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Plans for Forming the Estonian People’s Army in 1943

The formation of Estonian military units and their struggle in defending Estonia at the outset of 1944 is from time to time presented as Estonia’s “Second War of Independence”. Even though jurists and generally also historians would perhaps not agree with this claim, the mobilisations into the German Army in 1944 had interesting legal aspects as well, in addition to emotional value. For instance, citizenship of the Republic of Estonia prior to the Soviet occupation was the basis for mobilisation. Mobilisations were carried out in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Estonia (if they did not contradict German laws) and seemingly by Estonia’s own institutions under the leadership of Estonian officers.

Additionally, in the latter half of 1943, Estonian military men came up with the idea of using men recruited from Estonia in the future against the Red Army as an “Estonian People’s Army” in order to provide some sort of legal basis for compulsory mobilisation. In this case, the plan drawn up in the Main Administration of the Omakaitse (Home Guard) bearing the date of 27 September is under consideration. In correspondence to the chain of command, this plan was to be submitted to the commander of the Wehrmacht 207th Security Division.

It was proposed to the German military authorities that the Estonian People’s Army would be formed of volunteers, men recruited compulsorily and men called up into the army through general mobilisations. It would be headed by the general staff of the commander in chief, which would have at its disposal three infantry divisions, reserve units and the Omakaitse responsible for securing the rear area. As the only functioning military organisation of Estonians, the Omakaitse would also have served as the formation headquarters for the people’s army. Relations with the Germans would henceforth have been relations as allies under the operative command of the Germans.

The plan was not implemented in this form and the German military command most likely did not consider it particularly seriously. Regardless of the fact that men recruited from eastern territories were used massively on the Eastern Front, they were never trusted completely and nothing good would have been expected from this kind of military alliance. Additional concerns were purely military.

This was not the only plan. Several plans were drawn up in the Main Administration of the Omakaitse, and the demand for the restoration of independence and legal power was more or less clearly presented in all of them. Thus more political rather than military objectives were definitely of greater importance in these plans.