From Heidelager to Bad Tölz

Paul soon reached Debica with his men where the wagons were being loaded for the last phase to Kochanowka station. The Estonian Legion's training camp was said to be there. In the famous Heidelager, which has remained in the memories of thousands Estonian soldiers. There they were born as soldiers. Friendships were made, which lasted forever. In connection with this camp, Maitla got a connection which changed a lot in his life and was more than meaningful. But we will talk about this later. No one was waiting for them in the camp. What was Heidelager like? The author of this text has heard several descriptions from tens of Estonian soldiers. The camp was praised and criticized, good and bad things were said about it. Like always, there are several stories about the bad behavior of the Germans, the kindness of beautiful Polish women and moonshine, which they got from the villages. It was a former Polish military camp, which was now used by the Germans to train their soldiers. The camp was never really finished. It was divided into three 800-meters long circles and each one had to accommodate one regiment. The Germans built the fourth circle.

The commander's headquarters was in the main building, around it were several workshops, storage rooms, the water system place, electric power station, a laundry house… Somewhere were the homes of the soldiers, a library and a reading table. The fourth circle even had a theatre. In the depths of the pine forest was a café with a tempting name, "Waldlust", where Estonian soldiers sometimes beat the Germans and sometimes were beaten by Germans. Some even claimed it was like a brothel, the "fun from the forest" was included.

Maitla went to see the camp commandant probably on the second day he was in the camp. The latter didn't have any instructions as to what to do with Estonians. And the Germans do nothing without instructions. Thus Maitla organized his men's life according to how he thought it to be the best during the first few weeks. It was an Estonian unit. He formed two companies and appointed Pirg and Kompus to be the leaders. The headquarters also contained an official from the Bank of Estonia, Mölder, who was later killed in Sinimäed Hills, and the student from Tartu University, Mandre. The duties of an adjutant were performed by E. Silm. The first ten days went by under Maitla's command. The whole training took place according to Estonian army regulations. But this, a pure Estonian unit, the real Estonian Legion, existed only those ten days.

After ten days four graduates, SS Ober cadets, from the Braunscweig military school came with an assignment to form and train the Estonian Legion. Changes took place. The Estonian military order and manners were replaced with German ones. According to one story Maitla had then lied on his bed and demanded that the Estonian Legion training must be according to Estonian army regulations and the Estonian army's ranks must be acknowledged. He was the Republic of Estonia's officer and this had to be an Estonian unit! Considering his independence and stubbornness this might not be untrue. But this demand probably had as little power as the Estonians' fighting against whichever conquering country's traditions and order. In German army this resistance was real, but the army didn't really do anything with the rebels. In an Estonian corps it would have meant getting shot in the head or being sent to Gulag and getting shot there.

Soon new men started to arrive to supplement the first 113. Men came from the gigantic uplands of Sarmatia and from Estonia, soldiers came and officers came. Among these men were Hando Ruus and Oskar Ruut who later became famous in the battles. Some officers, about 80, were sent to an additional course in Bad Tölz. Paul Maitla was one of them. Bad Tölz is situated about twenty kilometers south of Munich in a very beautiful place. The equipment and teaching measures in this school were of first class. They had their own swimming pool (25 meters times 15 meters) and a gymnastics and fencing hall. Special rooms for boxing and a bowling-alley, not to mention the rifle-ranges. The leader of the school was a Knight's Cross recipient Colonel Fritz Klingenberg (on the photo), a young man with good manners. In addition to the school's full-time instructors, there were many guest instructors.

Valdek Raiend was in the same class in Bad Tölz as Paul Maitla. One of their teachers during the training course was Obercadet Ervin Raudsepp. He was a Germanized Estonian (father Estonian, mother German), who was hostile towards Estonians, especially those who spoke bad German. Maitla very likely wasn't favored by him. During the training the men wore similar uniforms without any rank or unit signs in the school. They were simply cadets. But when they went to the city – to Bad Tölz or Munich – they wore the uniforms with officers' shoulder straps. "It was interesting," wrote Raiend, "To observe the German junior officers, who ‘bullied' us in school, but in the city had to salute us. They of course didn't like it and stayed away from us in the city."

In the class where Maitla and Raiend were, there was a large number of graduates from the Republic of Estonia military school. They were mostly officers but some were reserve officers too. Raiend remembers Captain N. Triik, Lieutenant Väino Pärtel, August Kompus, Elmar Maidre, Paul Tohver and Ants Angerjas. Paul developed especially good relations with Ants Angerjas. They went to the city together, spoke about the war, homeland and loved ones. Angerjas showed Paul the photos of his loved ones, on one photo was his sister Aino who was then 22 years old. There are moments that change your life without you noticing it. These moments happen quietly and gather strength day after day until they occupy your mind and make you forget the rest. One of these moments happened with Paul Maitla in the officers' school in Bad Tölz when he saw the photo of Ants Angerjas sister, a charming young lady. The other woman in his life, Endla, whom we met during the lunch at the Blac Cat, began to fade away from Paul's mind. Paul got the address of Angerjas' sister. They started to exchange letters, which for the soldiers replaced something each young person needs – love. And this need probably was inside both of these young people. But days, weeks and months passed in Bad Tölz. The men watched movies every Friday night in the big hall. First propaganda movies, then the overview of the week and finally some motion picture.

Back In Heidelager. The Legion Becomes a Brigade

When the cadets' school in Bad Tölz was graduated, Paul Maitla returned to Heidelager with his course mates. This happened, as Raiend recalls, on April 6 or 7, 1943. What had happened to the men in the camp in the mean time was mildly put unexpected. It caused anger in many. A few days before the men arrived from Bad Tölz the Battalion Narwa from the Estonian Legion had been taken away and given to the Panzer Division Wiking in Ukraine. This had happened despite the fact that the Estonians were promised that their men will only be used in Estonia to prevent the Russians to cross the border. The men were seriously upset and the Germans heard about it. One day the Estonians' leader, Austrian Franz Augsberger, gathered all officers and tried to convince them: the battalion will be brought back. Augsberger promised to do all he can to bring it back. Anyone hardly believed in the battalion's return and it is likely that Augsberger didn't really believe it either. War is war and everyone has to play by its rules.