Waffen-Sturmbannführer der ϟϟ Paul Maitla (20. eesti diviis)

Paul Maitla and Kalju Tamm
Czech Hell
May 10 1945
After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940 Paul Mathiesen Maitla (March 27 1913 – May 10 1945) was drafted into the Soviet Red Army, where he served until he finally managed to get over to the German side in July 1941. He joined the Waffen-SS Eesti Leegion (Estonian Legion). In April 1944 Maitla commanded the 1st Battalion of Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 45 Estland of the newly formed 20.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (estnische Nr.1). Paul Maitla was one of four Estonian volunteers who received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He was awarded the Knight's Cross on August 23 1944 for leading the recapture of the Grenadier Hill (Sinimäed) during the Battle of Tannenberg Line, effectively breaking the Soviet offensive in that sector on July 29 1944. In February 1945 the Estonian SS Division was relocated to central Europe, which now numbered roughly 11,000 Estonians and 2,500 Germans, just in time for the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive. Maitla was promoted Waffen-Sturmbannführer der SS on April 20 1945. The fate of Paul Maitla was uncertain until information was discovered in 2005 in the city archives of the Czech town of Nymburk. These archives show that Maitla was arrested on May 9 1945 and murdered together with other Estonian volunteers on May 10 1945 (after World War II had ended) by Czech communists. According to Maitla's chauffeur Arnold Mägar, who survived the "Czech Hell", Maitla did not have good relations with the Germans but was respected. They called him the “Kugelblitz” (fireball). Former Estonian SS-man A. Toomsalu wrote: When Maitla was asked to hide his Knight's Cross during the retreat over the Czech mountains towards river Elbe he answered: What was good enough in battles is good enough in death. The argument that it would mean a certain death to all of them made him finally put the award in his pocket. From that moment on it probably stayed there until the end of his short life. The Estonian author and former Waffen-Untersturmführer der SS Voldemar Madisso saw Maitla in the noon of May 9 1945 on one crossroad before Mlada Boleslav. Maitla's car was blocking the road to Prague and he directed trucks towards Mlada Boleslav. Maitla and his companions were later captured when their car was stopped by a large number of Czech communists. It happened about 5 kilometers north of Nymburk, on the road to Mlada Boleslav. They were all humiliated and beaten before death. The burial site of these six officers, of which one having a Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in his pocket, is still unknown. The primary objective of these men was to free Estonia from the Soviet occupation and to restore the democratic polity in Estonia. Top image: Estonain Waffen-SS men being executed by Czech communists on May 10 1945 (Knight's Cross winner Waffen-Sturmbannführer der SS Paul Maitla front left possible his aide-de-camp Waffen-Obersturmführer der SS Kalju Tamm front right). Images: Public domain.

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