Estonian Legion

​Estonian national unit in the German Waffen-SS in World War II

The formation of the non-German volunteer troops within the Waffen-SS began in spring and summer 1941. Forming the Estonian military unit was publicly announced by the General Commissar of Nazi-occupied Estonia, Karl-Siegmund Litzmann, in August 1942. The Estonian SS-Legion was formed on 1 October 1942 in the Debica military training camp near Krakow (‘Heidelager’). On 31 March 1943, the army unit was officially named the Estonian SS-Volunteer Legion. On 5 May 1943, the members of the legion were organised into the Estonia SS-Volunteer Brigade. On 24 January 1944 it was reformed into the 20th Estonian SS-Volunteer Division. From 1942 to 1945, the national unit was headed by SS-Brigadeführer Franz Augsberger, and the highest Estonian officer was his deputy, SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfons Rebane.

Not many civilian men joined the legion. A large number of the Estonian volunteers who fulfilled the Waffen-SS conditions (physical condition, age and ‘racial purity’) were already fighting in smaller rear defence units established earlier and subordinated to the German army. The legion was later supplemented via mobilisations. In September 1944 (during the Estonian defencive battles) the Division consisted of 15 400 men, most of whom were of Estonian origin. One third were volunteers.

The 20th Estonian SS-Division participated in battles in Estonian territory from February to September 1944 and, until the end of the war in 1944-1945, in Silesia and Czech territories.

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