Today Foreign Minister Urmas Paet participated in the opening of a memorial stone at the former Tallinn Prison building. The stone is dedicated to the memory of the French Jews deported to Estonia in “convoy number 73” in May of 1944.
In his speech, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that today the oppressive walls of the former prison are joined by a new stone, which is not in the service of captors or killers, but rather of freedom. “This stone, opened in the memory of the people brought from occupied France to occupied Estonia in convoy no. 73, speaks to the fact that we have the freedom to commemorate and the obligation to remember,” emphasised Paet.
Foreign Minister Paet recalled that the stone is being opened in a spot that bore witness to the tragic fate of many and the alternation of foreign powers. In 1940, when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, many Estonian statesmen as well as social and cultural figures perished here, the fates of many of them still unknown today. “Deportations and murders affected all Estonian citizens. During the Soviet occupation, almost 10% of the Estonian Jewish community, which numbered more than 4 000, was deported,” said Paet.
In recalling the critical turning points of the last century, Foreign Minister Paet stated how in July of 1941 the Soviet occupation was replaced by that of Nazi Germany. The nearly 1 000 Estonian citizens of Jewish faith that had remained in Estonia were labelled enemies and executed according to the plans of the German occupation powers. “The Nazi authorities declared Estonia to be free of Jews. Between the years 1942 and 1944 the German occupation forces brought more than 10 000 people from all of its occupied territories to the camps established here, and nearly all of them perished,” said Paet, adding that the concrete list of Holocaust victims is still being worked on today.
In May of 1944, convoy no. 73 brought five cars carrying about 300 people from occupied France to occupied Estonia. “Just a few years before, two different democracies had met destruction—old and flourishing France, and young but nevertheless developing Estonia, which had promised cultural autonomy to Jewish people in the ‘Manifest for all the Peoples of Estonia’ declared on 24 February 1918,” Paet recalled.
“The opening of the memorial stone today is evidence of the fact that after a difficult struggle, justice triumphed, though not everywhere at once and not completely. The important thing is that in the end, eventually it did triumph,” emphasised Paet in the conclusion of his speech.
The opening of the memorial stone was made possible thanks to the “Relatives and Friends of the Deported in Convoy 73”, the Shoah Memorial Fund, and the Tallinn City Government.
Both France and Estonia are members of the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and help to preserve the memory of the Holocaust as well as provide a responsible education for youth, who will shape our future.
SPOKESPERSON' S OFFICE
Estonia Has Freedom to Commemorate and Obligation to Remember All Victims of the Holocaust (4)