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Estonia, Nazism : a Minister Claims Being Nazi in a Former SS Meeting !

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Estonia’s commemoration of its pro-German World War II past, including the re-enactment of a Nazi victory, has outraged European officials and the Russian Jewish community.

A week ago, veterans of the Waffen SS 20th Estonian Division celebrated the anniversary of the first clashes between Estonian pro-German troops and the Soviet Army in 1941.

And on Monday, young Estonian ultra-rightists began a week of commemoration by re-enacting the 1941 Erna Campaign, when a diversionary platoon of 42 Estonian paramilitary volunteers trounced the Soviet Red Army. According to the semi-official Russian Federal News Agency, the re-enactment attracted participation from 10 countries, including the United States, Finland and Germany.

Recalling its pro-German World War II past has been an annual tradition for Estonia since the republic seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Rene van der Linden, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Estonian efforts to whitewash its Nazi past would be high on the assembly’s agenda when it convenes Oct. 1 in Strasbourg.

During last week’s commemoration, in the small Estonian town of Sinimiae, elderly veterans from Estonia, Norway and Austria traveled three hours by charter bus from Tallinn, the Estonian capital. They were accompanied by dozens of young followers dressed in T-shirts with Nazi symbols, along with Estonian officials, including Parliament member Trivimi Velliste and Minister of Defense Jak Aaviksoo.

Speaking before the gathering, Aaviksoo reportedly called the former SS commandos “fighters for independence” and Velliste described the Soviet soldiers as “terrorists.”

Moscow described the Sinimiae event as a “popularization of Nazism.”

Estonia has clashed previously with Moscow over what Russia has called Estonia’s “glorification” of its Nazi past. In January, 150 people were wounded and more than 1,000 detained in violent street protests in Tallinn after a bronze statue commemorating a World War II Soviet soldier was moved from a downtown square to a less prestigious location outside the city’s center.

Estonia’s prewar Jewish population was virtually destroyed during the country’s four years of Nazi occupation. Estonia’s small Jewish population of 3,500 has stayed out of the fray, offering no formal comment on either the statue removal or this week’s commemorative events.

Foreign Jews, however, were outspoken.

Boruch Gorin, the Moscow-based spokesman for the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, blasted the commemoration in Sinimiae, saying the Estonian government and church leaders who supported it made heroes of “blood-thirsty killers” and were “dancing on the bones” of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

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Estonia : Judenfrei !

The Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly repeatedly has drawn attention to the situation in Estonia, but this will mark the first time it will be discussed formally. The assembly has 47 member states. Israeli representatives have attended as observers since 1957, but without voting rights. Van der Linden, the assembly chairman, plans to visit Estonia prior to October.

“Russian Jewry hopes the assembly will put the lid on this glorification of Hitler’s death squads,” Gorin said. “If we let them forget the lessons of history, we may face such crimes again.”

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4 Forum messages

  • Last November, the Estonian newspaper Eesti Ekspress interviewed Cobb and reported that he had bought a house and piece of land some 30 miles outside the capital city of Tallinn. The paper said Cobb was working to find like-minded people and quoted him identifying Raigo Solg as the leader of Estonian neo-Nazis. Solg is a former Ministry of Justice official who now hosts radical radio programs.

    See online : U.S. Neo-Nazi Operates in Estonia

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  • Efraim Zuroff, the Jerusalem-based Israel director of the Simon Weisenthal Center, strongly criticized a recent celebration in Estonia, meant to mark a key battle between pro-Nazi Estonian forces and the Soviet Army during World War II.

    In a letter to Estonia’s ambassador to Israel, Aino Lepik von Wiren, Zuroff, also the Center’s chief nazi hunter, was scathing in his condemnation.

    “We view these events as a glorification of those who fought alongside the forces of Nazi Germany, the regime which planned, initiated and implemented the Holocaust and is responsible for the mass murder of millions of innocent civilians," Zuroff wrote. "Thus glorifying those who fought for a victory of the Third Reich is an unpardonable insult to that regime’s many victims and those who fought to save Europe from its tyrannical rule."

    The event, attended by Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo and Estonian lawmaker Trivimi Velliste, drew dozens of foreign neo-Nazis, according to a report in the European Jewish Press.

    “Given these circumstances," Zuroff wrote, "we find the participation of Estonian Defense Minister Jak Aaviksoo and MP Trivimi Velliste in these events incomprehensible and worthy of condemnation.”

    See online : JTA Breaking news : "Jewish Group Condemns Estonia for Glorification of Nazi Past"

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  • Jewish organisations have claimed in the past that Rebane, who was awarded the Knight’s Cross and Oak Leaves for his service in the SS, was a Nazi executioner and that he was responsible for the slaughter of thousands of Jews and Russians between 1941 and 1945. There is outrage that the Estonian government has done nothing to indicate that it objects to the statue. Jewish groups have pledged to complain to the EU unless something is done and claim that the statue is merely the latest in a long line of events which suggest that the authorities are keen to glorify Estonians who fought with the Germans against the Russians in the Second World War, when the country was occupied by the Nazis. "Another killer has another monument," Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, told The Independent. "A killer of women and children.

    "It’s anti-European [and shows that] anti-Semitism in Europe is absolutely legal. If Estonians feel they are part of Western Europe they should abide by the standards of the 21st century." Mr Satanovsky said that Estonia’s Jewish population was virtually exterminated during the war, with the help of people like Rebane.

    The statue has also been roundly condemned by Russia’s chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, who has said that it "may serve to escalate neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism". Rebane also stands accused of participating in punitive missions into Russia in which thousands of civilians were murdered.

    But the Estonian establishment appears unembarrassed. Many Estonians believe that Rebane and thousands like him were freedom fighters

    See online : Estonia accused of anti-Semitism by British newspaper "The Independant"

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