Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s director was recently quoted in Russia Today: “The Estonians made a terrible mistake (in allying with Germany – ed.) Now they’re saying they want to give honour to the people who made the mistake, (the original Erna participants – ed.) that’s the problem.” (In fact The Republic of Estonia could not have allied with Nazi Germany upon Germany’s occupation of Estonia in 1941. When the Soviets invaded Estonia in 1940, the government was removed, liquidated/deported and replaced with communists by Moscow. The Republic had ceased to exist de facto – ed.)
Russia has set its sights on Erna Raid, a recognized international military competition, held every August in Estonia and attracting elite teams from many NATO countries as well as China, Sweden, Finland etc. Russia to date has not participated. The annual Erna contest commemorates the long-range reconnaissance raids by Estonians into Soviet occupied Estonia during 1941. The raids were organized by Finland, a country attacked by the USSR and co-operating with Germany in withstanding further Russian advances into Finland.
The 14th competition recently held in Estonia drew fire from Moskovskije Novosti and Komsomolskaja Pravda. They identified major Benno Leesik as the Estonian officer in charge of the organizers. Major Leesik died 1 ½ years ago. This sets the standard for their due diligence in factual information.
Ton understand Erna’s historical legacy as a long-range reconnaissance mission from Finland, one must appreciate military and political contingencies of those times. Several dozen Estonians went to Finland in 1939-1940 to fight against the invading Soviets. Some considered it a debt to Finland for the latter’s help during Estonia’s war of independence 20 years earlier. Some ten of them joined the Norwegian army in their battles against German forces at Narvik.
More Estonians escaped to Finland from Soviet occupied Estonia during the winter of 1940-41. In the spring of 1941 Finnish army intelligence recruited 15 of them for training. In April of 1941 they gave an oath of allegiance under the Estonian flag. During this training they were joined by two German military intelligence personnel. Estonian, colonel Henn-Ants Kurg commanded the Estonians.
Eventually over 60 Estonians joined the first Erna mission into Estonia. The July 1941 a German officer insisted that their oath of allegiance was to be to Hitler. The group refused. Instead they swore allegiance to Finland. They wore Finnish uniforms and carried Finnish weapons.
Starting on July 10, 1941 the Erna group was sent to Soviet-occupied Estonia as either clandestine beach landings or by parachute. They were joined by Estonian partisans, aligned with neither the USSR nor Nazi Germany, who had hidden in forests after the Soviet mass deportations of June 1941. Erna’s primary mission was behind-the-lines reconnaissance with information being forwarded to their base in Finland.
The NKVD, who set five Destruction Battalions against them, knew their activity. After various battles Erna was disbanded in September 1941.
(One more absurdity. The August 14th edition of Rossijskaja Gazeta names Erna participants as one possibility for causes of a recent train derailment in Russia.)
(To be continued.)
Should Estonia flinch at Russian harassment? II (1)