Harald Riipalu

Harald Riipalu (born as Harald Reibach) (13 February 1912 – 4 April 1961) was an Estonian commander in the German Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany.

Harald Riipalu
Harald Riipalu in 1944
Born(1912-02-13)13 February 1912
Died4 April 1961(1961-04-04) (aged 49)
AllegianceEstonia, Soviet Union, Nazi Germany
Service/branchEstonian Army
Red Army
Years of service1935–45
Unit20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)
Commands held36th Estonian Police Battalion
Battles/warsWorld War II Eastern Front
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross


After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Riipalu was forcibly mobilized into the Soviet Army 22nd Territorial Corps, serving until 1941, at which time he defected to the German side.

From 1942 to 1943 Riipalu was a platoon leader and company commander of the 36th Estonian Police Battalion, and became commander of the battalion in November 1942.[1]

From 1943 to 1945, he served in the 3rd SS-Brigade and the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. He was the Commander of the 45th SS-Grenadier Regiment from April 1944. On 23 August 1944 he was decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions in the Battle of Tannenberg Line and in the Battle of Auvere where Riipalu and his regiment drove back the assault of the Soviet Army, which prevented the encirclement of Army Detachment Narwa. The award was presented to him by Felix Steiner, the commander of III SS Panzer Corps.

After the end of the war, Riipalu evaded Soviet captivity by fleeing to Denmark. He died in Great Britain in 1961.




  1. ^ Aivar Niglas, Toomas Hiio (2006). "Estonian defence battalions / police battalions". In Toomas Hiio; Meelis Maripuu; Indrek Paavle (eds.). Estonia 1940–1945: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity. Tallinn. pp. 825–876.
  2. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 630.


  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Pinn, Voldemar (1999). Auvere sangar : Rüütliristi kandja kolonelleitnant Harald Riipalu [Hero of Auvere: the Knight's Cross holder Lieutenant Colonel Harald Riipalu] (in Estonian). Tallinn, Estonia.
  • Võsaste, Rauno (2011). Harald Riipalu lugu [The Harald Riipalu Story] (in Estonian). Tallinn, Estonia: Grenader. ISBN 9789949448517.