Talk:658th Eastern Battalion

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On the recent addition[edit]

Hi, Sander. I noticed that you added an Estonian article into the piece (your changes marked in italics here):

According to the Russian sources, the unit was involved in anti-partisan activity in various areas of the European Soviet Union, including against the population of the Belarusian villages of Babino, Khabalovo, and Chigirinka, which were burned to the ground in an effort to suppress partisan activity against the Axis forces[2]; however, the battalion never fought in Belarus.[3]

However, the source for this seems to suggest that even Estonians disagree about whether the battalion fought in Belarus (the article is authored by Vaino Kallas and criticizes work by Edgar Savisaar – it is a critical book review). The text goes:

Savisaar further writes: "It is after all, the fact that the German army fought alongside the [Estonian] police in Russia [during the burning of the]... villages.

Here the author is wrong, either knowingly or unknowingly...[the] Estonian military recognized and highly esteemed Colonel Alfons Rebane has never served the police, burnt villages behind Russian or terrorize civilians...the Battalion was not in Belarus or Ukraine."

(Quick Google machine translation of said article: [1])

Optimal, of course, would be modifying this section to read that Estonian perspectives differ. (Kallas even comments that "The book led to the conclusion that Savisaar shares their [ie, the Soviet] views.") However, compounding the matter is that the battalion mentioned in the Estonian article you have provided is the 36th Police Battalion, not the 658th, which is described in my source. Taking the most we can out of the source you have provided, we can interpret that according to at least from the view of one Estonian source, another battalion (the 36th) did not participate in wartime activities in Belarus (and Ukraine) and that Rebane was not personally involved in any of the village burnings. Accordingly, I am going to remove this section. I am encouraging you to provide a source to supplement my text about the battalion, but if you are going to contribute, please take care to insert material pertinent to this unit. PasswordUsername (talk) 19:23, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

The quote that applies to the 658th is "Rebase pataljon polnud Valgevenes ega Ukrainas." - Battalion led by Rebane was neither in Belarus or Ukraine. The author of the newspaper story, Vaino Kallas, is a well-known writer about World War II, while Edgar Savisaar is a politician; his book was widely criticized for many factual inaccuracies. Also, if the battalion would have been involved in fights against civilians, then certainly Soviet authorities would have not failed in their attempt to make Alfons Rebane a war criminal and battalion involved in war crimes. Furthermore, highly regarded report from Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity (not a single Estonian member) writes in their conclusions:

Research has also disclosed evidence of crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide, in which the 286th, 287th and 288th Police Battalions participated at various times in their existence. These include the killing of prisoners at camps in Estonia and participation in what are described as “raids” on villages in Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania.

658th Battalion is not mentioned in that report at all. I think we can go with version where 658th was not in Belarus, as you should well know how untrustworthy Russian sources are when it comes to Estonia and World War II. However, perhaps the whole paragraph describing the alleged Belarus affair should be simply removed until some scholarly book sources can be found? -- Sander Säde 19:52, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
The problem is that Alfons Rebane led two battalions: 184th Security Battalion and the 658th battalion. We do not know which battalion "the battalion led by Rebane" refers to, because Kallas does not specifically indicate which one. Furthermore, I am not sure why you brought in the rest. We both know that Russia and Estonia have competing claims: Estonia, in large part motivated by nationalists, has put up SS monuments and removed Soviet ones. There is a conflict of histories, Estonia has its own interests, and the only material confirming the Estonian view that the Estonian collaborationists committed no crimes appears to be the Estonian one – contradicting both Jewish (e.g. Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff) and Russian sources. Per WP:NPOV, we cannot pick out "the truth" but merely state what the sources observe and report faithfully (let the sources speak for themselves).
From what you quoted, the report you cited above indeed does not appear to mention the 658th. That one seems inapplicable to the subject in question.
PasswordUsername (talk) 20:02, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Uhm, don't quote me on this, but 184th Security Battalion became 658th, I think. Please stop spinning Monument of Lihula as SS monument, it was not, as testified by expertise - furthermore, it was set up by individuals and taken down by Estonian government. Also, I am not sure what you mean by "that one seems inapplicable to the subject in question", the report was *extremely* thorough - the full report was 1500 pages - and if they don't mention any crimes, we can safely say there weren't any. -- Sander Säde 20:16, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Well, the Monument of Lihula article presently reads "As the dedication included those who fought against Bolshevism in the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS..."
At any rate, headlines like these do tend to pop up in the press here in the Western world: Estonia SS Monument, TIME Magazine; Recognise SS as heroes, say Estonian MPs, The Scotsman. (I am not even sure what became of the 184th, although if the 184th became the 658th, as a number of the Security battalions, were it could still be considered a different battalion – for instance the designation would have been changed from "Security" to "Ost". Vaino Kallas himself fought on the German side, so he's not exactly a stand-by participant in the historiographical issues. [2]) PasswordUsername (talk) 20:31, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Back on topic, since Russian sources are quotes saying the unit was in Belarus, it is reasonable to quote Estonian sources that it didn't, so I have restored that text with a minor modification. --Martintg (talk) 20:52, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
The Estonian sources provided don't say that the unit wasn't in Belarus. Vaino Kallas, who fought on Hitler's side, says that "Rebane's unit" was never in Belarus, and he doesn't specify which unit. Even if we take Kallas on faith, which is difficult to do given his participation on Hitler's side, it's not clear that he's referring to the 658th at all.
Somehow it seems you haven't answered what I just wrote above. PasswordUsername (talk) 22:23, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
If Vaino Kallas said "Rebane's unit" was never in Belarus, then since Rebane was both in 184th and 658th, Kallas is saying both 184th and 658th were never in Belarus. Heinz Guderian also fought on Hitler's side, that doesn't make his books any less reliable. --Martintg (talk) 22:55, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Heinz Guderian isn't taken as a serious historian, Martintg. He was a memoirist and a tactician. PasswordUsername (talk) 23:03, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
We have Russian sources saying it was, Estonian sources saying it wasn't, what's the problem? Until we have something more beyond press releases and media reports, like German military records, then I suggest we leave it at that. --Martintg (talk) 23:18, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Himmler certainly ordered the creation of the non-German WaffenSS divisions, but I am unsure that he had the authority to release units from the Wehrmacht, so I deleted reference to him until we can find a definitive source. --Martintg (talk) 21:05, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

PasswordUsername, why are repeating like a mantra that Kallas fought on the German side? Does the fact that he was drafted in August 1944 at age of seventeen to Air Force Auxiliary Service make his writing somehow less reliable? Remember, fighting on German side is not a crime - participating in war crimes is a crime.

As for your two links about Lihula monument - one doesn't mention it at all and the other is three sentence stub which says "...honoring Estonians who fought alongside the Nazis in World War II" (not that they were Nazis - as far as I know, not a single Estonian was ever member of the Nazi party; nor was a single Estonian in SS-proper. But, again, don't quote me on that). It has been pointed out before - great many times - that Waffen SS was not the same as SS-proper and drafted Waffen SS soldiers were especially exempted by the Nuremberg Tribunal - but don't worry, it is something that Russia likes to forget, too. In fact, 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) was at the Nuremberg tribunal - as guards.

And finally, sources. I think the best source would be a monograph by a well-known non-involved historian (i.e. not Russian or Estonian). Meanwhile, let us not forget that Russia is at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index for a reason. And Estonia at the top of said index. Russian sources have been wrong about Estonia again and again and again and again - I would not recommend using them as a main source for anything even remotely controversial.

-- Sander Säde 07:38, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
Per Sander Säde's, the Russian Federation contends the Waffen SS were convicted at Nuremberg. They were not, Himmler's core SS were. Latvian Waffen SS, in fact, were also posted as Allied guards at Nuremberg. PētersV       TALK 18:32, 25 June 2009 (UTC)