Estonia: Nazi safe haven

Sixty-five years after many fascist leaders were sentenced to execution or prison, Estonia is in the spotlight for neo-Nazi activity acting as a shelter for several convicted war criminals.

­With SS marches regularly held throughout the state, many fear the country is increasingly embracing one of history’s darkest chapters.

One of the marchers – Mikhail Gorshkov – is ranked eighth on Simon Weisenthal’s list of most wanted Nazi war criminals.

“He directly participated in a murder of 3,000 Jews in Belarus in 1940s. Documents proving it were provided to the Estonian authorities,” says the chairman of anti-fascist committee of Estonia, Andrey Zarenkov.

Estonia’s anti-fascist committee says the proof of Gorshkov’s atrocities in a Belarusian concentration camp is solid and undoubted. But instead of seeing off his days from behind bars, he now lives the life of a free man in this Baltic state.

“Gorshkov was deported from the US and stripped of US citizenship. That says a lot, doesn’t it? Tallinn gave him shelter and tried to hide him here, but then under international pressure the authorities had to initiate an investigation,” Zarenkov reveals.

However, the probe yielded no results. After months of investigation, Estonian authorities closed the case.

The advisor of the Office of Estonian Prosecutor General Carol Merzin said that “A well-grounded doubt remains that the Gorshkov mentioned in the materials is not the Mikhail Gorshkov who is at present a citizen of the Republic of Estonia. The case will be closed, as it has been impossible for the investigative team to to find any additional evidence.”

The decision raised eyebrows in Israel – at first. But then Simon Wiesenthal’s center recalled which country they were dealing with.

“I called Washington, spoke the people who handled his prosecution case whether they had any doubt about [Mikhail Gorshkov’s] identity. And they said no, none whatsoever,” insists Efraim Zurov from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “This doesn’t surprise me personally, because for the last 15 years I’ve been dealing with the Estonians. The Estonians have totally failed in terms of prosecuting Nazi war criminals. It seems there’s no will in Tallinn to bring these people to justice.”

And the Gorshkov story is not a one-off case. From sanctioning SS veterans’ marches to glorifying former Nazi collaborators – this has been Tallinn’s policy for the past decade.

Recently, one man made just about every headline in Estonia. Almost on a scale of a national holiday, in October the country marked the 90th birthday of Harald Nugiseks, the only remaining holder of the Iron Cross, one of the highest awards in Nazi Germany.

The Nuremberg Tribunal sentenced the Nazi leadership to either executions or prison terms 65 years ago. This trial of history was meant to get rid of Nazism for good. But the SS marches in Baltic states, and other cases of rehabilitation of fascism nowadays, suggest that history lessons have not been fully learned.