Talinn, Estonia – The Estonian government has given Harald Nugiseks, a decorated Nazi veteran who prominently fought against the Soviets during WWII, full burial with honors Friday, January 10.
Nugiseks, the last remaining Estonian who was given the Nazi Germany’s Knight’s Cross which was the Third Reich’s highest tribute for bravery in the battlefield, died last January 2 at the age of 93.
He was buried at the Estonian Soldiers Memorial Church in the city of Tori, Estonia; his interment attended by the commander of the Estonian Defense League Brigadier General Meelis Kiili along with retired high-ranking officials of the military as well as local bureaucrats.
Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu had communicated his condolences to Nugiseks’ family earlier stating that:
“[Nugiseks] was a legendary Estonian soldier whose tragedy was that he could not fight for Estonian freedom in an Estonian uniform.”
Nugiseks joined the German troops during WWII as a volunteer in 1941; later on he served as a soldier in the Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian). He is one of the four Estonians to receive the Nazi Germany’s Knight’s Cross.
When his division surrendered in 1945, he became a prisoner of war sent to a labor camp in Siberia. He returned to his home country in 1958.
When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, Nugiseks was given the honorary rank of a captain by the Defense Forces.
The Estonian government’s move to grant Nugiseks’, a Nazi veteran, a full burial irked Russia as the latter frequently disapproves of the former’s glorification of Nazism. Estonia commemorates former SS-Waffen soldiers in parades done annually and even allows Nazi veterans’ reunions which Russia frowns upon.
Even the country’s history of collaboration with Nazi Germany during WWII is a subject of disgust to Russia though many in the Baltic nation see it as fundamental to carry out the nation’s independence.