Riipalu, Harald.

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Riipalu, Harald, born as Harald Reibach, 13-02-1912, in St. Petersburg, , where his father August Riipalu was the tenant of the country house of the same name. At the start of World War I, the family moved to Küti Farm on the Kääpa River in Saare Parish, Tartu Province. The agricultural land was 44 hectares, most of which was forest. He was the son of August Riipalu and his wife Emilie. He had 4 sisters, Nelly, Marta and Vilma. and Elma who died at the age of four.

When World War I began, their family moved to Estonia, Saare parish near Kääpa river. In 1920, after the Estonian War of Independence, he attended a small local parish school. In 1926 he went to study in Hugo Treffner Gymnasium in Tartu. He graduated in 1932, being among the best students in the school.

From 1932 to 1933, Riipalu studied at the Faculty of Law of University of Tartu. On 22-12-1935 he married Olvi Hain, with whom he would have a daughter the following year.

In 1933 Riipalu started his military career, attending the Military Academy of Estonia, from which he graduated in 1935. He served in Narva, and was then assigned in January 1940 to the Defence League Tartu Territorial Regiment, as a junior instructor.

After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Riipalu was forcibly mobilized into the Russian Army 22nd Territorial Corps, serving until 1941, at which time he defected to the German side to fight against the Soviet Union. He was initially held as a prisoner of war by the Germans until March 1942.

From 1942 to 1943 Riipalu was a platoon leader and company commander of the 36th Defence 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 August 1944 he was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross by SS Obergruppenfuhrer Felix Steiner, the commander of the III SS  Panzer Corps, The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps capitulated to American troops on the Elbe on 04-05-1945.

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 Russian Army, which prevented the encirclement of Army Group Narva.

Death and burial ground of Riipalu, Harald.

 

After Germany had lost the war, many former Estonian soldiers who had served in the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, under command of SS-Brigadeführer Berthold Maack, including Riipalu, were hunted by the Soviet Union, but Riipalu managed to evade captivity. SS-Brigadeführer Berthold Maack, 26-09-1981, age 83, in Meran, Italien  From 1945 to 1948 Riipalu lived in Denmark, and later lived in Great Britain. He suffered a heart failure and died on 04-04-1961, at the age of 49 in Heckmondwike/West Yorkshire. He was sure he was fighting for Estonian freedom, recalls Ede Stevenson, Harald Riipalu’s daughter, who first visited her hometown in Jõgeva County. Riipalu is buried at Jõgeva County.cemetery.

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