Memorial service on the 65th anniversary of the battles on the Sinimäed hills in 1944, where a number of veterans attended including including members of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)., photo by Petri Krohn, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Veterans of the 20th division of the Estonian SS held a traditional yearly gathering on Saturday, July 30, in Sinimäe, in the rural municipality of Vaivara, the Northeast of the country. The gathering passed without incidents, stated the organizers of the event, who belong to the society of the veterans of the division.
In 1944, under Sinimäe, brutal battles raged for several months. Here, Hitler’s army, a part of which was the 20th division of the Estonian SS, restrained the advance of the Soviet Army. In battles near Sinimäe, both sides suffered losses, in terms of soldiers wounded or killed, of approximately 200,000 people.
The meeting began with the Estonian national anthem. Then, the chaplains of the Estonian defense forces laid wreaths upon the memorial monument on Grenadier hill, dedicated to the soldiers who fought on the side of Hitler’s Germany, as well as to the memorial sign dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Red Army. Veterans and invitees gave speeches; also, an army lunch was organized.
The Minister of Social Affairs of Estonia, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Party “Pro Patria and Res Publica Union”, Margus Tsahkna welcomed the participants of the event and noted that Sinimäe honors the memory of those “who, with weapons in hand, came forward to defend their people, their families and their fatherland”. Tsahkna emphasized that those who fought in Sinimäe fought knowing that if not they, then their children will live in a free country.
As stated by the news source Postimees, only a few years ago the meetings of the veterans in Sinimäe attracted the attention of activists and were accompanied by various pickets against the glorification of Nazism; however, lately, they have been passing peacefully. Despite this, a reinforced police force was present at the meeting.
During the war, approximately 80,000 Estonians fought in Hitler’s army, and around 3,000 volunteers participated in battles against the Soviet army in the ranks of the Finnish army. More than 30,000 Estonians fought against fascists as part of the Estonian Rifle Corps of the Red Army.
The Russian Foreign Ministry repeatedly spoke out condemning the meetings in Sinimäe, naming them the continuation of attempts of praising Nazis and their supporters, including under the guise of realization of rights of freedom of speech, and expressed regret that such events take place in a country which is a member state of the European Union.
Source: RIA Novosti