The Journey to Germany. The Knight's Cross

From Tartu hospital the train took Maitla to Tallinn where on August 27 the ship was supposed to take them to Germany. So this happened 26 days before the Red Army conquered Tallinn. His wife Aino had found out about the train's arrival. She met him at the station. They met. They had hopes but inside they probably feared that this could be the last time they see each other. Thus August 27 was a day full of happiness and misery for two young people, whose marriage had been an unfinished honeymoon. The wounded men were taken to the port and Aino saw the departing ship. Nobody knew if the ship will reach its destination. Aino had the ship ticket that would soon take her to Germany to her husband. This trip had to be organized by Senior Lieutenant Väino Pärtel, Paul's war fellow and General Major Soodla's adjutant. A month and a half later Aino's and Paul's first child was supposed to be born.

Uno Masing, an Estonian living in Blacktown, recalls the journey to Germany as he was one of the wounded men on the ship. "The ship was hit by a storm. One whole day was spent in front of the mine barriers before the permission to move on came. We reached Germany after three days. Probably the ship went to Swinemünde. The wounded men were loaded on three Red Cross trains. The train, in which Maitla and Masing were, went to Austria, near Bodensee and reached its destination on September 2. The wounded men were then divided between three hospitals: Lohou, Feldkirche and Bregenz. All 11 Estonians were taken to Bregenz. There was a reserve hospital, which was situated right in the middle of the convent's park. It was in the convent where Masing and Maitla met. Because Maitla's wound was not that serious, he got to move around freely and often went to Masing's room to talk to him. Since both of them had been near Kambja during their battle time in Taru, they had a lot to discuss. In the hospital Maitla's characteristic feature came out, which had been always with him, even in the most dramatic events – his optimism. He believed and talked about us going home with our units after one month as the liberators."

On what his optimism was based is hard to guess. It lived in him like a dream, which he fantasized to be reality. It must be true that a person who is in deep depression, soon destroys himself. But when one lets optimism take over, he searches for a way out, even if there aren't a lot of options for it. A searcher and finder once again lived in Maitla. And this probably helped him solve several situations, which seemed unsolvable in his past and in his short future. It was in Bregenz convent where Paul Maitla received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Maitla had no idea of the power behind him receiving it. He more likely believed that he could be punished for what he had done to Germans in the Sinimäed Hills. As it had become a tradition, the awarding ceremony was very festive. It was probably the same way in Bregenz. However, we only know that when it became public, the whole hospital was talking about it. Whether it was because of Maitla, is uncertain, but very likely it was because the hospital's staff was very friendly with Estonians. The nurses often brought the men goods from the hospital kitchen, while the other patients had to have the regular hospital food. This of course made some Germans jealous.

In Bregenz Paul often had discussions with the author of the English-Estonian dictionary, Johannes Silvet. Silvet was not a soldier but before Tartu was conquered, he and other Tartu University professors were sent to the front where Silvet was injured and brought to Germany with Maitla. They often had heated arguments. It has been said that Silvet did not share Maitla's optimism but this made the latter protect it even more. Uno Masing recalls one of the many discussions where Paul – probably before leaving the hospital – came to his room fully dressed, wearing the Knight's Cross, sat on his bed and they chatted. It was probably some kind of talk that was inspired by Maitla's optimism. Masing didn't know back then that it was the last time he saw this brave optimistic young officer. And several decades, 48 years to be precise, later, on May 13, 1992, he wrote to Maitla's wife Aino and daughter Kai, whose existence he had no idea of, about these discussions from Blacktown. Maitla's daughter Kai was born in Estonia before the expected time, on September 12, 1944. Through complicated connections – Aino's younger brother Aleksander (born in 1926) was the messenger – Paul finally found out he was a father. It meant that his blood will be carried on if the worst should happen. Aino could not leave Estonia in her situation. Dark times were coming ahead.