Paul Maitla in 1944
|Nickname(s)||"Kugelblitz" ("Ball Lightning")|
|Born||March 27, 1913|
Kärkna, Tartu County, Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire
|Died||May 10, 1945 (aged 32)|
|Service/branch||Estonian Army (1938–1940)|
Red Army (1940-1941)
|Years of service||1938–1945|
|Unit||1938, 3rd Infantry battalion, Estonian Army|
1939, Estonian state defence instructor
1940, 171st Infantry Battalion, Red Army
1941, 37th Police Battalion, Wehrmacht
1943, Estonian Legion
1944, 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Battle of Narva (1944)Battle of Tannenberg Line
Battle of Oppeln
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Paul Maitla (born Paul Mathiesen; March 27, 1913 – May 10, 1945) was an Estonian commander in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. He is one of the four Estonians who received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany. He received his award for leading the recapture of the central hill of the Sinimäed during the Battle of Tannenberg Line, effectively breaking the Soviet offensive in that sector.
Paul was the youngest of three children of the family. His brother died in the Estonian War of Independence, 8 years older sister had died in Estonia a few years after World War II. Paul Maitla attended elementary school in Sipe from 1921, Tartu Kommertsgümnaasium from 1927, graduating from the Poeglaste secondary school in 1934. After graduation he changed his name to Maitla.
In September 1934 Maitla entered the Estonian Military School and specialised in pioneering. Maitla then entered officer training in 1937, graduating in August 1938. He was then assigned to the 3rd Infantry battalion in Valga. On Independence Day, 1939, he was commissioned by the President of Estonia to the rank of lieutenant. During 1939 and 1940 he was the State defence instructor in the secondary schools of Tartu.
World War II
After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Maitla was drafted into the Red Army, where he served until he was captured by the Germans in July 1941. Maitla was then interned by the Germans until November 1941, when he was released and joined the 37th Police Battalion, and tasked with guarding German airfields.
In the autumn of 1942, Maitla was promoted to lieutenant. In October, he joined the Estonian Legion. He and 113 men were sent to Poland for training. From there, he was sent to Bad Tölz for additional officer training. Maitla returned from training in 1943 and was promoted to commander of the 3rd Company of the 1st Battalion of the 45th Regiment. In April 1943, the Estonian Waffen SS brigade participated in the battles in Nevel, and he received the Iron Cross II class on 8 December for bravery.
Maitla was appointed Hauptsturmführer and in April 1944 he was commander of the 1st Battalion of the 45th Regiment of the newly formed 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian). In the same year, Maitla with his battalion succeeded in stopping the Red Army offensive at Auvere and received the Iron Cross I class. On 29 July, he and his battalion led a counter-attack at the Battle of Tannenberg Line for which he was awarded the Knights Cross on 23 August.
In August, Maitla was assigned to Combat group Vent, but fell ill again shortly afterwards and admitted into Tartu Hospital. He was then relocated to a hospital in Bregenz, Germany until January 1945. Maitla then rejoined the 45th regiment, which had by this time been relocated to central Europe. On April 20, 1945, he was promoted to Sturmbannführer.
The fate of Paul Maitla was uncertain for number of decades, until some 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 killed together with 4 other Estonian soldiers after the war on May 10 by Czech communists.
Every little kid learns history at school, studying the history of our nation, but later forgets, how the entire history of Estonians consists only of the struggle for our existence, the struggle against our strong and big neighbors. No other nation's history is like this, no one has fought over so many generations and suffered so much as we, Estonians.
When Pearu of Vargamäe says in Anton Hansen Tammsaare's Truth and Justice, that there is a heroic kind of people at Vargamäe, it's actually said about all Estonians, a heroic kind of people on the shore of the Baltic Sea. We shall fight until we have our lost liberty back and we shall defend it to the last man. These are the Estonians!
— Paul Maitla in his diary at February 26, 1943.
- Sinimäed, a documentary film based upon Paul Maitla's war diaries.
- ^ According to Scherzer as leader of the I./Waffen-Grenadier-Regiment of the SS 45 (estn. Nr. 1).
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) . Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Hiio, Toomas (2006). Estonia, 1940-1945 : reports of the Estonian International Commission for the investigation of crimes against humanity. Tallinn: Estonian Foundation for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity. ISBN 978-9949-13-040-5.
- Iital, Georg (1998). Kohustus kutsub: Eesti Leegioni suurtükiväelasena II maailmasõjas [Obligation Calls: Estonian Legion artillery forces of World War II]. Eesti Riigikaitse Akadeemia. ISBN 9789985670453.
- Laar, Mart (2006). Sinimäed 1944: II Maailmasõja lahingud Kirde-Eestis [Blue Hills 1944: World War II battles in North-East Estonia]. Varrak. ISBN 9789985311172.
- Laar, Mart (2010). Saaremaa 1944: Eesti laskurkorpuse kannatuste rada. Varrak. ISBN 9789985320211.
- Maitla, Paul (2012) . Maitla, Kai; Ollema, Andri; Tammiksaar, Leo (eds.). Paul Maitla Päevikud [Paul Maitla Diaries]. ISBN 9789949330478.
- Prunsvelt, Heino (2013). MAITLA. Ühe rüütliristi kavaleri elutee [MAITLA. Life of a Knight's Cross Recipient]. Grenadier Grupp. ISBN 978-9949-512-03-4.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.