The Estonian resistance movement (Estonian Eesti vastupanuliikumine) was an underground movement to resist the occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany, 1941–1944 during World War II. Due to the unusually benign measures implemented in Estonia by the German occupation authorities, especially in contrast to the preceding harsh Soviet occupation of Estonia (1940–1941), the movement was slower to develop effective tactics on a wide scale than in other occupied countries.
While there was a general mood of gratitude towards Germany as the liberator of Estonia from Soviet occupation, this reservoir of goodwill dissipated within the first months of the war and was transformed into a mood ranging from resigned indifference to active hostility.Professor Uluots' request to the German occupation authorities for the establishment of an independent Estonian Government was rejected and Adolf Hitler subsequently appointed Alfred Rosenberg as Reichkommissar. After it became clear that the Germans were against the restoration of independence of the Estonian state, this negative relationship between the new occupiers and the occupied was sealed. Public resentment began to grow against Germany from 1942 with the imposition of conscription for men into the police battalions, the introduction of the labour draft and the reduction of food rations, while the Estonian Self-Administration was held in contempt for attempting to enforce this conscription. Hjalmar Mäe, the head of the Self-Administration, became quickly unpopular for his criticism of President Konstantin Päts. He had been imprisoned by Päts' regime in 1935 for taking part of an alleged coup. Germans offered his position several times to Jüri Uluots, who refused.
The Estonian people regarded German occupation with greater bitterness than the previous 1917–1918 German occupation and were repelled by the implementation of the German race laws and the insouciant exploitation of the country's natural resources.One Dutch Nazi visiting Estonia in June 1942 commented upon the "chauvinist national consciousness" of the Estonian people and no genuine Germanophile could be found.
An underground resistance movement,whose members looked to the western Allies for support, developed that reflected the political divisions that existed before 1940, ranging from Päts loyalists to the opposition groups such as the National Centre and Socialist Workers parties. The resistance, which was expressed through a campaign of non-compliance co-ordinated by the underground movement and a clandestine press, was favoured by the geographical proximity to Sweden and Finland where the organised political resistance in Tartu and Tallinn were able to maintain contact with London and Stockholm via the Estonian Envoy to Finland and a fortnightly fast motorboat connection between Tallinn and Stockholm.
Initially a number of underground organisations existed such as the Free Estonia Front (Vaba Eesti Võitlusrinne, VEVR) which was established in August 1942 and headed by Juhan Reigo and Endel Inglist. The VEVR published an anti-Nazi newspaper Vaba Eesti (Free Estonia), issuing 14 editions.Another underground newspaper titled Võitlev Eestlane (Fighting Estonian) was published by a group within the editorial staff of the newspaper Postimees. In the autumn of 1941, the precursor to the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia was founded by Heinrich Mark, Ants Oras and Jaan Ots. The organisation was headed by Ernst Kull in 1943 and it was through his efforts that the various groups were merged into a unified opposition to Nazi rule.
In June 1942 political leaders of Estonia who had survived Soviet repressions held a hidden meeting from the occupying powers in Estonia where the formation of an underground Estonian government and the options for preserving continuity of the republic were discussed.On January 6, 1943 a meeting was held at the Estonian foreign delegation in Stockholm. It was decided that, in order to preserve the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia, the last constitutional prime minister, Jüri Uluots, must continue to fulfill his responsibilities as prime minister.
The movement subsequently formed the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia (Estonian : Eesti Vabariigi Rahvuskomitee) in March 1944. The original initiative to form the committee came from the Estonian pre-war opposition parties but it was quickly joined by Jüri Uluots, the last constitutional pre-war Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia and his supporters. The Committee aimed to establish a provisional government during expected German withdrawal as the Red Army had reached the border of Estonia on 2 February 1944. By April 1944 a large number of the committee members were arrested by the German security agencies. While some 200 people were arrested, the leaders of the resistance movement escaped arrest however their activities were severely curtailed until mid June. In June 1944 the elector’s assembly of the Republic of Estonia gathered in secrecy from the occupying powers in Tallinn and appointed Jüri Uluots as the prime minister with the responsibilities of the President. On 21 June 1944 Jüri Uluots appointed Otto Tief as deputy prime minister. On 18 September 1944 Uluots, suffering from cancer, named Otto Tief the Acting Prime Minister and appointed a Government which consisted of 11 members. Tief assumed office in accordance with the constitution and took the opportunity with the departure of the Germans to declare the legitimate Estonian government restored. The Estonian national government was proclaimed in Estonia, the Estonian military units seized the government buildings in Toompea and ordered the German forces to leave. The flag of Germany was replaced with the Estonian tricolour in the Pikk Hermann, the flag tower of the seat of the Government. Tief’s government failed to keep control, attempting to organise the defence of the capital city against the advancing Red Army making use of the men who had fought in the Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 and a military unit organised by Johan Pitka, the Germans overran the headquarters of Admiral Pitka in Tallinn and it is presumed he was subsequently killed in the ensuing battle. Most of the members and officials were caught, jailed, deported, or executed by the advancing Soviets.
A small number of Estonians were involved in underground resistance during World War II ranging from producing illegal publications, to espionage, to violent sabotage. They included Rein Alasoo,Evald Laasi, Georgi Loik, Aleksander Looring, as well as others.
The history of Estonia forms a part of the history of Europe. Humans settled in the region of Estonia near the end of the last glacial era, beginning from around 8500 BC. Before German crusaders invaded in the early 13th century, proto-Estonians of ancient Estonia worshipped spirits of nature. Starting with the Northern Crusades in the Middle Ages, Estonia became a battleground for centuries where Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland fought their many wars over controlling the important geographical position of the country as a gateway between East and West.
Konstantin Päts was the most influential politician of interwar Estonia, and served five times as the country's head of government. He was one of the first Estonians to become active in politics and started an almost 40-year political rivalry with Jaan Tõnisson, first through journalism with his newspaper Teataja, later through politics. He was condemned to death during the 1905 Revolution, but managed to flee first to Switzerland, then to Finland, where he continued his literary work. He returned to Estonia, but had to spend time in prison in 1910–1911.
Mart Laar is an Estonian politician and historian. He served as the Prime Minister of Estonia from 1992 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2002. Laar is credited with having helped bring about Estonia’s rapid economic development during the 1990s. He is a member of the Pro Patria party.
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II.
The 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS , Estonian: 20. eesti diviis) was a foreign infantry division of the Waffen-SS, an armed branch of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. According to some sources, the division was under Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's overall command but was not an integral part of the Schutzstaffel (SS). It was officially activated on 24 January 1944, and many of its soldiers had been members of the Estonian Legion and/or the 3rd Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade, which had been fighting as part of German forces since August 1942 and October 1943 respectively. Both of the preceding formations drew their personnel from German-occupied Estonia. Shortly after its official activation, widespread conscription within Estonia was announced by the German occupying authorities. The division was formed in Estonia around a cadre comprising the 3rd Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade, and was initially known as the 20th Estonian SS Volunteer Division.
Jüri Uluots was an Estonian prime minister, journalist, prominent attorney and distinguished Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu.
Johannes Vares, commonly known as Johannes Vares Barbarus, was an Estonian poet, medical doctor, and politician.
After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Army Group North reached Estonia in July. Initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, having arrived only a week after the first mass deportations from the Baltic States. Although hopes were raised for the restoration of the country's independence, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. The Germans pillaged the country for their war effort and unleashed The Holocaust in Estonia during which they and their collaborators murdered tens of thousands of people. For the duration of the occupation, Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland.
Johan Pitka, VR I/1, was an Estonian entrepreneur, sea captain and a rear admiral. He was the Commander of the Estonian Navy in the Estonian War of Independence.
The German Luftwaffe and Soviet Long Range Aviation bombed the Estonian capital Tallinn several times during World War II. The first instance was during the Summer War of 1941. A number of bombing missions followed in 1942–43.
Otto Tief was an Estonian politician, military commander, and a lawyer.
The Estonian government-in-exile was the formally declared governmental authority of the Republic of Estonia in exile, existing from 1944 until the reestablishment of Estonian sovereignty over Estonian territory in 1991–92. It traced its legitimacy through constitutional succession to the last Estonian government in power prior to the Soviet invasion of 1940. During its existence, it was the internationally recognized government of Estonia.
The occupation of the Baltic states by Nazi Germany occurred during Operation Barbarossa from 1941 to 1944. Initially, many Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians considered the Germans as liberators from the Soviet Union. The Balts hoped for the restoration of independence, but instead the Germans established a provisional government. During the occupation the Germans carried out discrimination, mass deportations and mass killings generating Baltic resistance movements.
Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, concerning the partition and disposition of sovereign states, including Estonia, and in particular its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939.
The Tallinn Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army's 2nd Shock and 8th Armies and the Baltic Fleet against the German Army Detachment Narwa and Estonian units in mainland Estonia on the Eastern Front of World War II on 17–26 September 1944. Its German counterpart was the abandonment of the Estonian territory in a retreat codenamed Operation Aster.
The Omakaitse was a militia organisation in Estonia. It was founded in 1917 following the Russian Revolution. On the eve of the Occupation of Estonia by the German Empire the Omakaitse units took over major towns in the country allowing the Salvation Committee of the Estonian Provincial Assembly to proclaim the independence of Estonia. After the German Occupation the Omakaitse became outlawed.
The Tartu Offensive Operation, also known as the Battle of Tartu and the Battle of Emajõgi was a campaign fought over southeastern Estonia in 1944. It took place on the Eastern Front during World War II between the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front and parts of the German Army Group North.
The National Committee of the Republic of Estonia was a self-styled resistance movement in German-occupied Estonia in March 1944. By April 1944 a large number of the committee members were arrested by the German security agencies.
Jägala concentration camp was a labour camp of the Estonian Security Police and SD during the German occupation of Estonia during World War II. The camp was established in August 1942 on a former artillery range of the Estonian Army near the village of Jägala, Estonia. It existed from August 1942 to August 1943. Aleksander Laak, an Estonian was appointed by SS-Sturmbannführer Ain-Ervin Mere of Group B of the Estonian Security Police to command the camp with Ralf Gerrets as assistant.
The Soviet Union occupied most of the territory of the Baltic states in its 1944 Baltic Offensive during World War II. The Red Army regained control over the three Baltic capitals and encircled retreating Wehrmacht and Latvian forces in the Courland Pocket where they held out until the final German surrender at the end of the war. The German forces were deported and the leaders of Latvian collaborating forces were executed as traitors. After the war, the Soviet Union reestablished control over the Baltic territories in line with its forcible annexations as communist republics in 1940.