Repression of ‘German collaborators’ in 1944–1945

​Even during WW II the Soviet security forces began preparations for punishing the population in the areas to be taken back from the German troops. A number of laws were passed for that purpose, and these laws also determined categories such as ‘traitors of the homeland’ and ‘enemy assistants’. The latter were Soviet citizens (including people living in the territories occupied in 1940) who, under the orders of the German authorities, had been involved in providing the German army and its horses with food and the necessary equipment, and reconstructing industry, transport and agriculture, or who had ‘actively cooperated’ with the Germans in some other way. The Criminal Code contained punishments for all these activities, including for people who had ‘helped’ the ‘traitors of the homeland’.

As the categories were described rather vaguely and the Criminal Code could be interpreted in many ways, these categories, in theory, included everybody who lived in Estonia during the German occupation. In most cases, the decision about whom and whether to punish were made by various institutions organising and carrying out the repressive actions, i.e. the Ministry of State Security of the Soviet Union and Ministry of the Interior, plus Smersh, the Chief Counterintelligence Directorate of the People’s Commissariat of Defence.

In sentencing people, the Soviet repressive organs mostly did not use these categories properly and consistently; also no statistics were kept, and thus it is now not possible to calculate how many ‘German supporters’ were actually repressed in Estonia. Between 1944 and 1945, the relevant Soviet authorities arrested at least 17,000 people in Estonia. People accused of ‘collaborating with the Germans’ formed the largest group.

The repression not only meant direct persecution of individual people. During the land reform initiated in autumn 1944, the ‘active supporters of German occupants’ were stripped of most of their land, leaving them a maximum of seven hectares. Work quotas for these people were considerably bigger (e.g. the quotas in forest work were double), and it was more difficult for them to find jobs.

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