Disappointment, Dispair, Death

Many units were so torn apart at the end of the war that they were gathered into groups of men with 10 to 20 members. Their plan was to somehow pass the Czech brigades who were all over the distance until the US units. So the Estonians in German uniforms were divided into two: some managed to escape, others didn't. Rebane and Riipalu were lucky, Maitla and Nugiseks on the other hand…

There are many written sources of the Czech hell. It seems that this was the highest level of mocking people at the end of the war. In some way it can be understood, considering what the Germans had done to Czechs during the war. What you do to others, the others will do to you. The measure of punishment had been abolished in Czech, it didn't matter who were punished, tortured or killed. The main thing was that there would be people to humiliate, mock and cause them pain. And the Estonians were one of those people on whom the Czechs could express their anger. The more they got to hurt others, the bigger was the satisfaction of the torturers. And the human brain turned out to be quite inventive when it came to finding new ways to overbid the already invented ways to humiliate and torture.

It wasn't the Czechs cruelty that amazed others. Not even the fact that they used Estonians in German uniforms, but the Asiatic pleasure they felt in torturing others. The human was lost inside the tortured torturer. The feeling of pleasure captured masses. Masses reached the orgy of revenge. We will enlist only a small number of more refined ways of humiliation that the Czechs used with imprisoned Estonians and which have been described by the prisoners. The tortured ones had to dig a grave for themselves, lie in it and then wait for an hour or two for the saving bullet. The victims were beaten slowly and with pleasure until they died. People were suffocated in a room without air. Prisoners were kept in their own filth and dirt. They had to kill their fellow prisoners. It seems as if there couldn't be anything worse to cross the line. There isn't a being more horrifying in this world than the human. Only the right conditions are needed and he will turn into an extremely cruel monster, who was never really a human.

Harald Nugiseks passed Czech with a group of Estonians. The trees were green like always in spring. The sun was shining warmly and the whole nature was ready for a big party – the blossoming of flowers and trees. They moved and moved onwards. And then it happened – on May 7, a day before the war ended, in Hirchberger, about 40 kilometers west of Prague. They had no weapons to show their peacefulness when they were faced with the Czechs, who as appeared, had been political prisoners of the Germans. There were many of them and they all had weapons. Arms up! Resisting them would have been pointless. The first thing that happened was that the raging, angry, and some even drunk, Czechs tore off the Estonians' ranks – decorations and signs. And Harald Nugiseks's Knight's Cross found its place in the mud of Czech roads. Afterwards he has thought that it was a good thing. These political prisoners probably had no clue what this award meant. If they would have known, the wearer of this award would have probably been shot.

And then the literal hell broke loose for Harald Nugiseks. The men were taken to a prisoners' camp in Bunklau from where they were constantly traveling from one camp to another with only short breaks in between. They were tired, tortured and hungry. The favorite thing for the Czechs was killing, men were placed in front of a wall, the machine gun was set ready, a blue-black-white ring was taken from Harald's finger. This piece of jewellery had been with him in all battles. When the Estonians were prepared for their last moments near the wall, the Soviet fighters flew over their heads, firing from machine guns on the aircrafts. It is unknown whether the killers were so blinded by murdering that they couldn't tell the difference between enemy and ally, but the frightened Czechs flee to the forest, leaving all weapons behind. Harald and his men should have only aimed the machine gun towards the escapers and act the same way as the killers had done with them. But no, the Estonians and other men headed to the woods to try to reach the Allied Forces through the murderers. Harald wasn't that lucky, though, because they were captured by the next drunken Czech red ribbon men. Unfortunately all Czech roads and forests were full of these men at that time. They were probably looking for victims there. A road towards a new camp began. These Czechs were a bit smarter – they suddenly knew that the SS men have their blood types written under their arms. Finding this would have meant an instant death. But the smartness was met by another smartness. When the Czechs were looking for the blood types, Nugiseks always raised his right hand. There was nothing because the blood type was written under the left arm. Once again the men were positioned to stand near a wall and wait for death. These men who had to face death hundreds of times, had to kiss their lives good-bye over and over again. The machine gun was aimed towards them. The murderers' smiling eyes were ready to pull the trigger but this time the Estonians did what they had planned before – they all ran towards the forest. It is unclear if it was a shocker for the killers, but the escape was successful. They were hoping to reach their destination this time. But they met another group of red Czechs who handed them over to Russians. Those days were long and full of hope and disappointment.

Nugiseks tried to escape from the Czechs three times. He succeeded but was captured each time. During the third attempt eight Estonian men had only 40 kilometers to go until Elbe river and the US zone but they were captured and the Czechs gave them to Russian camp. It was impossible to escape that place.

***

Nugiseks had lost his freedom, but still survived. The destiny of Paul Maitla was different. Maitla had battled under Oppeln and became the leader of the famous 45th Regiment. On the night of February 24, the Republic's anniversary, he had successfully led his unit through a brilliantly prepared attack against the enemy. The small group of volunteers with 25 men, guns and hand grenades conquered the village of Schedlau near Falkenberg, destroyed the enemy's infantry battalion and only two men were wounded. That's how they celebrated the Republic's anniversary.

On the morning of May 8, which we have mentioned several times already, Maitla started to retreat according to the planned route, which's final destination was reaching the US troops in Pilsen. Since the capitulation had been announced, they decided to give away their guns. After that the real Czech hell began for Maitla with all of its horrors.

There are numerous legends about Maitla's execution, as mentioned by Karl Gailit. Gailit thinks that the most believable was the explanation of Maitla's driver, Arno Mägeri. According to Mägeri, they were taken to Kolin, which is about 50 kilometers from Prague, near one wall for shooting. Mägeri was next to Maitla. Then one Czech officer noticed the blue-black-white sleeve signs and forbade to shoot. They were then taken to a basement, where one German female was. Behind them came those Czechs who wanted to kill the Estonians. They dragged the German woman with them by her hair. The public humiliation began on the streets of Kolin. The prisoners walked along the street with their hands held high and others threw all sorts of things to them, they were spit in the faces. Finally they were taken to some sort of a cell. On the night of May 10 the cell door opened and Maitla and his adjutant were taken away. Later two more officers were taken. None of them returned. Would the Czechs have now enough manliness in them to apologize for what they did to Estonians who didn't show any kind of animosity towards them?