Soldiers in Germany

A large part of Estonian military personnel who arrived in Germany in the autumn of 1944 were part of the 20th Estonian SS Division, which was located in the Neuhammer training camp and remained active until the end of the war. The division was formed in May of 1944 (20th Waffen SS Grenadier), and participated in the battles of Narva in the summer, as well as on the Sinimäed and Emajõgi fronts. In the autumn, the division was supplemented with other members of the Estonian military units. On October 1, 1944 there were 11,000 men in the division. After the training, in January 1945, the unit was sent to the front lines of Silesia, which began in March, after that the division was placed in the Czech area, where they participated in battles until the end of the war. A large part of the Estonians, an estimated 6000 men, were killed by Czech partisans and captured by the Red Army.

The 20th Estonian SS Division’s reserve regiment was placed in Denmark in February 1945, and at the end of the war the regiment men gave themselves up as prisoners to the British forces in Northern Germany. There were around 3500 Estonians in the prisoner of war camps in the British zone; the largest camps were located in Uklei, Zedelghem, Putlos, and Neuengamme. The closure of the Uklei camp meant that prisoners were transferred to Zedelghem camp; many managed to escape, and thanks to the Estonian committee at Lübeck, several prisoners were given DP status and were placed in the Arnimsruhe camp. The Zedelghem prison camp included the SS regiments, where there was a larger population of Latvians (14,000), including 2747 Estonians, and 1600 Lithuanians. Neuengamme was a German SS concentration camp, which was inhabited by a large number of German officers. The camp was known as having tough and poor living conditions; in August 1945 the Estonians that were staying there were moved to Uklei camp. With this the British zone showed good will, freeing officers and ordinary soldiers. The US camp at Darmstadt held 120 Estonian officers until the decisions of the Nurnberg War Crimes Tribunal in November 1946.

There were about 750 Estonians in the prison camps of the US zone. The largest number of Estonians was in Regensburg (over 300), Auerbach (about 150) and Darmstadt (nearly 100). French zone prison camps held less Estonians, for example there were 73 in Cherbourg, 60 in Mailly, and 45 in Marseilles. France gave most of its Estonian prisoners to the Soviet Union; the sentence period was the longest there and imprisoned Estonians were used primarily for physically demanding jobs like mining and agriculture.

From July 1946 and throughout 1947, 22 Baltic companies were set up in the US zone, which was distributed into units according Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian ethnicity. The offer to join the Baltic defence and work company (Baltic Guard) gave the former prisoners the possibility of regaining lost human rights, but even more importantly, was that the jurisdiction of the US military authorities had belonged to the former German armed forces, thus giving some confidence in the future. Together the Estonians formed four defence companies and five work companies, which included close to 5000 men.

A letter by Estonian consul general, Mr. Johannes Kaiv, to the prime minister of Estonian Government in Exile, Mr. August Rei, there are described moves made by Estonian diplomats in exile for to clarify the situation of Estonian soldiers served in German army. February 4, 1948.
ERA.1608.2.1640, page 7 (digitized,
A report and conclusions with the signatures of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian representatives taking part of the Baltic Labor Service Conference held on July 19–20, 1948, in Mannheim-Kaefertal.
ERA.1608.2.1640, pages 56–58 (digitized,
Participants of the Baltic Labor Service Conference, July 19–20, 1948.
ERA.1608.2.1640, pages 65–66 (digitized, )
A reversal of major Verner Puurand to commanders and officers of the Baltic Guard and Labor Company related to his emigration to Australia. August 19, 1948.
ERA.1608.2.1640, page 91 (digitized,
A letter from vice-president of the Estonian Central Committee in US zone, Mr. Elias Kasak, to coordinator of DPC Headquarters, Mr. Aleksander Squadrilli, describing the difficulties Estonian soldiers who were forced to serve in army or labor services during the war faced while emigrating to the USA or requesting for a DP status. November 9, 1949, Geislingen.
ERA.1608.2.1640, pages 190–191 (digitized,
A notice of appeal by the Estonian Relief Committee to DP commissioners in Washington D.C. about the limited options for emigration of the former Estonian soldiers.
ERA.1608.2.1641, page 83 (digitized,
On September 13, 1950, DP Commissioner in the USA, Mr. Harry Rosenfield, announces to Estonian consul general, Mr. Johannes Kaiv, about the amendment of the Displaced Persons Act. According to the act, the Baltic soldiers of former German S.S.-units were to be concidered on their individual merits.
ERA.1608.2.1641, page 87 (digitized,
A resolution adopted in 1950 on general meeting of the Association of Estonian Refugees „Võitleja“ in Germany for to protect the rights of Estonian displaced persons. Resolution was sent to the consulate general of Estonia in New York for its further dissemination.
ERA.1608.2.1641, pages 131–133 (digitized,