On June 14th Minister of Defence Urmas Reinsalu, chairman of the Tallinn Memento Association Leo Õispuu and science director at the Estonian War Museum Toomas Hiio unveiled a commemorative plaque for pre-World War II Estonian ministers of defence, nearly all of whom were killed as a result of Soviet repression.
The commemorative plaque on the wall of the Ministry of Defence building lists the names, dates of birth and times and places of death of all the men who held the office of minister of defence or minister of war in the Republic of Estonia in the years 1918 to 1940.
At the unveiling ceremony of the memorial plaque Minister of Defence Reinsalu said that remembering history and learning from its lessons is vital for Estonia. “It is up to us to remember the past of our people and build a safe future for our country. We must contribute towards the continuation of Estonia’s independence and avoiding a repeat of the atrocities of World War II,” said Reinsalu.
Toomas Hiio, science director at the Estonian War Museum, said in his speech that the Soviet leadership had tasked the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) with the annihilation of the Estonian elite. “The men we are commemorating with this plaque were part of the elite of the Estonian state and people and annihilating them was part of this assignment,” said Hiio.
In the years from 1918 to 1940, a total of 15 different politicians and military men held the office of minister of war or minister of defence; from among them only Oskar Amberg died as a free man, having emigrated to Germany. Otto-August Strandmann committed suicide in February 1941, after receiving an interrogation notice from the NKVD. The remaining former ministers were arrested by Soviet occupation authorities mostly in the years 1940 and 1941.
Memorial Plaque for Pre-War Ministers Unveiled at Ministry of Defence