Alfons Rebane - the man who breathed with Estonia

Rebane (means fox in Estonian) and his fox cubs. These words were spread all over Estonia in 1944. Messages about Alfons Rebane and his fellow soldiers left behind legends, which don't seem to die even nowadays. Probably Rebane's and his fellows fame was even more increased due to the fact that for some time he was considered to be the most hated Estonian, he was strongly called a Nazi, a Fascist, a bandit, the leader of murderers… a man who earned the Knight's Cross for himself, but wooden crosses for others.

Time has passed and Alfons Rebane has been dead for more than three decades by now. Even now, when Estonia should be an independent country by its name, Rebane and his fellows are sometimes sincerely respected, but other times still accused. The Colonel's 100th birthday was not allowed to be celebrated with loud voice in the summer of last year, the army and the National Defence League were not allowed to take part of his birthday party. On the war history day dedicated to Colonel Rebane in Valga, a memorial plate to Colonel Rebane was not allowed to be put on the outside wall of the National Defence League's building, but it had to be taken inside the house. The reason was that Estonia wants to do business with the Eastern neighbor and this could ruin the relations. Isn't it funny? Did he or his men recover Estonia's freedom because of profit or self-interest??? The answer is short – no! The author of this text has been several times engaged in discussions with Estonian legionnaires and one question constantly comes up: "Was it this kind of country that they were fighting for, where all things have double standards and principles is only an empty word?" The answer is again short – no! But these men don't have any regrets for fighting for this small nation, who has been on this land for centuries under the power of different winds. They fought for justice! The youth that hadn't yet seen life, went and believed in the people, in the forests and in the tiny houses, which were left behind them. They went to revenge for the injustice that the years of Soviet terror had caused. They went so that there wouldn't be any more tears in this land.

However, some things are unshakable – Rebane was the most famous and legendary Estonian soldier in the Second World War, who has become the image of soldier's bravery. The author of this text has managed to read tens, hundreds of pages where Rebane is praised, slandered or there have even been neutral texts. The author has also had discussions with the men from the Second War of Independence, the so-called fox cubs, the experts of this war and even with those, who went through it as civilians, and can be sure: what has been said or written about him as a strategist and soldier surpasses whoever in the history. It can surely be said that this man lived for Estonia and battled for it.

Surely there were men in the Estonian Shooters Corps, mostly those who had been violently deported there, who believed that there is a chance to restore the independent Republic of Estonia. But the Estonian Legion worked in order to protect its home and nation, the majority of the Estonians have never doubted in these men's freedom fight. The legionnaires themselves have also not doubted in it. The history has shown that those who battled for independent Estonia and wore German uniforms were right. And they were able to do that only in the Estonian Legion, because this battle had the support of the Estonian people and our intellectual elite, led by the Prime Minister who also fulfilled the President's duties, Jüri Uluots. The support which our modern authorities want to keep secret, make it inexistent, if possible.

Being away for a long time gives us a new, more understanding and explanatory view who and why the people where the way they were. The history cannot be explained in any other way than through people so who was this legendary Alfons Rebane – the SS-Sturmbannführer, then Major, Colonel and SS-Standartenführer? The man who received the III Reich highest award – the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross – as the first Estonian, and he was the only Estonian, but the second foreigner since Walloon Léon Degrelle, to received the Oak Leaves.

Not much is known of Alfons Rebane's personal life, so this gives an opportunity to make up rumors. And the background of the propaganda written about him during the Soviet time has not yet been cleared either. The men who battled with him in the Second War of Independence have not been acknowledged as freedom fighters on state level.

The author of this text wishes that these lines would be a modest memorial of those Estonian soldiers who battled in the Second War of Independence for their beloved homeland. First and foremost to Alfons Rebane's fellows in the forest brothers' war, in the Eastern Battalions, on the Estonian Legion's Narva front and near Emajõgi river in 1944, and at the end of the war in the lines of the reborn Estonian 20th SS Division in Upper Silesia, where Rebane became the Deputy Division Commander for a short period of time after Franz Augsberger's death.

These lines are the story of the destiny of a person who was doing his job and had rough inner battles. A man, who according to Valdus Jürissaare, battled in between the two fronts with the wish to establish his own path. The men in the Estonian Shooters' Corps did not have a chance for their own path. Every kind of initiative was a crime there and could have been punished with death. But on the side where Rebane was, the people who thought differently were accepted. The Russians thought that Estonia was Russia, Germans said that independence is possible, but it depends on the Estonians' contribution in the Eastern battle. Many of Rebane's inner battles were built on that and they were ended in the early morning of March 8, 1976 in Augsburg hospital.

Rebane was undeniably charismatic, a leader born from God, who was respected. A man who had access to many things, which would have been publicly judged if some other would have had this kind of opportunities. A man who closed his eyes on those occasions when a Lammio-like officer Väinö Linna from The Unknown Soldier could have screamed to death, but he only smiled. But still everybody knew – his orders were meant to be fulfilled.

This has been the writing of one soldier's road. A person's path of destiny, who battled against the regime which was strange to him and in these battles he had to go through several losses, one worse than the other. The victory of his battle came when he had been in the soil of Augsburg West Cemetary for 16 years – in 1992 in Estonia. He was the winner, who constantly lost. Every loss was something in the name of changing it into victory in the future. That's why respecting him is sacred. Of course we would have liked to have a win without losses, but this did not and will not happen.