Introduction

By the beginning of 1944 the Red Army's Military Board had gathered 1,2 million soldiers to the Leningrad front and Oranienbaum bridgehead and thus outnumbered the Army Group Nord. Thanks to the help of the US, the Russians had better weapons of all kinds. On January 14, 1944 the breakout of the Leningrad pocket began, at the same time the attack began in several other parts of the front. German defence collapsed quite fast and a chaotic retreat towards Estonia began. The threat of death had once again rose above Estonia. Keeping this in mind, the leader of the Estonian Self-Defence, Doctor Hjalmar Mäe, announced the overall mobilization on January 31. Doctor Mäe's proclamation was published in newspaper Eesti Sõna on February 1:

People of Estonia!

A very serious moment has arrived in the destiny of our homeland. The enemy has once again come near our homeland's border. It is clear that if the bolshevists return to Estonia, it would mean death to every Estonian. Our duty is to step out as one man with the cold blood and courage common to Estonians and fight together with the German army for our homeland and people. Each Estonian should be a soldier for his homeland, whether on the front or in the rear while performing his tasks.

Considering the seriousness of the situation, I announced today the overall mobilization of the Estonian people to protect the land. All men born between 1904 and 1923 are called to military service, the older generations will be formed into regiments, the younger men will be sent to military training. The training will take place in Estonia. All men, except the mobilized, from the age 17 to 60 are obliged to enter defence service in the Estonian Self-Defence.

People of Estonia! A serious moment needs serious men and women. Let us all prove that the main virtues of each Estonian are balance and hard-headed execution of one's duties. There are no deserters or those who want to avoid fulfilling their duties among our people!

The Soviet Russia announces that the Estonian people voluntarily joined the Soviet Russia and thus Estonia belongs to Soviet Russia. This is a lie, Estonian people have never joined the Soviet Russia. Let's show in front of the whole world the results of our referendum: each Estonian will show by battling on the front or executing duties on the rear that the Estonian people's will has never been to be a part of the Soviet Union!

It is necessary in order to protect our homeland that all Estonians with outstanding discipline, sense of duty and balance would fulfill the duties and tasks given to them. Farmers, perform your duties quickly and surpass your limits so that our towns and troops would be secured with food. Later all means of transportation will be needed to take weapons, troops and food to the front, the transport of food to towns and units will be difficult then. Workers, fulfill your duties in companies with military importance despite all difficulties. Your efforts to assist the front will have a decisive importance in determining the fate of our homeland. Civil servants, be friends and role models to your compatriots in this rough time!

Serious time needs serious and masculine minds from all. Just like I, in my heart, live only for the people of Estonia and fulfill my national duties, I demand the same from all Estonians. My legal and national duty is to punish those who commit offense against the demands of the Estonian people's destiny, with quick and all war-time loudness. I demand, on the name of Estonian people, that each Estonian would fulfill his duties.

The German army has defended our homeland for two years with its battles. Our duty now is to join the German army with all our national forces and fulfill our battle duties on behalf of our homeland. When we battle together with the German army against the enemy, we will not lose.

By fulfilling the duties for our homeland, we carry our beloved homeland in front of God and pray:

May God watch over You
My beloved homeland!

Tallinn, January 30, 1944
Doctor Mäe
The leader of the Estonian Self-Defence

The Superior SS and Police leader, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln from the General Commissariat Ostland, appointed Inspector General Freiwilligen Oberführer Johannes Soodla to lead the mobilization and carry it out in the Estonian General Commissariat. Thus the mobilized contingent was administratively subjected to the SS, but tactically to Wehrmacht. But since the Waffen-SS didn't have the possibilities to supply the units formed of Estonians with weapons and uniforms, all questions concerning the equipment and training were directed to Wehrmacht because the regular army's storages had old weapons and uniforms.

Despite the opposition of some resistance movements, the mobilization was supported by a number of important culture and society members, not to mention ordinary citizens. Articles and poems to support the mobilization were published by Albert Kivikas, August Gailit, Henrik Visnapuu, Karl August Hindrey, etc. On February 7 the Republic of Estonia's Prime Minister and the person performing the President's duties, Jüri Uluots, turned to the people in Landessender Reval with a radio speech and asked all to support the mobilization. Uluots called the Estonians' battle the freedom fight against the Soviet Union's conquering plans. In addition, Uluots organized a drive through Estonia to explain the importance of the mobilization to people face to face. The Estonian churches also began to support the mobilization.

All this was effective and within a short time about 60,000 men signed up. A number this big caused problems for the Germans. In addition to some German circles not wanting to give weapons too so many Estonians, there were ordinary problems too – Germans simply didn't have so many weapons to give. Almost 27,000 men were given extension – they simply didn't have room for so many. Although the Germans had initially considered to take 15,000 Estonians, at the end 33,000 Estonians received weapons. The structures of the Self-Defence were used to carry out the mobilization. 6 border guard regiments were formed of the mobilized men and a reserve regiment to supplement the first six, 4 police battalions were formed and 4 police-building battalions were formed mostly out of Russians. In March about 12,000 Estonians were sent to the 20th Estonian SS Reserve and Training Centre in Klooga and Paldiski. Although the idea of some Estonians and a few higher German military leaders to form two full-size divisions of the border guard regiments was unfulfilled. The plan could have worked because the Army Group Nord commander-in-chief, Feldmarschall Walter Model, supported it. Unfortunately he was replaced with Georg Lindemann on March 31 and the latter was against the plan and so it was not executed.

Because from 1940 to 1941 the communist occupants had executed a rather persistent destruction of Estonian officers and it was followed by several Soviet and German mobilizations, there were severe difficulties in finding qualified officers to the newly formed units. This way older active and retired officers became the officers of these units. Another source was the Ensigns who had graduated from the Estonian Military School's aspirants course and many of them were civilians – doctors, lawyers, writers, teachers, architects, composers, etc. But despite their professions, the men proved in rough battles that Estonia could be proud of its Military School's education level – the graduates turned out to be exemplary officers.