Czech Hell

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Czech Hell (Estonian: Tšehhi põrgu) was an episode of vigilante justice during the Prague Offensive and the Prague Uprising, World War II in May 1945. It involved the imprisonment and summary execution of unarmed soldiers and officers of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian).[1]


The provisional government of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed in Košice on 5 April 1945. The Communist Party seized a third of the national government, including the ministries of the Interior and Defence. Vengeful attitudes countenanced by the communists led to massive vigilante justice against former personnel of the German armed forces after the German capitulation.[1]

The surrendered German troops included thousands of officers and soldiers of the Estonian Division initially based around Hirschberg im Riesengebirge and Schönau an der Katzbach.[1] They had been forcefully drafted into the Waffen SS and had received no special training apart from regular military drills; it is also alleged that they did not commit war crimes.[2][3][4]


The Estonian Division received orders on 7 May to retreat, assemble in Jablonec nad Nisou, move on through Prague in the direction of Pilsen and eventually surrender to the US armed forces. Its headquarters and supply train began to retreat on the same day. Its units began to retreat the day after that. Czech partisans demanded that German units surrendered their arms, which the Estonians did.[1] Subsequently, the partisans chased down and took some of the unarmed men prisoner, then tortured and humiliated them.[2][3][4] The partisans did not differentiate between Estonian nationals, who had been illegally conscripted, and the German forces.[3][4] The number of men killed has been estimated as 500−1000,[2][3][4] but the actual number is unknown. Soldiers who had been in the custody of Czech partisans were reportedly relieved to be handed over to the Red Army.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Peeter Kaasik (2009). ""Czech Hell"". In Toomas Hiio; Meelis Maripuu; Indrek Paavle (eds.). Estonia Since 1944: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity. Tallinn. p. 349.
  2. ^ a b c Estonian State Commission on Examination of Policies of Repression (2005). "Human Losses". The White Book: Losses inflicted on the Estonian nation by occupation regimes. 1940–1991 (PDF). Estonian Encyclopedia Publishers. p. 32. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-14.
  3. ^ a b c d Toomas Hiio; Peeter Kaasik (2006). "Estonian units in the Waffen-SS". In Toomas Hiio; Meelis Maripuu; Indrek Paavle (eds.). Estonia 1940–1945: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity. Tallinn. pp. 927–968.
  4. ^ a b c d Mart Laar (2008). Estonian Legion in Words and Pictures. Tallinn: Grenader.

Further reading[edit]

  • Plavec, Michal; Rosenthal, Reigo (2006). "Nymburská poprava. Pokus o rekonstrukci jedné historické události (The Nymburk Execution. An Attempt to Reconstruct an Event in the History.)". Historie a vojenství. Časopis Vojenského historického ústavu. (in Czech). Prague: Vojenský historický ústav. 55 (3): 64–70. ISSN 0018-2583.