Laitse (Juvenile Correctional Facility)

Laitse (Juvenile Correctional Facility)
  • Version 1.0
  • Last edited 23 June 2023

Laitse Juvenile Correctional Facility in Harju province, German occupied Estonia, appears on a list of 18 prisons and camps operated by the Estonian Security Police. Subsequently designated a ‘labour education camp for young offenders’, Laitse served as a detention centre for Roma teenagers from March 1942 to early spring 1944. Few of them, if any, survived.

Laitse Juvenile Correctional Facility came into existence in 1938 as a consequence of the reorganisation of Harku Prison Camp, which had until then fulfilled that function. The colony for boys called ‘Laitse Manor Home’ was ca. 40 km southwest of Tallinn and a relatively short distance from Harku. The police forcibly separated Roma teenagers from their parents, who were deported to Harku prison camp from Pärnu Prison and Tallinn Central Prison, among other places, in the spring and summer of 1942. Not all of them, however, ended up at Laitse. As of July 1942, there were 189 Roma children in Harku, and at least fifteen of the Roma murdered there on 27 October 1942 were teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.

Conversant in both Estonian and Russian, Roma boys quickly found a common language with the rest of the colony inmates. The youngest among the twelve- to 17-year-olds attended school, while the rest carried out forced labour. In his testimony to a Soviet war crimes trial, the director of the colony, Andrei Kurol, painted a rosy picture of his institution, mentioning the existence of a ‘Gypsy’ choir, among other things. The Estonian Security Police reported 58 Roma children at Laitse as of 15 October 1942, but only 16 as of 1 March 1943. In all likelihood, the majority of Roma teenagers were murdered along with the adults at Harku, on 27 October 1942. Head of the German Security Police (Sipo) in Estonia, Dr Martin Sandberger (1911–2010), meanwhile ordered that the remaining Roma children at Laitse be divided into groups according to their ability to work.

Fourteen Roma teenagers were still at Laitse as of 3 December 1943. Sometime in early spring 1944, the director of the colony received the order from the German Sipo to hand over the remaining Roma inmates. He was allegedly told that the children were to meet their parents and would return within a week. According to the information he received, they were murdered at Kalevi-Liiva.

At present, Laitse Manor can be booked for corporate events and weddings. The website offers an account of the architectural history of the building and the story of the Baltic German aristocratic family who built it, with no reference to its past as a juvenile correctional institution.


Anton Weiss-Wendt: Laitse (Juvenile Correctional Facility), in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 20. Februar 2023. -

1. März 1942Zwischen März 1942 und Frühjahr 1944 dient das „Erziehungslager für Jugendliche” in Laitse, dem deutsch besetzten Estland, als Haftstätte für jugendliche Roma. Nur wenige von ihnen, wenn überhaupt, überleben.
15. Oktober 1942Die estnische Sicherheitspolizei meldet achtundfünfzig Romani Kinder im Erziehungslager für Jugendliche in Laitse in der Provinz Harju (deutsch besetztes Estland).
27. Oktober 1942Ermordung von 243 Rom:nja in Harku (deutsch besetztes Estland), unter ihnen Karl Siimann, Leontine Siimann und Richard Siimann.
1. März 1943Die estnische Sicherheitspolizei meldet sechzehn Romani Kinder im Erziehungslager für Jugendliche in Laitse in der Provinz Harju (deutsch besetztes Estland).
3. Dezember 1943Die estnische Sicherheitspolizei meldet vierzehn jugendliche Rom:nja in der Jugendstrafanstalt Laitse in der Provinz Harju (deutsch besetztes Estland).
Frühjahr 1944Im Frühjahr 1944 erhält der Direktor des Erziehungslagers für Jugendliche in Laitse im deutsch besetzten Estland von der deutschen Sicherheitspolizei den Befehl, die verbliebenen Romani Kinder auszuliefern. Sie werden in Kalevi-Liiva ermordet.