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« Tuna 2 / 2016

From Occupied Estonia to the German Reich: Updates to the Research of the Later Resettlement (Nachumsiedlung) of 1941

Unlike the first resettlement (Umsiedlung) of Baltic Germans that took place in Estonia from the autumn of 1939 to the spring of 1940, the operation known as the Nachumsiedlung (later resettlement) was carried out in early 1941 under the conditions of Soviet occu- pation and in a manner that was concealed from the public. Similarly, research of the Nachumsiedlung has been overshadowed by the first resettlement. This article analyses the course of how the Nachumsiedlung was carried out from its preparation to the reception of the resettlers in Germany, considering what took place on the background of the interests and motivation of Germany and the Soviet Union as well as the bureau- cracy apparat of the German Reich. The objective of this article is thereby to elucidate the problems accom- panying the carrying out of the Nachumsiedlung and the treatment of the people who were being resettled. It turns out that the interest of both Germany and the Soviet Union in carrying out the Nachumsiedlung was lukewarm and that the fact that this operation took place was to a great extent the result of the efforts of Baltic Germans who had connections in the corridors of power. The motivation of the German authorities for initiating the Nachumsiedlung can be explained by the addition of potential human resources and material benefit. The Soviet side quickly granted its consent for carrying out the Nachumsiedlung. The background for this decision, however, remains unclear. The slow pace of the negotiations held for concluding the Na- chumsiedlung agreement and later hitches in carrying out the operation are indicative of the Soviet side’s wish to make the Nachumsiedlung as complicated as possible. Joint commissions composed of represent- atives of the German and Soviet sides were formed for carrying out the Nachumsiedlung. Regular reports submitted  by  the  German  representatives  reflect numerous incidents indicative of the arbitrariness, incompetence and malevolence of Soviet officials. Germany’s actions in preparing and carrying out the Nachumsiedlung were contradictory. In addition to Germans, numerous Estonians and other persons not of German origin were registered as later resettlers with the assistance of officials from the German side. Germans in Germany, however, were not prepared to easily accept non-Germans as full and equal citizens. Later resettlers were divided into two categories in Germany: resettlers and refugees. While persons in the former category were equated with the resettlers from 1939–1940, the refugees were in turn divided up into four groups: 1) ethnic Germans with verified identity, 2) ethnic Germans with indeterminate identity but otherwise “respectable” people, 3) Estonians, Latvi- ans and other nationalities, 4) criminals or politically suspicious persons who were ethnic Germans or of other nationalities. Persons categorised as refugees were placed in refugee camps upon their arrival in Germany, from which persons categorised in the first and second groups were released after initial checks. In principle, people in the third group were supposed to be sent back but it was nevertheless possible for those who expressed their definite wish to remain in Germany to do so. Persons categorised in the fourth group had to be sent to concentration camp. It is known that several Estonians who claimed to be Germans were also numbered among the second group and expressed the wish to return to their homeland after the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union. Returning to the Baltic countries, however, was made complicated in the latter half of 1941 and essen- tially, this was possible only for persons in the service of the occupying power. The leaders of the Estonian Self-Administration of the later period of Germany’s occupation of Estonia – Hjalmar Mäe, Oskar Angelus and Alfred Wendt – had left as later resettlers and returned to Estonia in this way. Later non-German resettlers, however, quite often got stuck in Germany’s bureaucratic machinery, unwelcome in Germany on the one hand, yet without attaining the opportunity to return to their homeland on the other hand.