As I’ve said before, the West can either understand Eastern Europe, or it can maintain its heroic WWII narrative. It can’t do both.
Estonian war hero Harald Nugiseks (22 October 1921 – 2 January 2014) was an SS-Oberscharführer (Sergeant) in World War II, who served voluntarily in the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) of the Waffen SS. Nugiseks is also one of the four Estonian soldiers who received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.
Harald Nugiseks: “Estonians joined the German mobilization because the Estonian national committee and Uluots (Estonian President) encouraged us. But these were the exact deeds of Uluots that the parliament or the important men in the government refuse to acknowledge. Uluots was the one who encouraged us to join the army. But we are constantly called Fascists. This I do not understand! Because not a single Estonian, I can assure it, wasn’t the kind of man to follow the Russians or Germans. We went there to battle for Estonia and I am glad when I find from the newspaper or from history: these men were on the Narva front and stopped the Red Army from moving onwards.”
Harald has been representing this generation who had to protect the homeland in foreign uniforms. He and his three mates did not battle on the German side, they were first and foremost battling against the red regime. No one has managed to prove that there was a better way to do that back then. We were looking for answers for tens of questions where the soldier’s heroism was on a meaningful position. Why this sort of resistance was born on Narva front that the large Soviet army’s squads, battalions, groups and divisions bleed to death while trying to attack it and eventually gave up? How many red soldiers died on Narva front? There have been estimations that around 400,000 or 500,000. On the 51st anniversary of the falling of Narva on July 26, 1995 the Red Army veterans said that 700,000 soldiers were killed on that front in 1944! The red regime paid an expensive price for conquering Estonia. What did not happen in 1939 did come true in 1944 thanks to Estonian men.
There have been talks of a lot of bodies being in the Sinimäed Hills. There have also been rumors that the piles of Russians’ dead bodies were so big that they were mistaken as the new attackers and dead bodies were constantly shot. The men who were near the Sinimäed Hills said that in the autumn on 1944 and in the spring of 1945 they went to clean up the bodies from Sinimäed. For each body they received the price of a vodka bottle. In the spring of 1945 it meant that they took a truck-load of skulls to the burial place. In one place of burial, where 30,000 skulls were counted, they placed a memorial which said that the Soviet soldiers rest there. But there were a large number of common graves where no signs were put. Some farmers took a pile of skulls to the burial place and then took them back during the night, so that they could bring the skulls again the next day. But how many soldiers were lying on the minefields and were never found?
It was a war where one side was soullessly counting, but the other side was protecting homes and the last one gave birth to what we can call the Second War of Independence. Who were those brave Estonian sons who battled in the Second War of Independence – this text is devoted to one of them. These were the finest sons of Estonia and may their flame burn inside our souls forever.
It has been said that the Ancient Greek Antaios got his power from the earth. When he lost his connection with earth, it meant the end to him. This text also emphasizes the soldier’s connection to his land. The author of this text believes that Harald was inspired by not the Knight’s Cross, but by the letters of the unknown women over Estonia and the Estonian people in general and what was in those letters. Who stands behind a soldier? If there is someone, the soldier battles, if there isn’t anyone, he does not. If the people feel that the soldier is battling for them, the soldier also feels it and protects his people.
The people understand better than anyone else if the war that is going on is theirs or not. “There is no international laws or morale tradition that would prohibit the nation to battle for its own protection,” wrote Harald Riipalu. When the Soviet Union occupied Estonia on June 17, 1940, this meant war to us and we were in a war situation with the Soviet Union from that moment on. The war between the Soviet Union and Germany gave us a chance to once again fight for our freedom. The German soldiers were our allies and also the volunteers from Europe and Scandinavians. We didn’t want Russia, we wanted to keep our little home free and for this Estonian soldiers battled side by side.
That’s how the Estonian soldiers’ battles should be viewed on Narva front and in other places. These four soldiers – the Knight’s Cross recipients – just like all other Estonian soldiers, who fought for our freedom, showed great soldier’s bravery in these battles and they deserve the people’s gratitude. Especially thankful should be those whom the war helped to escape to the West, away from certain death. Their descendants should know, however, that the life was guaranteed here with these brave Estonian soldiers’ life and death. Isn’t it so that the people who do not fight for their freedom, don’t deserve it? Well, they did fight and they made their nation worthy of freedom.