Forest Brothers

Last updated
Forest Brothers
Participant in the guerrilla war in the Baltic states
Active1940–1941, 1944–1956
Ideology Nationalism
Area of operations Baltic states
Size~50,000
Part of Occupation of the Baltic states
Allies British, American and Swedish intelligence services, Finnish army
Opponent(s) Red Army, NKVD

The Forest Brothers (also Brothers of the Forest, Forest Brethren, or Forest Brotherhood; Estonian : metsavennad, Latvian : mežabrāļi, Lithuanian : miško broliai) were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II. Similar anti-Soviet Eastern European resistance groups fought against Soviet and communist rule in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and western Ukraine.

Estonian language Finno-Ugric language spoken in Estonia

The Estonian language is a Finnic language spoken in Estonia. It is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people; 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 outside Estonia. It is a Southern Finnic language and is the second most spoken language among all the Finnic languages.

Latvian language Baltic language, official in Latvia and the European Union

Latvian or Lettish is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, 1.16 million or 56% use it as their primary language at home. The use of the Latvian language in various areas of social life in Latvia is increasing.

Lithuanian language Language spoken in Lithuania

Lithuanian is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Lithuanians and the official language of Lithuania as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.8 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 200 thousand abroad.

Contents

The Red Army occupied the independent Baltic states in 1940–1941 and, after a period of German occupation, again in 1944–1945. As Stalinist repression intensified over the following years, 50,000 residents of these countries used the heavily forested countryside as a natural refuge and base for armed anti-Soviet resistance.

Red Army Soviet army and air force from 1917–1946

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Military occupation effective provisional control of a certain power over a territory

Military or belligerent occupation is effective provisional control by a certain ruling power over a territory, which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity, without the violation of the actual sovereign. The territory is then known as the occupied territory and the ruling power the occupant. Occupation is distinguished from annexation by its intended temporary nature, by its military nature, and by citizenship rights of the controlling power not being conferred upon the subjugated population.

Political repression is the act of a state entity controlling a citizenry by force for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of a society thereby reducing their standing among their fellow citizens.

Resistance units varied in size and composition, ranging from individually operating guerrillas, armed primarily for self-defense, to large and well-organized groups able to engage significant Soviet forces in battle.

Background

Origins of the term

The term Forest Brothers first came into use in the Baltic region during the chaotic Russian Revolution of 1905. Varying sources refer to forest brothers of this era either as peasants revolting [1] or as schoolteachers seeking refuge in the forest. [2]

Baltic region geographic region

The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and the Baltic Sea countries refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe.

1905 Russian Revolution wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire

The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire, some of which was directed at the government. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies. It led to constitutional reform, including the establishment of the State Duma, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906.

Caught between two powers

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania gained their independence in 1918 after the collapse of the Russian Empire. The ideals of nationalism and self-determination had taken hold with many people as a result of having the independent states of Estonia and Latvia for the first time since the 13th century. At the same time, Lithuanians re-established a sovereign state, which had a rich former history, having been the largest country in Europe during the 14th century, but which was occupied by the Russian Empire since 1795. Allied declarations such as the Atlantic Charter had offered promise of a post-war world in which the three Baltic nations could re-establish themselves. Having already experienced occupation by the Soviet regime followed by the Nazi regime, many people were unwilling to accept another occupation. [3]

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law, binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the Charter's norms. It states that people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.

Third Partition of Poland historical event

The Third Partition of Poland (1795) was the last in a series of the Partitions of Poland and the land of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth among Prussia, the Austrian Empire, and the Russian Empire which effectively ended Polish–Lithuanian national sovereignty until 1918. The partition was followed by a number Polish uprisings during the period.

Unlike Estonia and Latvia where the Germans conscripted the local population into military formations within the Waffen-SS, Lithuania never had its own Waffen-SS division. In 1944 the Nazi authorities had created an ill-equipped but 20,000-strong "Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force" under General Povilas Plechavičius to combat Soviet partisans led by Antanas Sniečkus. The Germans, however, quickly came to see this force as a nationalist threat to their occupation regime. The senior staff were arrested on May 15, 1944, with General Plechavičius being deported to the concentration camp in Salaspils, Latvia. However, approximately half of the remaining forces formed guerrilla units and dissolved into the countryside in preparation for partisan operations against the Red Army as the Eastern Front approached. [4] [5]

Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts

During World War II, the Waffen-SS recruited significant numbers of non-Germans, both as volunteers and conscripts. In total some 500,000 non-Germans and ethnic Germans from outside Germany, mostly from German-occupied Europe, were recruited between 1940 and 1945. The units were under the control of the SS Führungshauptamt beneath Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Upon mobilization, the units' tactical control was given to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht.

The Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force or LTDF was a short-lived, Lithuanian, volunteer armed force created and disbanded in 1944 during the German occupation of Lithuania. LTDF was subordinate to the authorities of Nazi Germany and Its goal was to fight the approaching Red Army, provide security and conduct Nazi security warfare within the territory, claimed by Lithuanians. LTDF had some autonomy and was staffed by Lithuanian officers, their most notable commander being Lithuanian General Povilas Plechavičius. LTDF quickly reached the size of about 10,000 men. After brief engagements against the Soviet and Polish partisans, the force self-disbanded, its leaders were arrested and sent to concentration camps, and numerous of its members were executed by the Nazis. Many others were either drafted into other Nazi auxiliary services or started forming an armed anti-Soviet resistance, also known as Forest Brothers. The Union of Soldiers of the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, a veterans organization, was founded in 1997.

Povilas Plechavičius Lithuanian general

Povilas Plechavičius was an Imperial Russian and then Lithuanian military officer and statesman. In the service of Lithuania he rose to the rank of General of the army in the interwar period. He is best known for his actions during the Lithuanian Wars of Independence, for organizing the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état and for leading a Lithuanian self-defence force during the German occupation of Lithuania.

The guerrilla operations in Estonia and Latvia had some basis in Adolf Hitler's authorization of a full withdrawal from Estonia in mid-September 1944 – he allowed any soldiers of his Estonian forces, primarily the 20th Waffen-SS Division (1st Estonian), who wished to stay and defend their homes to do so[ citation needed ] – and in the fate of Army Group Courland, among the last of Hitler's forces to surrender after it became trapped in the Courland Pocket on the Courland Peninsula in 1945. Many Estonian and Latvian soldiers, and a few Germans, evaded capture and fought as Forest Brothers in the countryside for years after the war. Others, such as Alfons Rebane and Alfrēds Riekstiņš escaped to the United Kingdom and Sweden and participated in Allied intelligence operations in aid of the Forest Brothers.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland on 1 September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) unit of the Waffen SS

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.

While the Waffen-SS was found guilty of war crimes and other atrocities and declared a criminal organization after the war, the Nuremberg Trials explicitly excluded conscripts in the following terms:

The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph, who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter, or who were personally implicated as members of the organization in the commission of such crimes, excluding, however, those who were drafted into membership by the State in such a way as to give them no choice in the matter, and who had committed no such crimes. [6]

In 1949–1950 the United States Displaced Persons Commission investigated the Estonian and Latvian divisions and on September 1, 1950, adopted the following policy:

The Baltic Waffen SS Units are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended. [7]

The Latvian government has asserted that the Latvian Legion, primarily composed of the 15th and 19th Latvian Waffen-SS divisions, was neither a criminal nor collaborationist organization. [8]

The ranks of the resistance swelled with the Red Army's attempts at conscription in the Baltic states after the war, with fewer than half the registered conscripts reporting in some districts. The widespread harassment of disappearing conscripts' families pushed more people to evade authorities in the forests. Many enlisted men deserted, taking their weapons with them. [3]

Summer War

With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Joseph Stalin made a public statement on the radio calling for a scorched earth policy in the areas to be abandoned on July 3. About 10,000 Forest Brothers, which had organized themselves into countrywide Omakaitse (Home Guard) organizations, attacked the forces of the NKVD, destruction battalions and the 8th Army (Major General Ljubovtsev), killing 4,800 and capturing 14,000. The battle of Tartu lasted for two weeks, and destroyed a large part of the city. Under the leadership of Friedrich Kurg, the Forest Brothers drove out the Soviets from Tartu, behind the Rivers PärnuEmajõgi line. Thus they secured South Estonia under Estonian control by July 10. [9] [10] The NKVD murdered 193 people in Tartu Prison on their retreat on July 8.

The German 18th Army crossed the Estonian southern border on July 7–9. The Germans resumed their advance in Estonia by working in cooperation with the Forest Brothers and the Omakaitse. In North Estonia, the destruction battalions had the greatest impact, being the last Baltic territory captured from the Soviets. The joint Estonian-German forces took Narva on August 17 and the Estonian capital Tallinn on August 28. On that day, the red flag shot down earlier on Pikk Hermann was replaced with the flag of Estonia by Fred Ise only to be changed by a German Reichskriegsflagge a few hours later. After the Soviets were driven out from Estonia, German Army Group North disarmed all the Forest Brother and Omakaitse groups. [11]

Southern Estonian partisan units were yet again summoned in August 1941 under the name of Estonian Omakaitse. Members were initially selected from the closest circle of friends. Later, candidate members were asked to sign a declaration that they were not members of a Communist organization. Estonian Omakaitse relied on the former regulations of Estonian Defence League and Estonian Army, insofar as they were consistent with the laws of German occupation. [12] The tasks of the Omakaitse were as follows:

  1. defense of the coast and borders
  2. fight against parachutists, sabotage, and espionage
  3. guarding militarily important objects
  4. fight against Communism
  5. assistance to Estonian Police and guaranteeing the general safety of the citizens
  6. providing assistance in case of large-scale incidents (fires, floods, diseases, etc.)
  7. providing military training for its members and other loyal citizens
  8. deepening and preserving the patriotic and national feelings of citizens. [12]

On 15 July, the Omakaitse had 10,200 members; on 1 December 1941, 40,599 members. Until February 1944 membership was around 40,000. [12]

The partisan war

By the late 1940s and early 1950s the Forest Brothers were provided with supplies, liaison officers and logistical coordination by the British (MI6), American, and Swedish secret intelligence services. [13] This support played a key role in directing the Baltic resistance movement, however it diminished significantly after MI6's Operation Jungle was severely compromised by the activities of British spies (Kim Philby and others) who forwarded information to the Soviets, enabling the KGB to identify, infiltrate and eliminate many Baltic guerrilla units and cut others off from any further contact with Western intelligence operatives.[ citation needed ]

The conflict between the Soviet armed forces and the Forest Brothers lasted over a decade and cost at least 50,000 lives. Estimates for the number of fighters in each country vary. Misiunas and Taagepera [14] estimate that figures reached 30,000 in Lithuania, between 10,000 and 15,000 in Latvia and 10,000 in Estonia. NKVD units dressed as forest brothers committed atrocities in order to discredit them and demoralize the civilian population.[ example needed ] [15]

In Estonia

Estonian partisan fighter Ants "the Terrible" Kaljurand Ants Kaljurand.jpg
Estonian partisan fighter Ants "the Terrible" Kaljurand

In Estonia 14,000–15,000 men participated in the fighting between 1944 and 1953: The Forest Brothers were most active in Võru County along the borderlands between Pärnu and Lääne Counties that included significant activity between Tartu and Viru Counties as well. From November 1944 to November 1947, they carried out 773 armed attacks killing about 1000 Soviets and their supporters. At its peak in 1947, the organization controlled dozens of villages and towns, creating considerable nuisance to the Soviet supply transports that required an armed escort. [16] August Sabbe, one of the last surviving Forest Brothers, was discovered in 1978 by KGB agents posing with his fellow fishermen. Instead of surrendering he leaped into the Võhandu stream and got hooked onto a log, drowning in the process. The KGB insisted that the 69-year-old Sabbe had drowned while trying to escape, a theory difficult to credit given the shallow water and lack of cover at the site.

There were numerous attempts to hunt down relatives of the Forest Brothers. One of the Estonians who managed to escape the deportations was Taimi Kreitsberg. She recalled that Soviet officials "...took me to Võru, I was not beaten there, but for three days and nights I was given neither food nor drink. They told me they were not going to kill me, but torture me [until] I betrayed all the bandits. For about a month they dragged me through woods and took me to farms that were owned by the relatives of Forest Brothers, and they sent me in as an instigator to ask for food and shelter while the Chekists themselves waited outside. I told people to drive me away, as I had been sent by the security organs." [17]

In Latvia

In Latvia, preparations for partisan operations were begun during the German occupation, but the leaders of these nationalist units were arrested by Nazi authorities. [18] Longer-lived resistance units began to form at the end of the war; their ranks were composed of former Latvian Legion soldiers as well as civilians. [19] On 8 September 1944 in Riga, the leadership of the Latvian Central Council adopted a Declaration on the restoration of the State of Latvia. [20] It was intended to restore de facto independence to the Latvian republic. In addition it was hoped international supporters would take advantage of the interval between changeovers of the occupying powers. The Declaration prescribed that the Satversme is the fundamental law of the restored Republic of Latvia, and provided for the establishment of a Cabinet of Ministers that would organise the restoration of the State of Latvia.

Some of the most prominent LCC accomplishments are related to its military branch – General Jānis Kurelis group (the so-called "kurelieši") with Lieutenant Roberts Rubenis battalion which carried out the armed resistance against Waffen SS forces.

The number of active combatants peaked at between 10,000 and 15,000, while the total number of resistance fighters was as high as 40,000. [18] One author gives a figure of up to 12,000 grouped into 700 bands during the 1945–55 decade, but definitive figures are unavailable. [21] Over time, the partisans replaced their German weapons with Soviet makes. The Central Command of Latvian resistance organizations maintained an office on Matīsa Street in Riga until 1947. [18] In some 3,000 raids, the partisans inflicted damage on uniformed military personnel, party cadres (particularly in rural areas), buildings, and ammunition depots. The Communist authorities reported 1,562 Soviet personnel killed and 560 wounded during the entire resistance period. [21]

One account of a typical Forest Brothers action is provided by Talrids Krastiņš. In it a reconnaissance soldier of the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian) was recruited with 15 other Latvians into a Nazi stay-behind unit at the close of the war. Escaping to the forest, the group avoided all contact with local residents and relatives, robbing trucks for money while simultaneously maintaining an apartment in the center of Riga for reconnaissance operations. At first they operated by assassinating low-level Communist party managers, but later focused their efforts on attempting to assassinate the head of the Latvian SSR, Vilis Lācis. The group recruited a Russian woman working at the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR who informed them about Lācis' transportation schedule. They set up a roadside ambush when Lācis was traveling from Riga to Jūrmala, but shot up the wrong car. The second attempt likewise relied on a female Russian collaborator, but one who proved to be an undercover NKVD agent. The entire group was apprehended and sentenced to prison in 1948. [22]

The Latvian Forest Brothers were most active in the border regions, including Dundaga, Taurkalne, Lubāna, Aloja, and Līvāni. In the eastern regions, they had ties with the Estonian Forest Brothers; and in the western regions, with the Lithuanians. As in Estonia and Lithuania, the partisans were killed off and infiltrated by the MVD and NKVD over many years. As in Estonia and Lithuania, assistance from Western Intelligence was severely compromised by Soviet counter-intelligence and Latvian double agents such as Augusts Bergmanis and Vidvuds Sveics. [23] Furthermore, the Soviets gradually consolidated their rule in the cities: help from rural civilians was not as forthcoming, and special military and security units were sent to control the partisans. [21] The last groups emerged from the forest in 1957 to promptly surrender to the authorities. [23]

In Lithuania

Wall of former KGB headquarters in Vilnius inscribed with names of those tortured and killed in its basement Former KGB HQ, Vilnius, Lithuania, 2008.jpg
Wall of former KGB headquarters in Vilnius inscribed with names of those tortured and killed in its basement
Adolfas Ramanauskas ("Vanagas"), commander of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas.jpg
Adolfas Ramanauskas ("Vanagas"), commander of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters

Among the three countries, the resistance was best organized in Lithuania, where guerrilla units controlled whole regions of the countryside until 1949. Their armaments included Czech Skoda guns, Russian Maxim heavy machine guns, assorted mortars and a wide variety of mainly German and Soviet light machine guns and submachine guns. [4] When not in direct battles with the Red Army or special NKVD units, they significantly delayed the consolidation of Soviet rule through ambush, sabotage, assassination of local Communist activists and officials, freeing imprisoned guerrillas, and printing underground newspapers. [24] Captured Lithuanian Forest Brothers themselves often faced torture and summary execution while their relatives faced deportation to Siberia (cf. quotation). Reprisals against pro-Soviet farms and villages were harsh. The NKVD units, named People's Defense Platoons (known by the Lithuanians as pl. stribai, from the Russian : izstrebitelidestroyers) used shock tactics to discourage further resistance such as displaying executed partisans' corpses in village courtyards. [4] [25]

The report of a commission formed at a KGB prison a few days after the October 15, 1956, arrest of Adolfas Ramanauskas ("Vanagas"), chief commander of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters, noted the following:

The right eye is covered with haematoma, on the eyelid there are six stab wounds made, judging by their diameter, by a thin wire or nail going deep into the eyeball. Multiple haematomas in the area of the stomach, a cut wound on a finger of the right hand. The genitalia reveal the following: a large tear wound on the right side of the scrotum and a wound on the left side, both testicles and spermatic ducts are missing. [26]

Juozas Lukša was among those who managed to escape to the west; he wrote his memoirs there and was killed after returning to Lithuania in 1951.

Pranas Končius (code name Adomas) was the last Lithuanian anti-Soviet resistance fighter, killed in action by Soviet forces on July 6, 1965 (some sources indicate he shot himself in order to avoid capture on July 13). He was awarded the Cross of Vytis posthumously in 2000.

Benediktas Mikulis, one of the last known partisans to remain in the forest, emerged in 1971. He was arrested in the 1980s and spent several years in prison.

Decline of the resistance movements

By the early 1950s, the Soviet forces had eradicated most of the Forest Brother resistance. Intelligence gathered by the Soviet spies in the West and KGB infiltrators within the resistance movement, in combination with large-scale Soviet operations in 1952 managed to end the campaigns against them.

Many of the remaining Forest Brothers laid down their weapons when offered an amnesty by the Soviet authorities after Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, although isolated engagements continued into the 1960s. The last individual guerrillas are known to have remained in hiding and evaded capture into the 1980s, by which time the Baltic states were pressing for independence through peaceful means. (See Sąjūdis, The Baltic Way, Singing Revolution)

Aftermath, memorials and remembrances

Lithuanian partisan veterans in 2009 at 65th anniversary of Battle of Tannenberg Line Sinimaed Memorial 2009 - 140.jpg
Lithuanian partisan veterans in 2009 at 65th anniversary of Battle of Tannenberg Line
Memorial stone in Rouge Parish to Forest Brothers who died in Lukka battle Malestuskivi Lukka punkrilahingus langenud metsavendadele (2013).JPG
Memorial stone in Rõuge Parish to Forest Brothers who died in Lükka battle

Many Forest Brothers persisted in the hope that Cold War hostilities between the West, which never formally recognized the Soviet occupation, and the Soviet Union might escalate to an armed conflict in which the Baltic states would be liberated. This never materialized, and according to Mart Laar [3] many of the surviving former Forest Brothers remained bitter that the West did not take on the Soviet Union militarily. (See also Yalta Conference). When the brutal suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 did not bring about an intervention by, or a supportive response from, Western Powers, organized resistance in the Baltic States declined further.

As the conflict was relatively undocumented by the Soviet Union (the Baltic fighters were formally charged as common criminals), some consider it and the Soviet-Baltic conflict as a whole to be an unknown or forgotten war. [4] [26] [27] Discussion of resistance was suppressed under the Soviet regime. Writings on the subject by Baltic emigrants were often labelled as examples of "ethnic sympathy" and disregarded. Laar's research efforts, begun in Estonia in the late 1980s, are considered to have opened the door for further study. [28]

In 1999, the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) enacted a declaration of independence that had been made on February 16, 1949, the 31st anniversary of the February 16, 1918, declaration of independence, by elements of the resistance unified [4] under the "Movement of the Struggle for the Freedom of Lithuania".

... a universal, organised, armed resistance namely, self-defence, by the Lithuanian State, did take place in Lithuania during 1944–1953, against the soviet occupation ... the goal ... was the liberation of Lithuania, relying upon the provisions of the Atlantic Charter and a sovereign right acknowledged by the democratic world, by bearing arms against one of the World War II Aggressors ... The Council of the Movement of the Struggle for Freedom of Lithuania ... constituted the supreme political and military structure ... and was the sole legal authority within the territory of occupied Lithuania. [29]

In Latvia and Lithuania, Forest Brothers veterans receive a small pension. In Lithuania, the third Sunday in May is commemorated as Partisans' Day. In 2005 there were about 350 surviving Forest Brothers in Lithuania. [30]

In a 2001 lecture in Tallinn, U.S. Senator John McCain acknowledged the Estonian Forest Brothers and their efforts. [31]

The Canadian film Legendi loojad (Creators of the Legend) about the Estonian Forest Brothers was released in 1963. The film was funded by donations from Estonians in exile. [32]

The 1966 Soviet drama film Nobody Wanted to Die (Lithuanian : Niekas nenorėjo mirti) by Soviet-Lithuanian film director Vytautas Žalakevičius shows the tragedy of the conflict in which "a brother goes against the brother." The film garnered Žalakevičius the USSR State Prize and international recognition, and is the best-known film portrayal of the conflict.

A 1997 documentary film We Lived for Estonia tells the story of the Estonian Forest Brothers from the viewpoint of one of the participants.

The 2004 film Utterly Alone (Lithuanian : Vienui Vieni) portrays the travails of Lithuanian partisan leader Juozas Lukša, who travelled twice to Western Europe in attempts to gain support for the armed resistance.

The 2005 documentary film Stirna tells the story of Izabelė Vilimaitė (codenames Stirna and Sparnuota), an American-born Lithuanian who moved to Lithuania with her family in 1932. A medical student and pharmacist, she was an underground medic and source of medical supplies for the partisans, eventually becoming a district liaison. She infiltrated the local Komsomol (Communist Youth), was discovered, captured, and escaped twice. After going underground full-time, she was suspected of having been turned by the KGB as an informant and was nearly executed by the partisans. Her bunker was eventually discovered by the KGB and she was captured a third time, interrogated and killed. [33] [34]

The 2007 Estonian film Sons of One Forest (Estonian : Ühe metsa pojad ) follows the story of two Forest Brothers in southern Estonia, who fight with an Estonian from the Waffen-SS against the Soviet occupants.

The 2013 novel Forest Brothers by Geraint Roberts, follows the fortune of a disgraced British Navy officer who returns to Estonia in 1944 for British Intelligence. Many of the people from his past who aid him have taken to the forest, during the ongoing conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union.

The last Forest Brother

The last known Forest Brother was Jānis Pīnups, who came out of hiding only in 1995. He had deserted from the Red Army in 1944 and was presumed missing in action by Soviet authorities in Latvia. [35] He was rendered unconscious during a battle and left for dead. He decided to return home, where he started hiding in the nearby forest out of fear that his family would be deported, if his desertion was discovered. About 25 years after going into hiding he was forced to seek medical assistance and started acting more freely thereafter. Still only his siblings and, later on, the nearest neighbors were aware who he was, even the rest of his family only learned he had not been killed in the war after he came out of hiding. [36]

See also

Notes and references

  1. Woods, Alan. Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution Archived 2012-12-10 at Archive.today , Wellred Publications, London, 1999. ISBN   1-900007-05-3
  2. Skultans, Vieda. The Testimony of Lives: Narrative and Memory in Post-Soviet Latvia, pp. 83–84, Routledge, 1st edition, December 22, 1997. ISBN   0-415-16289-0
  3. 1 2 3 Laar, Mart (1992). War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944–1956, translated by Tiina Ets, Compass Press, ISBN   0-929590-08-2
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Kaszeta, Daniel J. Lithuanian Resistance to Foreign Occupation 1940–1952, Lituanus, Volume 34, No. 3, Fall 1988. ISSN   0024-5089
  5. Mackevicičius, Mečislovas. Lithuanian Resistance to German Mobilization Attempts 1941–1944, Lituanus Vol. 32, No. 4, Winter 1986. ISSN   0024-5089
  6. "Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 22". The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. 30 September 1946. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  7. Letter from Harry N. Rosenfield, Acting Chairman of United States Displaced Persons Commission, to Mr. Johannes Kaiv, Acting Consul General of Estonia Archived 2007-02-25 at the Wayback Machine , in re memorandum from the Estonian Committee in the United States zone of Germany on the question of former Estonian Legionnaires seeking admission to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act, as amended. September 13, 1950.
  8. Feldmanis, Inesis and Kangeris, Kārlis. The Volunteer SS Legion in Latvia Archived March 4, 2006, at the Wayback Machine , Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, n.d.
  9. Peeter Kaasik; Mika Raudvassar (2006). "Estonia from June to October, 1941: Forest Brothers and Summer War". In Toomas Hiio; Meelis Maripuu; Indrek Paavle (eds.). Estonia 1940–1945: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity . Tallinn. pp. 495–517.
  10. Tartu in the 1941 Summer War Archived March 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine . By Major Riho Rõngelep and Brigadier General Michael Hesselholt Clemmesen (2003). Baltic Defence Review 9
  11. Lande, p. 188
  12. 1 2 3 Argo Kuusik (2006). "Estonian Omakaitse in 1941–1944". In Toomas Hiio; Meelis Maripuu; Indrek Paavle (eds.). Estonia 1940–1945: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity . Tallinn. pp. 797–806.
  13. (in Italian)”Since Red Army was too strong to be fighted, the Forest Brothers try to sabotage enemy supplies: that’s why they destroyed armories or little convoys. Meanwhile, they tried to help evaded arrested people letting them reach US or UK territories.“: https://www.ilprimatonazionale.it/cultura/fratelli-della-foresta-i-combattenti-baltici-per-la-liberta-che-loccidente-non-volle-aiutare-113069/
  14. Misiunas, Romuald and Taagepera, Rein. The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940–1990, University of California Press, expanded & updated edition, 1993. p. 83. ISBN   0-520-08228-1
  15. Kaszeta, Daniel J. (1988). "Lithuanian Resistance to Foreign Occupation 1940–1952". Lituanus. Lituanus Foundation. 34 (3).
  16. Buttar, Prit (2013). Between Giants, the Battle for the Baltics in World War II. Osprey Publishing. ISBN   978-1780961637.
  17. Laar, M. (2009). "The Power of Freedom. Central and Eastern Europe after 1945." Centre for European Studies, p. 36.
  18. 1 2 3 Laar, p. 24
  19. Plakans, Andrejs. The Latvians: A Short History, 155. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 1995.
  20. Edgars Andersons, Leonīds Siliņš "Latvijas Centrālā padome – LCP". Upsala 1994 ISBN   9163017466
  21. 1 2 3 Plakans, p. 155
  22. (in Russian) Газета Капиталист. ЖИЗНЬ И СУДЬБА «БОЛЬШОГО МЕДВЕДЯ». Сто лет Вилису Лацису Archived 2010-06-19 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved April 3, 2010
  23. 1 2 Laar, p. 27
  24. Dundovich, E., Gori, F. and Guercett, E. Reflections on the gulag. With a documentary appendix on the Italian victims of repression in the USSR, Feltrinelli Editore IT, 2003. ISBN   88-07-99058-X
  25. Unknown author. excerpt from Lithuania's Struggle For Freedom, unknown year.
  26. 1 2 Kuodytė, Dalia and Tracevskis, Rokas. The Unknown War: Armed Anti-Soviet Resistance in Lithuania in 1944–1953, 2004. ISBN   9986-757-59-2
  27. Tarm, Michael. The Forgotten War Archived 2006-05-08 at the Wayback Machine , City Paper's The Baltic States Worldwide, 1996.
  28. Huang, Mel. Review of Mart Laar's War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944–1956. Central Europe Review, Vol. 1, No. 12, September 13, 1999. ISSN   1212-8732
  29. Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. Law on the February 16, 1949 Declaration by the Council of the Movement of the Struggle for Freedom of Lithuania, Law No. VIII-1021, January 12, 1999, Vilnius.
  30. "We Put Off This Day As Much As We Could". Kommersant. 2005-04-19. Retrieved 2006-07-14.
  31. McCain, John. "From Tragedy to Destiny: Estonia's Place in the New Atlantic Order," Archived 2004-09-29 at Archive.today The Robert C. Frasure Memorial Lecture, Tallinn, Estonia, August 24, 2001.
  32. Rahvuslane. Ajalooline hinnang Kanada pagulaseestlaste poolt aastail 1960–1963 tehtud filmile „Legendi loojad" ehk millise vaatenurga alt tuleb tänasel päeval seda filmi vaadata Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved April 3, 2010
  33. Krokys, Bronius. "The Winged One". Bridges, April 2006.
  34. "Naujas dokumentinis filmas "Stirna"" (in Lithuanian). Septynios Meno Dienos, No. 690. 2006-01-06. Retrieved 2006-07-05.
  35. Pēdējo mežabrāļu atgriešanās (27.11.97.)
  36. Jānis Pīnups: a Latvian Soldier for Whom the Second World War Finished in 1995

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Battle of Narva (1944) Battle of World War II

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.

Soviet partisans Wikimedia list article

The Soviet partisans were members of resistance movements that fought a guerrilla war against the Axis forces in the Soviet Union, the previously Soviet-occupied territories of interwar Poland in 1941–45 and eastern Finland. The activity emerged after the Nazi German Operation Barbarossa during World War II, and according to Great Soviet Encyclopedia it was coordinated and controlled by the Soviet government and modelled on that of the Red Army. The partisans made significant contributions to the war by frustrating German plans to exploit occupied Soviet territories economically, gave considerable help to the Soviet Army by conducting systematic strikes against Germany's rear communication network, disseminated political work among the local population by publishing newspapers and leaflets, and succeeded in creating and maintaining a feeling of insecurity among German forces.

German occupation of Estonia during World War II

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.

German occupation of Latvia during World War II

The occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany was completed on July 10, 1941 by Germany's armed forces. Latvia became a part of Nazi Germany's Reichskommissariat Ostland—the Province General of Latvia. Anyone not racially acceptable or who opposed the German occupation, as well as those who had cooperated with the Soviet Union, were killed or sent to concentration camps in accordance with the Nazi Generalplan Ost.

German occupation of Byelorussia during World War II Come And See was inspired By this conflict

The occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany started with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and ended in August 1944 with the Soviet Operation Bagration. The western parts of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941, but in 1943 the German authorities allowed local collaborators to set up a client state, the Belarusian Central Rada, that lasted until the Soviets liberated the region.

Operation Jungle

Operation Jungle was a program by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) early in the Cold War (1948–1955) for the clandestine insertion of intelligence and resistance agents into Poland and the Baltic states. The agents were mostly Polish, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian exiles who had been trained in the UK and Sweden and were to link up with the anti-Soviet resistance in the occupied states. The naval operations of the program were carried out by German crewmembers of the German Mine Sweeping Administration under the control of the Royal Navy. The American-sponsored Gehlen Organization also got involved in the draft of agents from Eastern Europe. The KGB penetrated the network and captured or turned most of the agents.

Resistance in Lithuania during World War II

During World War II, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union (1940–1941), Nazi Germany (1941–1944), and the Soviet Union again in 1944. Resistance during this period took many forms. Significant parts of the resistance were formed by Polish and Soviet forces, some of which fought with Lithuanian collaborators. This article presents a summary of the organizations, persons and actions involved.

German occupation of the Baltic states during World War II

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.

Estonia in World War II

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.

Tallinn Offensive

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.

Omakaitse

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.

Tartu Offensive

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.

Latvian partisans

Latvian national partisans were the Latvian national partisans who waged guerrilla warfare against Soviet rule during and after Second World War.

Lithuanian partisans resistance against Soviet regime after World War II

The Lithuanian partisans were partisans who waged a guerrilla warfare in Lithuania against the Soviet Union in 1944–1953. Similar anti-Soviet resistance groups, also known as Forest Brothers and cursed soldiers, fought against Soviet rule in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Galicia. It is estimated that a total of 30,000 Lithuanian partisans and their supporters were killed.

German occupation of Lithuania during World War II The occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany during World War II

The occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany lasted from the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 to the end of the Battle of Memel on January 28, 1945. At first the Germans were welcomed as liberators from the repressive Soviet regime which occupied Lithuania prior to the German arrival. In hopes of re-establishing independence or regaining some autonomy, Lithuanians organized their Provisional Government. Soon the Lithuanian attitudes towards the Germans changed into passive resistance.

Destruction battalions, colloquially istrebitels abbreviated: istrebki (Russian), strybki (Ukrainian) were paramilitary units under the control of NKVD in the western Soviet Union, which performed tasks of internal security on the Eastern Front and after it. After the Fall of the Soviet Union the battalions were deemed to be a criminal organisation by Estonian government.

The Soviet partisans in Estonia were Communist partisans who attempted to wage guerrilla warfare against the German armed forces during the German occupation of Estonia. Partisan activity was singularly unsuccessful in Estonia due to the general resistance of the population to the Soviet regime that the partisans represented. The majority of partisans sent in by the Soviets were quickly picked up by the local Estonian militias.

Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (1944)

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.

Guerrilla war in the Baltic states

The Guerrilla war in the Baltic states or the Forest Brothers resistance movement was the armed struggle against Soviet rule that spanned from 1940 to the mid-1950s. After the occupation of the Baltic territories by the Soviets in 1944, an insurgency started. According to some estimates, 10,000 partisans in Estonia, 10,000 partisans in Latvia and 30,000 partisans in Lithuania and many more supporters were involved. This war continued as an organised struggle until 1956 when the superiority of the Soviet military caused the native population to adopt other forms of resistance. While estimates related to the extent of partisan movement vary, but there seems to be a consensus among researchers that by international standards, the Baltic guerrilla movements were extensive. Proportionally, the partisan movement in the post-war Baltic states was of a similar size as the Viet Cong movement in South Vietnam.

The Central and Eastern European anti-Communist insurgencies fought on after the official end of the Second World War against the Soviet Union and the communist states formed under Soviet occupation and support.