Estonia accused of anti-Semitism after memorial is erected to 'SS executioner'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Estonia has been accused of fuelling anti-Semitism and glorifying Nazism after a memorial was erected there to a colonel in the Waffen SS who is alleged to have the blood of thousands of people on his hands.

Estonia has been accused of fuelling anti-Semitism and glorifying Nazism after a memorial was erected there to a colonel in the Waffen SS who is alleged to have the blood of thousands of people on his hands.

The monument to Alfons Rebane, an Estonian volunteer in the SS during the Second World War who died in 1976, was erected last week in northern Estonia at the initiative of a wealthy farmer called Lembit Someril.

The edifice was built on private land without government money: but the unveiling ceremony was attended by Trivimi Velliste, a member of the Estonian parliament.

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 seeking to stave off Russian occupation (the country was occupied by the Soviet Union before and after the war).

"Alfons Rebane was a good soldier according to our historians," says Rian Sikk, editor of the Virumaa Teataja newspaper. "He was never convicted of war crimes and [the allegations] are just a political game to try to show that Estonia has lots of fascists."

Rebane lived in the UK from 1947 to 1961, and worked with MI6. He died in Germany in 1976. In 1999 his body was reburied by the government in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, with full military honours.

Comments