Estonia

1 Recognition of the Genocide

1.1 Recognition, official texts

The Holocaust in Estonia refers to the Nazi crimes during the occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany. Roma people of Estonia were also murdered and enslaved by the Nazi occupiers and their collaborators. Estonia treats equally all victims of genocides and crimes against Humanity which took place on the territory of Estonia during the period of occupation, i.e. starting from 16th June 1940 to 20th August 1991 and including the period of World War II. Since 27th January 2003 Estonia officially commemorates the Holocaust Remembrance Day, on 27th January, when official statements are made by different governmental parties and one of the speeches is given by a governmental representative, in which the fate of the Roma related to the Holocaust in Estonia is always mentioned.

1.2 Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)

Estimates of Estonian Roma victims vary around 1000 Estonian Roma. Yet some estimate that during the Second World War were killed or went missing in the territory of Estonia over 2000 Roma.

According to the 1934 Estonian census, there were 766 Gypsies in Estonia. Some estimate 900 on the eve of World War II (60 Laiuse, 800 "Latvian," and 10 "Russian" families). In the Holocaust literature the number usually is rounded up to 1,000. In June 1941 the number of Gypsies who were sedentary amounted to 743. Shortly after their occupation of the Baltic countries the German authorities conducted a census to calculate human losses during the preceding year of Soviet rule; not surprisingly, however, the census-takers were prohibited from counting Jews and Gypsies. For that reason the German civil authorities never knew the precise number of Gypsies in Estonia. Considering that the overwhelming majority of Gypsies in Estonia were sedentary, a good estimate would seem to be 800 to 850.

Researchers of the History Commission appointed by President Meri in 1998 have tried to find additional documents in Estonian archives about the fate of Estonian Roma but have not succeeded. It is known that according to the regulations of German occupying powers in Estonia only the roaming Roma belonged to the category of persons who were rounded up and later executed. So police records from 1943 also mention the Roma as living in the town of Haapsalu. But there could have been the Roma also among the Soviet prisoners of war who were kept in the POW-camps in Estonia. It is also known that a number of adolescent Roma boys were kept in a special facility for young criminals (colony) in Laitse, together with the youngsters of other nationalities. It seems that they survived the war and at least some of them were among the people who were compensated for their sufferings by the German Foundation “Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft” at the beginning of this century. After the war the Estonian Roma became a subject of research interest of two prominent professors of the then only Estonian university, the University of Tartu. Professor Paul Ariste researched the language of Estonian Roma and was known for it among his students. Professor Sulev Vahtre, who was born in the parish of Laiuse, the biggest centre of Estonian Roma in the 1920–1940s, was interested in the history of the Roma community in Estonia. During a quarter of the century of his lectures on Estonian history he considered also the history of Estonian Roma. Therefore, despite the small number of Estonian Roma the Estonian intellectuals have always paid positive attention to their presence here.

Few witnesses pointed out Heinrich Bergmann as the key figure behind the extermination of Estonian Roma people. Units of the Eesti Omakaitse (Estonian Home Guard; approximately 1000 to 1200 men) were directly involved in criminal acts, taking part in the round-up of 200 Roma people and 950 Jews.

On September 5, 1942, Estonian policemen murdered over 1 000 Jewish children, women and men from the Theresienstadt ghetto in the Kalevi-Liiva dunes on the Baltic coast. Further transports followed, carrying Jews from cities like Frankurt and Berlin. In total, up to 6,000 Jews from the German Reich and Poland as well as 110 Estonian Roma perished on the site in 1942/43.

The murder site on the beach of Kalevi-Liiva was only rediscovered in 1961 in the course of a war crimes trial. As a result, the Soviet authorities set up a first memorial to the victims of the murders in 1964/65. There is a memorial stone to the murdered "Gypsies" depicting a wheel (the symbol of the Roma) and an inscription in Romany and Estonian. Each year, commemorative ceremonies are held on September 5, the anniversary of the first shootings at Kalevi-Liiva in 1942.

243 Estonian Romani people were executed in the Harku concentration camp on 27 October 1942.

There have been 7 known ethnic Estonians (Ralf Gerrets, Ain-Ervin Mere, Jaan Viik, Juhan Jüriste, Karl Linnas,Aleksander Laak and Ervin Viks) who have faced trials for crimes against humanity committed during the Nazi occupation in Estonia. The accused were charged with murdering up to 5000 German and Czechoslovakian Jews and Romani people near the Kalevi-Liiva concentration camp in 1942–1943.

1.3 Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue

In 1998 President Lennart Meri convened the IKUES (Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against Humanity). The investigation of crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the Republic of Estonia was established as the main objective of the Commission’s work. The Commission decided to investigate crimes in three periods: the first Soviet occupation of 1941–1944, the German occupation 1941–1944 and the second Soviet occupation starting from 1944. The report about the first and the second period was published as a book in 2006. The Commission concluded that the killing of Estonian Jews and Estonian Roma during the German occupation met the definition criteria of genocide as set out in Article 6 of the Rome Statute; the killings of Estonian Jews and Estonian Roma were “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial or religious group”.

Estonian International Commission for the investigation of Crimes against Humanity (IKUES):
Tönismäggi 16
EE-10119 Tallinn
Telephone: +372 6938525
E-mail: info@historycommission.ee

In February 2008, the Memory Institute was established under the leadership of President Toomas Hendrik in order to thoroughly examine the events that took place in Estonia during the second half of the 20th century. The Memory Institute is a continuation of the Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against Humanity created earlier. The goal of the Memory Institute is to examine the systematic violations of human rights in Estonia, and in regard to the citizens of the Republic of Estonia, in 1944-1991.

The Head of State stressed that the research of the Memory Institute is necessary in order to get over the past without hate and prejudice and to cope with the present. The most important step for the Memory Institute to take is to create an international commission to direct the research, come to the necessary conclusions, and if necessary, provide assessments.

1.4 Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)

The first memorial to commemorate the Jews exterminated in Estonia in 1941-1944 was unveiled in 1994 in Klooga, on the territory of a former Nazi concentration camp. A Memorial of the Estonian Roma Holocaust was inaugurated at Kalevi Liiva in May 2007. Each year, commemorative ceremonies are held on September 5, the anniversary of the first shootings at Kalevi-Liiva in 1942.

An exhibition dedicated to the "Victims of the Holocaust at Klooga" has been set up at the former Nazi camp of Klooga, since 2013, by the Estonian History Museum.

2 Teaching about the Genocide of the Roma

2.1 Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum

The Holocaust is part of the Estonian school curriculum, dealt with in connection with the events of WW II. The subject is taught in grades five and nine and, in detail, at the secondary school level, as part of the Estonian and modern history course. In the new national curriculum, there are three mandatory courses at the secondary level for teaching the history of the 20th century, two of which are chronological and one that is ‘problem-centered’ and focused on the history of the world and Estonia in the 20th century.

The new curricula take a broader and deeper view of crimes against humanity as well as cultural identity, integrating them into different subjects (mainly history, human studies, civil studies and psychology) and cross-curricular themes (e.g. cultural identity).

The national curricula do not name any specific victims of crimes against humanity, leaving the more detailed planning to be the teachers’ responsibility. It is expected from teachers to elaborate topics named in national curricula and use diverse methodology and different teaching resources in order to help students achieve the necessary competencies, values, knowledge, skills and other learning aims and to be able to analyse historical events critically from different perspectives. Teaching and learning is expected to reflect the relevant national/ethnical groups in appropriate historical context.

Through all school levels the cross-curricular theme "Cultural identity” is taught with the aim to support students to become aware of: the role of culture in developing one’s thinking and behaviour; the way cultures have changed throughout history; understanding the diversity of cultures; the differences in living practices defined by culture; valuing one’s own culture and cultural diversity; and growing up to be culturally tolerant and cooperative.

2.2 Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks

The topic of the Genocide of the Roma is mentioned in the History textbooks in the context of  World War II and the wartime crimes against Humanity. Some examples:
1. Teachers’ guidebook History is not only the past. The past is not yet history. Eesti Ajalooopetajate Selts, 2004, pp. 96-104 (sources and tasks about crimes against Humanity).
2.    Einar Värä, Tonu Tannberg, Ago Pajur: Textbook for 9th Grade Contemporary History. I Part. As Bit, 2004, p. 60 (Nazi Germany).
3. Andres Adamson, Jüri Ant, Marko Mihkelson, Sulev Valdmaa, Einar Värä: Textbook for 12th Grade. Contemporary History. Argo, 2000, p. 99 (the Holocaust).
4. The History of the Baltic countries. As Bit, 2002, p. 174 (Repression and résistance during the Nazi occupation).

2.3 Training of teachers and education professionals

In order to increase general awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, the Ministry of Education and Research has organized international seminars in Estonia. The first seminar that dealt specifically with the Holocaust and tolerance, "How to teach about tolerance", took place in 2004. At the second seminar, which was held in 2005, teachers delivered their ideas on the structure and content of new teaching materials in the framework of the cooperation project of the Estonian History Teachers’ Association and Living History Forum of Sweden. It was co-financed by the Estonian Government and the IHRA. In January 2012 and January 2013, conferences for teachers were held in connection with Holocaust Remembrance Day, organized by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association. Presentations given at the conferences were converted into digital study materials.

2.4 Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions

Estonian schools officially commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th by thinking about different crimes against humanity.

2.5 Remembrance day

No special activities to mark Holocaust memorial days are organised in state schools.

3 Official contacts and resource persons

3.1 Responsible person in the Ministry of Education

Ministry of Education and research
Jürgen Ligi
Munga 18
50088 Tartu

3.2 Resource persons - list of experts and historians

Estonian Institute of Historical Memory
Tõnismägi 16
EE-10119 Tallinn
Telephone: +372 6938525
E-mail: info@mnemosyne.ee

In February 2008, the Memory Institute was established under the leadership of Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia, in order to thoroughly examine the events that took place in Estonia during the second half of the 20th century. The Memory Institute is a continuation of the Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against Humanity, created earlier. The goal of the Memory Institute is to examine the systematic violations of human rights in Estonia, and in regard to the citizens of the Republic of Estonia, in 1944–1991. The Head of State stressed that the research of the Memory Institute is necessary in order to get over the past without hate and prejudice and to cope with the present. The most important step for the Memory Institute to take is to create an international commission to direct the research, come to the necessary conclusions, and if necessary, provide assessments.

 
Pr. Anton Weiss-Wendt
anton.weiss-wendt@hlsenteret.no
HL-senteret, Senter for studier av Holocaust og livssynsminoriteter (The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities)
Villa Grande
Huk Aveny 56
Oslo
0287
Norway
4 Initiatives of the civil society

4.1 Relevant projects having a real impact on the people and/or the wide public

There are organisations which involve the general public in the culture and history of the Roma in Estonia: Northern Estonian Roma Association, Roma Cultural Centre of Tallinn, Western Estonian Roma Association, Southern Estonian Roma Association, Central Estonian Roma Association, Association “Gypsy Music Night Festival”, Narva Society for Roma Culture, Cultural Centre for Roma-Estonian Youth, and umbrella organisations such as the Council for Ethnic Minorities under the Ministry of Culture, Estonian Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages.
In 1999 the Development Centre for Estonian Roma in Pärnu was established for coordinating the activities of three local organisations – Northern Estonian, Central Estonian and Western Estonian organisations.
Activities in the last few decades:
- Conferences in Tallinn in 1992, 1995, 1998
- 2001–2004 – the project DROM EDU Estonia
- 2004 – Estonian Roma Education Committee founded at the MER
- December 2006 – International seminar “Estonian Roma and Education”
- Cross-border information exchange and cooperation with Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Swedish partners
Training project for Estonian Roma organised by the foreign mission of the Finnish Pentecostal Church

5 Point of view of the Roma community - including survivors' testimonies