Rebane, Alfons Vilhelm Robert “Alf”

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Rebane, Alfons Vilhelm Robert “Alf”, born 24-06-1908 in Valga in southern Estonia. In 1920 Rebane, son of a railway official, Robert Adolf Rebane and Olga Veronica Rebane (Redel) attended the secondary school in Narva. He had one half sister, Astrid Rebane who died 08-03-1976, age 67, in Augsburg, Bavaria of lung cancer. From 1926 to 1929 he attended the Estonian War College and graduated it with first class honors. He served as an infantry officer on the armored train “Captain Irv” of the 1st Armored Train Regiment as a second lieutenant in 1929. Married in 1931 to Agnia Soomets,  they had one daughter Tiiu who died same day soon afterwards. On Estonian Independence Day on 24-02-1933, Rebane was promoted to first lieutenant. From 1935 to 1939 served as junior instructor in the Defence League Viljandi County Territorial Regiment, between 1939-1940 in the Lääne County Territorial Regiment. From January to June 1940 Rebane was the Commandant of Lihula. Rebane served as an officer in the  Estonian Army

   until the Soviet troops occupied the country in 1940. The Soviets disbanded the Estonian Army and arrested and executed the entire Estonian high command. More junior officers, such as Rebane, were dismissed due to their lack of “political reliability” and were liable to be deported. For a while, Rebane worked on constructions, then fled into the forests when the Soviets began mass deportations in 1941. He established and led an anti-Soviet Forest Brothers unit in Northern Estonia in May 1941. After German units had reached Northern Estonia, Rebane joined the German Wehrmacht  and went on to fight against the Soviets in Northwestern Russia, subsequently becoming the captain of the 184th Security Battalion, then Major of the Estonian 658th Eastern Battalion . Rebane was awarded with the Knight Cross by Generaloberst Georg Lindemann   In February 1944 Major Rebane’s unit was transferred to the Narva Front and attached to the Wehrmachts 26th Army Corps on March 2.  On 27-04-1944, the unit was released from the Wehrmacht and Rebane was reluctantly drafted into the newly-formed 20th (Estonian) Division of the Waffen-SS,  under command of SS-Brigadeführer Franz Augsberger,  eventually becoming colonel of the 47th Waffen-Grenadier Regiment. SS-Brigadeführer  Franz Augsberger, on 19 March, was killed in action near Neustadt, Oberschlesien.

A comrade of him was SS Obersturmbanführer Harald Riipalu (born as Harald Reibach) (13-02-1912 – 04-04-1961) was an Estonian commander in the German Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany.

After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Riipalu was forcibly mobilized into the Soviet Army 22nd Territorial Corps, serving until 1941, at which time he defected to the German side. From 1942 to 1943 Riipalu was a platoon leader and company commander of the 36th Estonian Police Battalion, and became commander of the battalion in November 1942. From 1943 to 1945, he served in the 3rd SS-Brigade and the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. He was the Commander of the 45th SS-Grenadier Regiment from April 1944. On 23-08-1944 he was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions in the Battle of Tannenberg Line and in the Battle of Auvere where Riipalu and his regiment drove back the assault of the Soviet Army, which prevented the encirclement of Army Detachment Narwa. The award was presented to him by SS Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner, the commander of III SS Panzer Corps. After the end of the war, Riipalu evaded Soviet captivity by fleeing to Denmark. He died in Great Britain on 04-04-1961, age 49.

The Estonian division played a significant role in the Battle of Narva and the Battle of Emajõgi, holding back the Soviet re-occupation of Estonia until the September 1944 while suffering heavy casualties. Rebane’s unit was then evacuated to Germany for refitting and saw more action on the Eastern Front in the spring of 1945. Despite being encircled several times, Rebane was amongst a small group of Estonian soldiers who in the final days of the war evaded capture by the Soviets and managed to reach the Americans to surrender. Soldiers who fought in units under his command were often colloquially referred to as the “Fox cubs”, Rebane translates to “fox” in Estonian.

Death and burial ground of Rebane, Alfons Vilhelm Robert”Alf”.

   Rebane was nicknamed “Estonian Rommel” for his leadership and tactical skills In 1947 Rebane moved to England and joined the British Secret Intelligence Service, M16  as the Estonian expert at the Intelligence School in London. There he played a key role in assisting the armed resistance to the Soviet rule in Estonia and other Baltic countries. He led the Estonian portion of MI6’s Operation Jungle well into the 1950s. Operation Jungle was an program by the MI6 early in the Cold War (1948–1955) for the clandestine insertion of intelligence and resistance agents into Polan and the Baltic States. In 1961, Rebane retired from the British intelligence services and moved to Germany, where stayed until his death..Alfons Rebane died of lung cancer age 67, on 08-03-1976, in Augsburg and is buried on the Metsakalmistu, Tallin, Estonia, Area 4-Plot 17/2.

In 1977, Rebane was alleged a war criminal. According to a 2005 report published by the Estonian State Commission on the Examination of the Policies of Repression, investigations conducted by the KGB after World War II found no documents confirming the accusation against Colonel Alfons Rebane and his “army unit”.

The return and reburial of Rebane’s ashes with military honours at a national cemetery in 1999 in Estonia sparked a controversy. The American Jewish Congress  protested that the reburial served as an “indication that fascist ideology is recognized in Estonia”. A tombstone to Rebane, unofficially erected in 2004 but unveiled before Parnumaa District Parliamentarian and former Foreign Minister Triyvimi Velliste was protested by Russia’s Chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar and the Russian Jewish Congress. 

    

 

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