Estonian Legion's insignia - collar patches

Black Collar Patches

When the Estonian SS Legion was formed the men had to wear black collar patches in Debica from 1942 to 1943 and other places too. At the same time the leaders tried to find a new right-side collar patch for the Estonian men. There were at least 4 different options, but none of these were used.

The hand with a sword collar patch – the handmade versions

After the training camps the Estonian boys wanted to return to the homeland with national collar patches. Estonian men did not particularly like the German versions and decided to do something about that. The collar patch in question is based on the hand with a sword on the Cross of Freedom. The first ones were made out of the signaling rockets' sleeve's aluminum as well as the men could make them.

The SS "lightnings"

Since the order to remove the handmade collar patches came when the men were on the front in Russia and they did not have SS collar patches immediately, they continued to wear the handmade ones. This means they did not wear the SS collar patches at the beginning. But later the men did not have much choice. The only ones who wore the SS collar patches since the beginning were the men from Battalion Narva.

The hand with a sword collar patch – Tartu's version (the sword is connected with the lower part of the punched "E")

After successful battles with the Red Army and being aware of the "problem of collar patches" the city of Tartu decided to make the collar patch symbols to Estonians in the factory of the surgical tools. The symbols were made with a machine and completed by hand. When Riipalu passed Tartu with his 45th Regiment (after the battle of Mehikoorma and Meerpalu in February 1944) a small ceremony was organized and Tartu's mayor Paul Keerdoja presented the collar patch symbols. The men of course had to attach these symbols on their collar patches themselves, therefore there can be some photos where the symbols are placed differently on the collar patches. Paul Vent later gave an order to make more of these symbols to his whole unit. 

Collar patch with "E" sword – the first official German version

In summer 1944 the Germans were very strict and demanded that the official German version would be used and it had to be manufactured officially. Since they were aware that the Estonians prefer their national features, the official version was not changed much, although the hand was removed and the sword was placed on top of the "E". Estonians were of course shocked that now their beloved unofficial collar patches would be changed with the horrible official ones. This issue was discussed by Riipalu, who now was the regiment leader, and other officers and through Augsberger the letter reached Himmler. After hearing Riipalu's explanation, Himmler gave his permission to use the initial symbol of the hand with a sword on the collar patches. Thus an order was given to produce similar collar patches to the handmade ones. In the mean time many men wore the first official German collar patch. But it is unlikely that Riipalu and his men removed the meaningful Tartu's symbol from their uniforms.

The hand with a sword collar patch – the second official German version

A new collar patch was designed based on Riipalu's advice and this was the most popular version among the Estonians. Some men took advantage of the complicated war situation and kept the handmade collar patches. The second version was given to the division's men from October 1944 until January 1945 after reorganizing in Neuhammer.