Nugiseks, Harald., born 22-10-1921 in Järvamaa, Estonia. His parents were peasant farmers, but still Harald attended the basic school at Laupa. In a desire to fight communism, however even before that he had joined the Estonian Security battalion from the Commercial Institute at Pairu on 02-10-1941. When the German Army invaded Soviet territory it became Heinrich Himmler‘s policy that all Germanic regiments should be incorporated into Waffen SS units. Nugiseks became part of 185th battalion of General Georg von Kuchler‘s 18th Army officially known as Estniche Sicherungs Abteilung which was used as a security unit in the rearguard. Harald Nugiseks joined the German Army as a volunteer in 1941 and in 1943 served a soldier in the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian). He received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross from SS Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner personal,
for leading the capture of the Vaasa-Siivertsi-Vepsküla bridgehead. His battalion lost almost all of its officers so Nugiseks stepped up to lead the attack. He immediately changed previous tactics, loading the supply of hand grenades onto sledges so the attackers would not have to crawl back for the supplies over the mine field. With the hand grenades being passed on along the trenches, the bridgehead was squeezed in from the north by the “rolling” tactics. For his leadership in winning the day for the SS forces, Nugiseks was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, by Franz Augsberger in Hospital 1944, roughly equivalent to the United States Medal of Honor . A sergeant (Oberscharführer)at the time, he was later demoted for fighting with other SS men who were being disrespectful to some Red Cross nurses. Nugiseks was demoted for fighting with some soldiers who were harassing Red Cross nurses. During the Soviet assault on Estonia in September 1944, Nugiseks’ home was destroyed. Nugiseks was captured by Czech partisans in May 1945 and put in a prisoner-of-war camp. After three unsuccessful escape attempts, he served time after being handed over to the Soviets, who had sentenced him to ten years in the Gulag and five years deportation in Siberia. Nugiseks managed to return to Estonia in 1958: on release from Tumenskaya Oblast he worked as a labourer in Parnu area of Estonia until his retirement. After the war Nugiseks was taken prisoner and turned over to the Russians who took a dim view of Estonians that served the Third Reich. He was sent to a Soviet Gulag, to include a long stretch in Siberia, until 1958 when he was released and allowed to return home. Nugiseks was the last living Estonian who had received the Knight’s Cross decoration during the war (he was one of four Estonian recipients of this award for battlefield bravery). After Estonia regained its independence in 1991, Nugiseks was given the honorary rank of captain in the Estonian Defense Forces and wore a uniform denoting his rank at official ceremonies. Like many other World War II Estonian’s who fought for the Germans, he wore his German medals proudly throughout his life. Only four Estonian soldiers received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, the fourth was SS Sturmbannführer Paul Maitla, nickname(s) “Kugelblitz” and “Ball Lightning”. Paul Mailta was arrested on May 9, 1945 and murdered together with 4 other Estonian soldiers on May 10, age 32, (on the first day of peace after World War II had ended) by Czech communists
Death and burial ground of Nugiseks, Harald.
In the 1970s, he constructed a house for the family using his own hands. Finally on 21-02-1994, service to his country was recognised when Major-General Aleksander Eiseln made Nugiseks a Retired Captain (erukapten) of the Estonian Defence Forces. Nugiseks attended reburial of Alfons Rebane, another Estonian Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross holder, ordered by the Estonian government. Nugiseks here with two Cross receivers, Alfons Rebane , left and Harald Riipalu on the right. After 4229 signatures were collected in October 2008, Captain Nugiseks was awarded the Medal of Gratitude by the people of Estonia for his part in the fight against Bolshevism. Revered and honoured by his community, a bust was posthumously installed at his school.
Harald Nugiseks, died on 02-01-2014, aged 92, in Parnu, Estonia and is buried on the Estonian Soldiers Memorial Church (St. George’s Church) Parnu, Pärnu linn, Pärnumaa, Estonia. Harald Riipalu survived the war and died in Great Britain on 04-04-1961, aged 49.