In the Red Army Officer's Uniform

In the summer of 1940 the Estonian units were practically destroyed. An Estonian territorial corps was made of the remains and it operated under the Soviet Union's armed forces. The 3rd Single Infantry Battalion in Valga, where Maitla served, was sent to the 171st Infantry Regiment formed in Petseri County. Paul Maitla continued his service there as a group leader. Maitla wrote about the spring of 1941 that the direct war pressure was felt in the air: "Russian political leader told every day about the great friendship with Germany but all this time they were waiting for the moment to attack it and save the working people."

That's what Maitla thought at a time when nobody had a clue of the Soviet Union's giant arsenal of weapons nor the operation Groza which had been prepared secretly and was keenly kept hidden after the war. This was a plan that would have put a stop to Europe as we know it and who can say now that it would have stopped only the capitalists of Europe? Maitla continues his discussion: if Germany battles in the West, it needs to organize a landing operation over the canal in order to win. This would have meant that a large number of German units would have been busy in the West. And the unprotected Eastern border would have been exactly what the communist Russia was waiting in order to attack Germany from behind. To avoid this kind of attack, Maitla continues, Russia should be made harmless. There was no other way. But does Germany have the courage to do so, he asks, because the modern Russian army was no Czar-time army, it was much stronger. This were the thoughts inside the Estonian officers' heads, as claimed by Maitla, who served in the Red Army. It was a time of hesitation, doubts, fear and expectations. Maitla said about his best friend Evald Aavastik that he too had been certain of the German-Russian war. Arno Rebenetski was also certain. Many people were.

The days at the Värska Southern Camp passed in silence. But it was a seeming silence, filled with increasing pressure and the approaching storm. There were rumors that the Russians' were gathering large units to the Western border. At the same time Paul found out that a large number of Estonian senior officers had been deported to Russia. As he was writing his journal, he wasn't aware of the fact that while he was in Petseri for a tactial training, the elite of Estonian officers was gathered into the National Defence League's former building in Petseri and they were called one by one into an office where Junior Colonel Mikhailovski was waiting with his assistants. The officers' were ordered to raise their hands, their guns and card pockets were taken away. Then they were taken through a side door to the hall and were demanded to get on their knees in front of the stage. The tribunal of the NKVD members was there. The officers' money was taken away and the buttons were cut off from their pants. The men's golden rims of the glasses were taken, as well as their watches. The only thing they didn't take were the golden-silver teeth crowns. Then the Estonian officers were announced to be the counter-revolutionaries who had been kicked out of the Red Army and now had to face what the Polish officers faced in Katõn. Only the beginning of the war changed it into a death in Norilsk.

Paul, who didn't know all this then and never found out about it, felt some kind of fear – something similar could happen to them too. "We waited," says the journal, "For our final hour." This arrest, however, didn't happen. But the men's mood in the camp became more sombre each day. The trains with arrested Estonians left the Petseri railway station. They knew that. "The war hasn't still begun. The mood of several officers, who were optimistic before, was now dropping."