Eesti Elu
Hopelessness and enduring hope in escape to the West in 1944 (IV)
Ajalugu 07 Feb 2014 EL (Estonian Life)Eesti Elu
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Laas Leivat

A large network of induction, ‘filtration’ camps belonged to the KGB and Smersh through which all forcibly or voluntarily repatriated individuals had to pass. There they were thoroughly interrogated and a commission decided their disposition, whether to return them to their homes or something else. Their personal dossier was sent to the local secret police office whose officers continued surveillance of them as ‘untrustworthy’ types who had spent some time in a Soviet-hostile setting.

Very often this surveillance resulted in arrests and imprisonments. This included those who had been caught in their attempt to make it to Sweden in flimsy boats. Most of the repatriated men who had served, either through mobilization or voluntarily, in German forces were never freed. They were sent off to other NKVD forced labour camps.

(In the early post-war years and for an extended period thereafter, booklets of stories written by, seemingly voluntarily repatriated individuals themselves were sent to Estonian refugees abroad. The stories typically recounted the longing for homeland and family left behind, the ‘unbearable’ life in the West, the monumental mistake made when deciding to flee to the West, the humane and progressive Soviet system, the job that was kept waiting during their temporary absence and other reasons for returning to communist-controlled Estonia. Usually there was a picture of the ‘prodigal’ son and his wife/family, happily re-united. On numerous occasions on visits to Estonia this writer has asked specifically about individuals from the booklets or in general about post-war repatriated persons and their fate. In every instance the answers were vaguely about hearing of someone re-joining their family in such-and-such village, but then their whereabouts thereafter is a mystery. “It’s as if they totally vanished,” has been a common observation, the implication being their disappearance was officially organized.) (Pikemalt EE 7. veebr. paberlehes)
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