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December 06, 1991 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-12-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I NEWS

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56

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 1991

Estonian Jews
Express Concern

Tallinn, Estonia (JTA) —
Jewish community leaders
in this newly independent
republic are expressing con-
cern about a stepped-up
campaign by World War II
veterans to rehabilitate
those who collaborated with
the Nazis in wartime crimes
against Jews and others.
A statement issued here by
G. Gramberg, chairman of
the Jewish Cultural Society
in Estonia, and D. Slomka,
chairman of the Jewish re-
ligious community here, ap-
pealed for Western assis-
tance in lobbying the Esto-
nian government to halt the
rehabilitation effort.
The Jewish leaders said
that many veterans who are
being hailed now as heroes
of Estonian independence
belonged to military units
responsible for the genocide
of Estonia's 2,000 Jews, an
operation that made the re-
public "Judenfrei" by
December 1941.
They also assisted the
Nazis in more than 20 con-
centration camps, where
Jews from Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Ger-
many, Czechoslovakia,
France and Holland were
killed.
The Jewish leaders ex-
pressed particular concern
about a rally for .Estonian
"freedom fighters" held
Nov. 9 in the town of Paide.
Radio advertisements for
the rally invited, among
others, veterans of police
battalions and of the self-
defense organization
Omakaitse who were part of
the 20th Division of the Nazi
SS.
There seem to have been
other such rallies in the city
of Tartu and in the towns of
Tori and Adaveri.
The two Jewish leaders
claimed their own safety is
in jeopardy for passing on in-
formation about these
events. "But the memory of
the dead does not let us keep
silent," they said in their
joint statement.
Estonian war veterans at-
tempted in vain to hold a
similar rally last year,
before the Baltic republics
gained their independence
from Moscow.
On July 6, 1990, heavily
armored Soviet troops broke
up a rally in Tori that had
been organized by the
Heritage Society, a group
that bills itself as "seeking
to promote awareness of
Estonian history."
A leader of the society,
Argakas Kullo, was. quoted

at the time as saying that
some 65,000 to 70,000 Esto-
nians served in German
military units. during World
War II.
These facts have until now
not been discussed in
Estonia, and the country's
younger generation is large-
ly unaware of any wartime
collaboration with the Nazis.
In New York, American
Jewish organizational
leaders, who have devoted a
lot of attention to efforts to
rehabilitate wartime collab-
orators in Lithuania, seemed
to be largely unaware that a
similar campaign is building
in Estonia.
When asked about the
Estonian rallies, Abraham
Bayer, director of interna-
tional concerns for the Na-
tional Jewish Community
Relations Advisory Council,
said, "I don't want to tarnish
the name of a new republic
that has fought so hard for
its sovereignty."
But if the details in the
Estonian statement are true,
he added, "it reinforces our
sadness about those who do
not express their remorse for
having participated in such
heinous crimes." -
The Anti-Defamation
League sent a letter to Esto-
nian President Edgard
Savissar at the end of Oc-
tober, asking for the oppor-
tunity to discuss subjects
pertinent to Holocaust sur-
vivors, possible return of
Jewish property and the
issue of Nazi war criminals,
said Myrna Shinbaum, the
agency's director of public
relations.
"Now that there is an in-
dependent, free Estonia, we
would hope that the
government of Estonia
would live up to all its
obligations on behalf of
those Jews who were victims
during the war and want to
make sure that we would not
have the same situation as
happened in Lithuania."
Elliot Welles, director of
ADL's Nazi task force, said,
"Jewish blood is still on the
head of Estonia, and no
justice has been done by the
government of Estonia in
condemning the SS."
Elan Steinberg, executive
director of the World Jewish
Congress, pointed out that
the popular campaign to
rehabilitate collaborators in
Estonia "is not a situation
unique" to the republic.
Meanwhile, the Estonian
Jewish community is plann-
ing to hold a ceremony here
Dec. 15.

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