The tens of thousands in Estonia who found the means to escape the invading Red Army in the fall of 1944 found shelter in mainly in German and Swedish refugee camps. They had most likely avoided outright execution, arrest, deportation by the repressive Soviet regime. But the long reach of the NKVD/KGB could not be shaken, mostly within the camps in Germany.
It was estimated that by April 1, 1945, 26-27,000 Estonian refugees had arrived in Sweden. The number compiled by the refugees in Germany themselves was 31,221 refugees in camps in the Western zones by October 1, 1946.
The Soviet Union had decided by the waning months of WWII to bring back all ‘citizens’ who had fled the countries it had occupied. In 1945 Stalin had reached an agreement with Britain and the USA at Jalta that the latter countries would help in sending back some 2.5 million Soviet ‘citizens’ who had been forcefully taken by the Nazis to the German forced labour camps or who had voluntarily accompanied the Germans during their evacuation.
The Soviet goal in the repatriation of some defined groups was only later known to the world. The repatriated Kazaks and members of the Vlassov army were tortured, killed or spent long years in concentration camps. A substantial percentage of inmates at Soviet concentration camps were actually repatriated ‘citizens’.
From 450,000 to 500,000 non-Soviet citizens remained in German refugee camps. The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians in camps were initially justifiably frightened of forced repatriation and convinced that the Western powers wouldn’t intervene. They were witnesses to the forced rounding up of Russians in neighbouring camps, the violent resistance that often ensued and the suicides committed by those not submitting to the Soviets. (Pikemalt saab lugeda Eesti Elu 31. jaanuari paberlehest)
Hopeless and enduring hope in escape to freedom 70 years ago (II)