After the destruction of the local Jewish community, German authorities brought approximately 12,500 Jews into Estonia during the war. The Jews were from other regions that had fallen under German control. There were a few Jews that were transferred to prisons or labour camps here from Soviet POW camps, where they had been selected from other prisoners and relocated.

In 1942, the German Security Police established Jägala camp near Tallinn. Its staff consisted of Estonians. However, the circumstances of its establishment and the transfer of Jews to Jägala have remained vague. The camp was not meant for putting the detainees to work; it was used for executing them. Estonia was not used as a destruction site of specially brought in Jews neither before nor after this operation[M1] .

In September, 2051 Jews arrived in two echelons from the Terezin (Theresienstadt) ghetto in Czechoslovakia, and from Frankfurt-am-Main and Berlin in Germany. 400–500 younger persons were selected in Raasiku railway station and sent to Jägala camp. The rest, altogether approximately 1600 persons, were executed on the day of their arrival at the Kalevi-Liiva polygon near the camp. The German Security Police and the SD were in charge of the operation, but the executions were carried out by a group of Estonians in service of the Security Police.

The detainees that were taken to camp were used for various jobs; some were also sent to work elsewhere in Estonia in small groups. Jews that fell ill or had a disagreement with the camp management were executed. The camp was closed by September 1943. The detainees that were still alive then were placed in Tallinn Central Prison (so-called Patarei Prison). Some women were later sent to Vaivara concentration camp, which belonged under the jurisdiction of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office. At the end of the war, some were also sent to camps in occupied Poland and Germany. 1800–2000 Jewish persons were executed in Kalevi-Liiva, as well as a few dozens of Estonian Roma, with the participation of Jägala camp’s staff. As far as it is known, of all the Jews brought to Estonia in 1942, 74 persons survived the war.

Jewish prisoners working at the Kiviõli camp. (Private collection)
Kiviõli branch of the Vaivara concentration camp in 1944. (National Archives of Estonia)

The size of the camps and the period of their operation varied greatly. Overall, the number of the camps’ detainees ranged from a few dozen to several thousands, and the time of operation ranged from a few weeks to a year. By the turn of 1943/1944, the number of detainees surpassed 9000 and subsequently began to fall due to high mortality rate. By June 1944, at least 1500 Jews had died in camps. Approximately 1500 detainees were deemed unable to work and were subsequently sent to camps outside of Estonia, where they died. 6600–6700 Jews remained in the camps. The execution of incapacitated or not yet evacuated Jews accompanied the evacuation that began in the summer of 1944. More than 3,000 Jewish prisoners were evacuated from Estonia, the rest were murdered by German special units mainly in Ereda, Lagedi and Klooga.

Somewhat similarly to Jews brought to Jägala camp in 1942, approximately 300 French Jews were brought to Estonia in June 1944 without a clear purpose. These Jews were brought from the Drancy camp near Paris. In 1942–1944, 78 echelons with more than 62,000 French Jews were deported from Drancy to concentration camps in Poland’s territory. Only one echelon, the so-called Convoy 73 with 878 men, was sent to Kaunas in Lithuania in May 1944. Some of them were transferred onward to Estonia. The first selection was made among those that arrived in Patarei in Tallinn, and subsequently, about 60 weaker detainees were sent to “work”, from where they did not return. The selections continued throughout the summer. In August, when the prison was cleared out ahead of the Red Army invasion, the remaining 34 French Jews were sent to Stutthof. 20 of them survived the end of war in Germany and returned to Paris, as well as two men that had remained in Lithuania.

Of the 12,500 Jews brought to Estonia, approximately 100 persons, that had managed to escape the mass murder in Klooga, remained in Estonia when the German forces left. There were approximately 7,500–7,800 persons that had died or had been executed in Estonia. About 4,600 prisoners were transferred from Estonia to other camps, where many of them perished before the end of the war.

Jews killed in Klooga camp burned at the stake in September 1944. (National Archives of Estonia)