Labor Camps at Johvi-Ahtme and Rakvere, Estonia
Two forced labor camps that likely supported the oil shale extraction industry in Estonia were identified in 1944. The industry was run by a company known as Baltische Öl GmbH. By early 1943 oil shale had become vital to the German war effort (see Emslanlager Labor Camps) and the most important industry in any of the Baltic states. Underscoring the importance of Estonian oil shale, Heinrich Himmler in October 1943 directed that as many Jews as possible be sent to Estonia. Camps were quickly set up around mining sites in northeast Estonia (Map).
The camps at Rakvere and the Johvi-Ahtme (Graphics 1 & 2) each had a number of small barracks surrounded by a security fence and guard towers. An unfenced barracks was 2.5 km northeast of the Johvi-Ahtme camp.
A fuel-oil terminal under construction at the Estonian port of Paldiski on 7 July 1944 may have been related to planned increases in oil shale mining and oil production. The extensive rail-served complex was composed of excavations for at least five partially-underground vertical storage tanks (Graphic 3). The center of the complex was located at the port, where excavations for two tanks were near an old fortress and a pier; the tanks were interconnected by pipe lines. Three other tanks (all not shown) and a related area were widely dispersed along rail lines 2 km northeast and southeast of the terminal.