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Estonia allows burial of former Nazi soldier

  |   Jan. 11, 2014 at 1:09 PM
TORI, Estonia, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Estonia allowed the burial of a decorated former Nazi SS soldier Harald Nugiseks, whom many Estonians revere for helping their country gain independence.

Nugiseks died at the age of 93 on Jan. 2, RIA Novosti reported Friday. He has since been buried at the Estonian Soldiers Memorial Church in the city of Tori.

The funeral was attended by Brig. Gen. Meelis Kiili, commander of the Estonian Defense League, as well as retired military officers and local officials.

Following Nugiseks' death, Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu issued a statement saying the former Nazi soldier "was a legendary Estonian soldier whose tragedy was that he could not fight for Estonian freedom in an Estonian uniform."

Nugiseks joined the Nazi forces in 1941 and moved on to serve in the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. He is one of four Estonians to receive the Knight's Cross -- the Third Reich's highest award for bravery during battle.

In 1945, Nugiseks' division surrendered and he was sent to a labor camp in Siberia. He returned home in 1958.

When Estonia became an independent state in 1991, Nugiseks received an honorary captain's rank from the Defense Forces.

Russia has repeatedly condemned Estonian collaboration with the Nazis during World War II.

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