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5.0 out of 5 stars A dark period in the history of the Baltics, 18 Feb. 2006
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Whilst an avid reader of WW2 East Front books, I bought this book more to read up prior to going on a touring holiday in Estonia.
This is one of the first books I have seen on the period immediately at the end of WW2 as the Russians are moving in to Estonia (for the 3rd time)and the aftermath of this where fighting continued into the early 1950s as the Estonian freedom fighters in the woods hoped that the west would eventually square up to the Soviet threat and start a third war. The Estonian's had a good idea of what they could expect when the Red Army came back and so started to prepare well before the German withdrawal and maybe gives an indication of why the Estonians and Latvians were not so averse to joining the German army (albeit many were latterly conscripted into the German army). Fighters comprised both ex-German army and ex-Red Army Estonian men, using ex-German army equipment and captured Red Army equipment. Usually operating in isolated bands they did considerable damage to the Soviet's attempts to incorporate Estonia into the Soviet Union (robbing convoys and shooting soviet officials who treated locals harshly), as well as trying to halt the forced deportations of Estonians to the Soviet Gulags. The Soviets were forced to commit considerable resources to controlling this, but their usual attempts to get local informers made very slow progress and hampered their attempts to eliminate the 'bandits' who hid in underground bunkers in the vast woods supplied by local people. The wearyiness of waiting and the vigorous attempts of the Soviet and local militias eventually eliminated the active fighters and I recollect the last 'bandit was killed in the late 1950s. These were no nazi sympathisers (I believe the Bishop of Canterbury made such an uncharitable reference in the late 1940s), but people who had a taste of soviet repression courtesy of the Molotov/Ribbontrop pact in 1940 and had no intention of taking it again. A very interesting book with lots of anecdotal stories. A small insight into this relatively unknown period and I believe representative of similar struggles throughtout soviet occupied Europe - I recollect it talks of an estimated 250,000 people living in the woods in Eastern Europe immediately after the war and not just because they were refugees. The Baltics have plenty of memorials today to the people who died and were deported to the Gulags
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War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944-1956
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