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  • Last edited 22 June 2023

Omakaitse [self-defence] was the Estonian auxiliary police force in German-occupied Estonia, 1941–44. Modelled after the former Estonian army and the Home Guard, Omakaitse comprised anti-Soviet partisan detachments operating in each of the 13 provinces during the military campaign of summer 1941. Omakaitse regarded as its main task assisting the Wehrmacht in cleansing Estonia of communists and their sympathisers. Through the summer of 1942, Omakaitse performed traditional police tasks such as searches, arrests, and interrogations. It was organised on a territorial principle, with the largest and most brutal organisation operating in Tartu province in the south.

Until January 1942, Omakaitse was under the command of the Army Group North Rear Areas, and subsequently the German Order Police. In December 1942, thirteen territorial Omakaitse detachments were transformed into five auxiliary police battalions [Schutzmannschaftsbataillonen or Shuma] numbered from 29 through 33. Local Omakaitse units continued to perform security tasks in Estonia, while the police battalions were deployed against Soviet partisans in Russian proper. The Estonian police battalions also took part in atrocities against the civilian population, including Jews, in Poland and Belorussia. By 1943, the Omakaitse membership stabilised at 43,000, including 2,500 serving in the police battalions.

On several occasions in the summer of 1941, the Omakaitse reinforced Einsatzgruppen of the German Security Police (Sipo) and later supplied recruits for the Estonian Security Police. Until the end of 1941, the Omakaitse carried out 5,033 roundups. It was typically members of the Omakaitse who arrested Jews, on German orders or at their own initiative. They also staffed firing squads and/or guarded the perimeter during mass shootings, usually in coordination with the Estonian Security Police.

Omakaitse reports hardly ever mentioned Roma. While members of Omakaitse did participate in ad hoc arrests of Roma in the summer and autumn of 1941, notably in Pärnu province, the agencies entrusted with the ‘Final Solution to the Gypsy Question’ in Estonia were the criminal police and the security police. While many a member of the Estonian Security Police retreated from Estonia alongside the Germans, the rank and file of the Omakaitse largely remained in Estonia. A number of Omakaitse members stood trial after the war.


Anton Weiss-Wendt: Omakaitse, in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 9. November 2022. -

3. Juli 1941In Estland wird die einheimische Hilfspolizei Omakaitse wieder aufgebaut und unterstützt später die deutsche Armee bei der Verfolgung von Kommunist:innen und deren Sympathisant:innen. Mitglieder der Omakaitse beteiligen sich an Ad-hoc-Verhaftungen von Rom:nja.
17. September 1944Die Hilfspolizei Omakaitse im deutsch-besetzten Estland wird aufgelöst.