after they were taken down from the pyres.
  23. Pyre with three carbonized bodies.
  24. Photograph from a longer distance of burnt-down pyres.
  25. Dead that had been taken down from the pyres, and investigating Russians.
  26. Image Russians watching a burnt-down barracks. Because the constructed pyres did not suffice for the number of killed prisoners, the prisoners were pressed together inside these barracks, after which prisoners and barracks were doused with gasoline and set on fire. The prisoners in these barracks were burnt alive.
  27. A Jewess shot while fleeing. I do not know her by name.
  28. Partially burnt bodies.
  29. Partially burnt bodies. The persons depicted - a man and a woman - I do not know by name.
  30. This concerns the burnt-down barracks already shown in image 26.
  31. A prisoner shot while fleeing, whom I do not know by name.
  32. Image Concerning the person depicted in the middle with glasses and wind jacket and the person depicted to the right with a hat, these are two Estonian public prosecutors, whose names I do not know.
  33. This image depicts a shot female person together with her similarly shot child. This image is not about Jews, but concerns persons of unknown nationality, that were transported from the prison in Tallinn to Klooga. (A second image of the murdered pregnant woman.)
  34. Image This image shows German prisoners of war at the funeral of the prisoners killed in Klooga.
  35. Image See image 34.
  36. German prisoners of war at the loading of burnt bodies.
  37. Image German prisoners of war digging the necessary mass graves.
Of course, I am just guessing what pictures belong to what captions.

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Post by Reigo » 09 Oct 2005 13:15

I found out that the White Book has now been translated also into English and can be read here:

http://www.just.ee/orb.aw/class=file/ac ... teBook.pdf

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Post by Jakub Tomek » 09 Oct 2005 15:13

Dear Reigo,

I have seen this your post today first time. I have got several notes to transports from Terezín (Theresienstadt). Firstly, I think we can not say just about Czech and Moravian Jews because Terezín was collecting camp for Jews from all of the Europe.

If we are speaking about transports from Terezín to Estonia, we know four such trasports which departed Terezín on following dates

date direction name of transport number of prisoners
Jan 9 42 Riga O 1000
Jan 15 42 Riga P 1000
Aug 20 42 Riga Bb 1000
Sep 1 42 Raasika Bc 1000

As targets of first three transports is written Riga (Latvia) but I doubt that they would come to Latvia and in my opinion heading to Estonia. In my opinion at least transport Bb heading to Estonia. So, it gives figure 2000 Jews from Terezín.

Jakub

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Transports from Western and Central Europe to Baltics

Post by YehaNoha » 09 Oct 2005 16:25

The available information on the number of deportee transports from Europe (that included Germany proper, Austria and Czechoslovakia) to Baltics and, I believe, as precise an estimate of the number of deportees as possible and available personal particulars of most of them, are given in a "Book of remembrance/The German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews deported to the Baltic States".

Descrition: http://www.saur.de/index.cfm?content=ca ... u=catalog1

Index of book: http://www.saur.de/_download/inhaltsver ... 010649.pdf

Review by Hartmut Schmidt for Fritz Bauer Institute (in German): http://www.fritz-bauer-institut.de/reze ... chmidt.htm


(Some comments to the above:

- the end year of deportations - 1945 - in the publishers description is obviously a mistake;
- the number of echelons to Kovno (Kaunas, Lithuania) in the reviewers article appears to be wrong - index shows 5 first transports to Kovno, the reviewer mentions 6)

The authors of book have documented 32 transports to Baltics, from November, 1941 till October 1942, with 31.372 deportees. 5 of these went to Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, 2 to Raasiku by Tallinn (Reval) in Estonia, 25 to Riga, Latvia. There are some doubtful cases, such as transports to Riga in December 1942, mentioned here: http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/Capt ... html#reel1

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Post by AAA » 09 Oct 2005 16:28

Jakub Tomek wrote:If we are speaking about transports from Terezín to Estonia, we know four such trasports which departed Terezín on following dates

date direction name of transport number of prisoners
Jan 9 42 Riga O 1000
Jan 15 42 Riga P 1000
Aug 20 42 Riga Bb 1000
Sep 1 42 Raasika Bc 1000

As targets of first three transports is written Riga (Latvia) but I doubt that they would come to Latvia and in my opinion heading to Estonia.
The first two are mentioned in Ezergailis The Holocaust in German Occupied Latvia quoting Schneider Journey into Terror as being to the Riga ghetto, and describes the prescence of czech jews in the ghetto thereafter.
Question : what is your reason to doubt the Terezín shipments coming to Riga?

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