September 19: Rebirth of the Estonian Jewish Community
Israeli President Moishe Katsav dedicated the cornerstone for the new Tallinn synagogue in Estonia on this date in 2005 — the first synagogue established since the Nazis had declared the Estonia to be Judenrein, free of Jews, in 1942. The small Estonian Jewish community had been established in 1865, when Tsar Alexander II permitted Jewish residence there, and numbered about four thousand at the start of the Holocaust. A majority fled to the USSR when the Nazis invaded the country in 1941 (some 400 of these Estonian Jews ended up in Soviet labor camps). All but twelve of the thousand or so who remained behind were killed. An additional ten thousand Jews from other lands were killed in twenty-two concentration camps established in Estonia, including some fifteen hundred who were shot between September 19 and 22, 1944 in the forest near the Klooga camp as the Nazis sought to cover up their crimes before fleeing the advancing Soviet army. President Katsav placed a wreath at the site of the Klooga slaughter in a ceremony attended by Estonian President Arnold Ruutel and forty students from the Tallinn Jewish school. The country today has about three thousand Jews.
“Estonians greeted the Germans as liberators, and in return the Germans regarded Estonians as racially superior not onyi to the Jews but to the other Baltic peoples. Estonians from the Self-Defense Commando killed all 963 Estonian Jews who could be found, at German orders. . . . [and] about five thousand non-Jewish Estonians were killed for their ostensible collaboration with the Soviet regime.” —Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands