Before Going Under Oppeln

After Estonia was conquered in September 1944 the leaders in Riga decided that all Estonian 20th SS Division soldiers will be gathered in Upper Silesia. All Estonians, despite their unit or if they ever were in a unit, were sent there. The land was full of Estonian men who had reached Germany through different ways. They even issued their own newspapers. One of these was "Varemeist tõuseb kättemaks" (translation: Revenge Will Rise from the Ruins). Its first 24 copies were issued in Estonia, the other 16 in Germany. The editor-in-chief was Karl Gailit. The fresh Knight's Cross Cavalier Paul Maitla gave an interview to this newspaper after leaving the hospital on December 17, which was entitled: A Man Should Always Fulfill Man's Duties. This interview took place in Berlin, in the café Hillbrich on Kurfürstendamm, which was one of the meeting places of the Estonians. Thanks to this interview we can get a quite realistic image of Maitla at that time.

"Café Hillbrich," stays in the article, "Is buzzing like a beehive. People have come here to meet close friends and acquaintances. Even those who barely knew each other, nod to one another here like they are old friends. There are much more to say than the time allows. We can see men with different units' symbols but the largest number of men are from the Estonian Legion…" Then the interviewers eye catches an unexpected visitor, young fficer Captain Paul Maitla who recently received the Knight's Cross. Maitla was full of optimism, which is in accordance with the newspapers' title: revenge will rise from the ruins and for this a man has to do what a man has to do. To pay back for all the killed fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, women and children, for their sufferings and pain. For the houses, which have been destroyed, for the land, which has been crushed under the Russian soldiers' boots.

In this interview Maitla said that he had been recovering well after being wounded. "My health is fine, the hand moves without any problems," said Maitla and showed that the shoulder, which was shot during the last days of August in Kambja, was well and moving. But his desire was to go back where the battles were happening. He said about his family that in the mess of the retreats his wife probably didn't find a chance to escape. She could have been waiting for some help from comrades, which she didn't get. Now his wife was probably in the hands of bolshevists. We find out that there were other soldiers in Maitla's table. They all greeted the recovered officer. All wanted to ask the same question: when will the Knight's Cross Cavalier return to the division? "I'm hoping to spend Christmas with my men," answered Maitla. He specified that he will most likely return to his men around the 20th. He advised the men to use the time in between to look for their loved ones. Even he still had hope – perhaps his wife made it after all.

That is how Maitla used his time. In the newspapers, which then contained hundreds of search ads, he asked for people to give some information about his wife. One search ad can be found from "Eesti Sõna" (Estonian Word; issued in Germany) from December 16, 1944 and it says: "I ask for information about my wife Aino Maitla (born Angerjas), especially about her fate after September 18. I am grateful for every message. Paul Maitla. FP no 56475 A." The same ad was in "Eesti Sõna" on December 20. This type of search ads were probably in the newspapers' column "Looking For Loved Ones" before and after. Finally Maitla heard about the birth of his daughter Kai from the people who came from Estonia. Again joy and despair were right next to each other. This was the time when the whole Estonia, including the long-resisting Sõrve Peninsula, was taken over by the enemy. The Soviet Union's army, led by Georgi Zukov, a leader who was merciless to his men, prepared to attack Germany, which already was in death cramps.