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A number of Estonians were involved in underground resistance during World War II ranging from producing illegal publications, to espionage, to sabotage. They included Adolf Aitsen, Rein Alasoo, Eduard Aumere, Richard Ehrlich, Mercedes-Angela Jaus, Evald Kallas, Vera Kraubner, Hendrik Kuivas, Helmi Kurs, Evald Laasi, Georgi Loik, Aleksander Looring, Johanna Lunter, Mihkel Mihkelson, Jaan Nahodsen, Irmgard Nurmhein, Leonida Parvits, Erik Paulson, Villem Pivkan, Eduard Planken, Ludvig Prints, Kaarel Raidväli, Astra Randkivi, Ireene Reinhold, Aleksei Saar, Tarmo Talvi, and Artur Vaha, as well as others.
The Estonian partisans (Estonian: Eesti partisanid) waged guerrilla warfare against Nazi rule during the Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany during the World War II. Similar anti-fascist resistance groups fought against Nazi rule in Belarus, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. The Wehrmacht occupied formerly independent Estonia in 1941 after a period of Estonian SSR. As Nazi repression intensified over the following years, hundreds of residents of this country used the heavily-forested countryside as a natural refuge and basis for armed anti-fascist resistance.
Resistance units varied in size and composition, ranging from individually operating guerrillas, armed primarily for self-defence, to larger and well-organised groups able to engage significant Nazi forces in battle. On July 5, 1941 Estonia was invaded from the South by the Army Group North. The invasion lasted one day more than five months, ending with the occupation of Osmussaar on December 6, 1941. Besides the Extermination Battalions being hopelessly ill-equipped compared the Wehrmacht, they attempted to defend the borders but only managed to thinly spread the limited resources available. Also, many Estonian soldiers within the Red Army refused to fight, welcoming the Germans as liberators from Soviet oppression.
Abwehr units dressed as partisans burned farms and committed crimes in order to demoralize the civilian population. The occupying forces instituted such burdens on the local peasants that for a few the becoming partisan was the only option for survival. Furthermore, the country experienced a breakdown of law and order, with collaborationist Omakaitse roaming the countryside terrorizing the population. The puppet government of Eesti Omavalitsus (Estonian Self-Administration) found itself unable to control its territory. Amid the relative tyranny that ensued, the Estonian anti-German resistance movement and the Eesti Partisaniliikumise Staap (Staff of Estonian Partisan Movement) moved to organize and unite anti-fascist factions and forces into the resistance.
The guerrilla operations in Estonia had some basis in Stalin's authorisation of a full withdrawal from Estonia in mid-August 1941 — he allowed any soldiers of his Estonian forces, the 22nd Estonian Territorial Rifle Corps (22. Eesti Territoriaalne Laskurkorpus; future 8th Estonian Rifle Corps), who wished to stay and defend their homes to do so — some Estonian soldiers, and a few Jews and Russians, evaded capture and fought as partisans in the countryside for years during the war. Others, such as Nikolai Karotamm and Paul Stamm evacuated to the Soviet Union and participated in Soviet intelligence operations in aid of the partisans. Rudolf Lumi, in his 1963 book Rahvatasujad rejected far right propaganda that had painted the Estonian resistance as having been orchestrated only by the Communist Party of Estonia and Soviet officials and noted that the partisans counted among their ranks anti-stalinists and former Forest Brothers.
The ranks of the resistance swelled with the occupation authorities' attempts at conscription to the Organisation Todt, Estonian Legion, Luftwaffe auxiliary service, or 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) in Estonia during the war, with fewer than half the registered conscripts reporting in some districts. The widespread harassment of disappearing conscripts' families pushed more people to evade authorities in the forests. Many enlisted men deserted, taking their weapons with them.
By 1942 the Estonian partisans were provided with supplies, liaison officers and logistical coordination by the Soviet (People's Commissariat for State Security) secret intelligence service. This support played a key role in directing the Estonian anti-German resistance movement, however it diminished significantly after the betrayal by Karl Säre who forwarded information to the Nazis, enabling the Sicherheitspolizei und des SD to identify, and eliminate many Estonian partisan units and cut others off from any further contact with Western intelligence operatives. The conflict between the Nazi armed forces and the Estonian partisans lasted during the occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany and cost many lives. In Estonia at least 7,000 partisans participated in fighting during 1941-1944.
Estonian partisans were most active in Virumaa and border areas between Pärnumaa and Petserimaa. During period November 1941 - November 1947 they killed over 3,500 Hitlerites and their supporters including 47 higher officers, and 2 Generals. The Estonian partisans destroyed completely 10 garrisons, 11 military trains, 34 bridges, 12 military objects, 13 warehouses, 6 airplanes, 9 tanks and armored cars, and 195 cars. Only Leo Mäting's partisan squad during 130 days destroyed ca 400 Hitlerites and 4 military trains.
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