March 9 marks the day when, sixty eight years ago, Tallinn was caught in the crosshairs of Soviet long-range bombers. In remembrance of victims of the attacks, Ambassador and Mrs. Polt will attend a memorial candle-lighting at St. Nicholas Church, one of the thousands of buildings destroyed in the 1944 raid.
By tradition, the city’s church bells will start tolling exactly at 19:15, marking the moment when the first wave of bombers arrived, and candles will be lit along Harju Street in the Old City. The attack is tragic both in its devastating loss of life and its military inefficacy.
As many as 300 Soviet bombers dropped a total of more than 3,000 explosive and incendiary bombs on Tallinn, leveling one-third of the city and devastating the citizenry and culture of Tallinn. More than 400 people—the vast majority of whom were non-combatants—were killed, and another were 650 injured. As many as 20,000 were left without shelter in the midst of Estonian winter.
In addition to St. Nicholas Church, the Estonia Theater, the city’s synagogue, and the Tallinn City Archives, which housed a collection of medieval documents, were all destroyed in the bombing and ensuing inferno. Far from breaking the spirit of the Estonian people, however, the attack strengthened the already steely resolve of the populace to struggle against foreign occupation.
Today, Estonia is a strong, peaceful, and sovereign nation that remembers the past, while living for the future.