Published by Humanity in Action in 2013, Civil Society and the Holocaust: International Perspectives on Resistance and Rescue examines the different ways that European countries and the United States responded to the Holocaust. This anthology was created as part of “Civil Society: Reactions to the Holocaust,” a series of events in Copenhagen commemorating the 70th anniversary of the flight and deportation of Danish Jews in October 1943.
“The SS leadership did not forget the Jews in Finland, but there were strong arguments for Finland not emulating German Jewish policy, at least until a decisive German victory would have been secured…”
The villa by the Wannsee, near Berlin, received a number of distinguished guests in January 20, 1942. The theme to be discussed with the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the consolidated SS security apparatus, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, was a solution to the so-called Jewish question. The solution would be final. By the time of the conference, the German administrators had become frustrated by the ineffectiveness of other solutions, like emigration and resettlement, and a decision to simply kill the Jews had already been taken. To assess the size of the task at hand, estimates of the Jewish population in all the European countries were circulated. For Finland, German intelligence had arrived at a remarkably accurate figure of 2300 persons. (1)
It was clear to the participants that the destruction of European Jewry in this scale would be an immense undertaking, and so it soon came to a discussion of priorities and marching order. An undersecretary at the German Foreign Ministry, Martin Luther, rose to speak. He underscored his belief that a blunt attempt to put the envisioned operation through in the Nordic countries would lead to “difficulties.” A local postponement of the Final Solution would be in order, especially as the Nordic Jewish communities tended to be very small. Luther’s suggestion was accepted and duly entered into the minutes of the conference. (2)
Finland’s Jews were among those Nordic communities who had thus been granted a stay of execution. But how long would it last?
Finland’s Jews were among those Nordic communities who had thus been granted a stay of execution. But how long would it last? By the time of the Wannsee conference, the discrimination, isolation, persecution, incarceration and murder of Europe’s Jews had been going on for almost ten years. Also the Finnish public had had ample time to be informed, form an opinion and react. Until now, however, the persecution of Jews had been something happening far from Finland’s shores. Soon it might become a domestic policy matter. For the Norwegian Jews, destruction came already the next summer. The Danish Jews were spared from active measures until late 1943. Jews in Sweden and Finland were, for the time being, outside the grasp of Nazi authorities. Nevertheless, Sweden was surrounded by Axis-held territory and Finland was a German ally, dependent on Germany for much of its supply needs and – should the war end victoriously for Germany – obviously susceptible to further political pressure regarding the Jewish question. Finland lived, during its alliance with Germany in 1941-1944, on the brink of the Holocaust.
Ultimately, the most intensive killing came to be concentrated on Eastern Europe, on former Polish, Baltic and Soviet territory.
After Hitler’s coming to power in Germany in 1933, the Nazi persecution of Jews had been restricted to Germany itself. With Germany’s successful annexations, and finally war, the area of active measures against the Jews kept both widening and getting more murderous in purpose. Ultimately, the most intensive killing came to be concentrated on Eastern Europe, on former Polish, Baltic and Soviet territory the historian Timothy Snyder has labeled the Bloodlands. Outside this core theatre of the Holocaust, however, was a peripheral zone, consisting of countries like Finland. Characteristic to this periphery of the Holocaust was that everywhere within this zone the Final Solution was either postponed or limited according to local circumstances and other needs considered more pressing by the Nazi leadership. From the Nordic countries to Bulgaria, these were all countries, one way or another, on the brink.
Finland and its Jews
The Jewish community in Finland had its origins in the 19th century. Finland had been part of the Swedish Empire since the Middle Ages, until conquered in 1809 by Russia, under which it continued as an autonomous Grand Duchy. It still kept its Swedish laws, however, by which Jews were forbidden to settle or practice their religion in the realm, barring a few designated places in Sweden proper. The first openly Jewish immigrants to Finland were former members of the Russian military, allowed to settle, but living without civil rights. With the collapse of the Russian Empire, Finland among other borderlands of the Empire declared independence in 1917. This act of state was soon followed by civil war between the insurgent, radical wing of the Social Democratic Party, and the government forces, representing the wide non-Socialist sections of society.
Politically, the country remained rather unstable, with short-lived minority governments following each other in often bewildering succession.
From the civil war and revolution both at home and in Russia, a newly created Eastern Europe emerged. The peace of Dorpat (Tarto) of 1920, a formal peace treaty with Soviet Russia, ended for Finland the period of internal upheaval, civil war and Freikorps-style expeditionary warfare which characterized the birth of the successors of empire in Eastern Europe. Finland settled down as a republic under parliamentary rule, seasoned with a presidency with wide powers. Politically, the country remained rather unstable, with short-lived minority governments following each other in often bewildering succession. Despite their crushing defeat in the Civil War, the Communists quickly returned to the political scene under a number of cover organizations much to the chagrin of the political Right, who saw in the republic everyday a travesty of everything they had fought for in the Civil War. Yet it was the wide political middle ground, from the moderate Right to the Center and the moderate Social Democrats, which proved to be an enduring backbone to the new state, shaken neither by the continuous schemes of the Communists to whip up societal crisis in preparation for an armed insurrection, nor the coup d’état-plots by numerous and sometimes influential radical Rightist cabals.
The question of civil rights for Jews, although occasionally raised, remained unresolved.
Anti-Semitism in Finland had a history quite comparable to the Scandinavian countries. Its oldest layer was Christian anti-Semitism. The Swedish Crown had seen the Jews, like other religious minorities, as a source of discord and disunity, and barred them from settling into the realm except to a few strictly defined locations in Sweden proper. After Finland’s administrative ties to Sweden were severed, 19th-century developments in European anti-Semitism arrived in Finland through cultural contacts and links to both Russia and Germany. The question of civil rights for Jews, although occasionally raised, remained unresolved through opposition by the Imperial government in St. Petersburg. It was only after independence, that Finland in 1918 finally extended citizenship rights, not automatically, but upon application, to its Jewish inhabitants. Only Romania was even slower to do this among European states.
The political myths of the conservative and radical Right coalesced around the central core of the incontestable but incomprehensible evil of Bolshevism, crystallizing into a thoroughly conspiratorial theory of the world and society.
The 1917 Bolshevik coup in Russia had given Western anti-Semitism a new shot of vigor. The idea of disproportional Jewish activity in the Socialist movement was of course nothing new. The political myths of the conservative and radical Right coalesced around the central core of the incontestable but incomprehensible evil of Bolshevism, crystallizing into a thoroughly conspiratorial theory of the world and society. Western anti-Semitism became tightly intertwined with anti-Communism. At its heart was a paranoid belief of everything that happened in the world being traceable to the evil forces of world Jewry, Bolshevism and Freemasonry, seeking to undermine all that was pure and noble. The language of threatening decay, social and moral, gave particular impetus to this world-view.
Also in Finland the shrillest forms of anti-Semitism were the reserve of the ideologically enlightened members of radical nationalist, Fascist and “patriotic” circles. Nevertheless, the majority of Finns either had encountered, or shared in, the common anti-Semitic prejudices of the era, typically visible as name-calling, derogatory remarks, jokes and cartoons. The belief that the Jews were somehow behind the Bolshevik revolution and Soviet system was ubiquitous. Yet it was anti-Communism, not anti-Semitism which could move the masses in interwar and wartime Finland. As the German ambassador to Finland, Wipert von Blücher, was to remark in a report to the German Foreign Ministry in December 1942, the Finns were generally far less interested in German propaganda against the “Jews and plutocrats,” than that against the Soviets. The diminutive number of Jews in Finland, as well as their almost exclusive concentration in the three largest urban centers of the country, and thus away from the experience world of the majority of Finns, did not encourage the growth of anti-Semitism into a major political topic. A “Jewish Question” failed to manifest itself as a prominent theme in Finnish politics and public discussion. (3)
The Nazi regime with its brutal repressive measures against political opponents was widely condemned, from the Social Democratic press to the liberal and moderate Right.
Foreigners and Refugees
Hitler’s coming to power and the subsequent National Socialist dictatorship in Germany did not rouse great enthusiasm in Finland. The Nazi regime with its brutal repressive measures against political opponents was widely condemned, from the Social Democratic press to the liberal and moderate Right. Exceptions to this were the numerous but diminutive organs of the Finnish radical nationalist Right and the single major political party Finnish radical nationalism was able to produce: the Patriotic Movement (Isänmaallinen Kansanliike), which consciously emulated the trappings of Italian Fascism by adopting party uniforms and the rudiments of a leader cult. Its organ, Ajan Suunta, became a mouthpiece also for Finnish self-avowed Fascist and national socialist groups, and the newspaper remained on a steadfastly pro-German and anti-Semitic course right until its abolishment at the end of the war. (4)
The true problem from the perspective of most Finns, however, wasn’t Hitler’s new Germany, but the Soviet Union.
The true problem from the perspective of most Finns, however, wasn’t Hitler’s new Germany, but the Soviet Union. The Worker’s and Peasant’s State remained a constant security political problem for Finland throughout the interwar period. Finnish foreign policy was aimed at restraining the Soviet regime through cooperation with other states sharing a border with the Soviet Union, as well as through the international community and the League of Nations. But no good solutions ever presented themselves. What was left was the wish, apparently increasingly realistic as the 1930’s progressed, that the vocally anti-Communist National Socialist Germany would provide the necessary counterweight to growing Soviet assertiveness and power.
Finally, the beginning of the world war caused the press in Finland to be subjected to censorship. Increasingly after 1940, Germany and its policies could not be openly criticized for fear of alienating this potential supporter.
Nazi discrimination and terror against Germany’s Jews naturally was a popular theme also in the Finnish press. It was also noted by Finland’s representatives abroad, who throughout the 1930s reported to Helsinki the excesses of the regime. Towards the end of the 1930s, however, a wish to not antagonize Germany began to have an effect on the way Germany’s domestic policies were treated in the Finnish press and publicly. When a Czech citizen, the Sudeten German Andre Riebling in 1936 published in the Finnish Social Democratic press an exposé of the policy of repression against the perceived enemies of the Nazi state, the Finnish Security Police drove through his deportation from Finland. Finally, the beginning of the world war caused the press in Finland to be subjected to censorship. Increasingly after 1940, Germany and its policies could not be openly criticized for fear of alienating this potential supporter. This task was left to the Swedish press, widely read and noticed in Finland as well. Criticism of Germany on the treatment of Jews was a part of public speech that was “inappropriate for a small country,” as the chief of censorship in 1941-1943, Kustaa Vilkuna characterized it. (5)
At its heart was a belief that the country simply could not afford to take in unproductive immigrants, even less potential troublemakers and security hazards.
Germany’s Jewish policy in the 1930s had other consequences which demanded some kind of a reaction from other states. The chief manifestation was a growing number of Jews seeking emigration from Germany and German-controlled area. Throughout the interwar period, Finland had pursued a restrictive immigration policy. At its heart was a belief that the country simply could not afford to take in unproductive immigrants, even less potential troublemakers and security hazards. Finland nevertheless in the 1920s allowed into the country some 35 000 Finnic and non-Bolshevik refugees from Soviet Russia. The number was considered remarkably high in comparison to the perceived capacity of the Finnish economy and capabilities of the state. The care of the refugees was entrusted to the state-run Refugee Aid Centre (Valtion Pakolaisavustuskeskus). (6)
The Jewish refugee problem came to a head after the German occupation of Austria in March 1938. Among others, also the Finnish consulate in Vienna was flooded with Austrian Jewish applicants seeking visas abroad. It took some time for Germany to revoke the existing travel documents issued by the now-defunct state of Austria and replace them with German passports. The Finnish policy was to keep considering Austrian passports as valid, but refuse entry from those passengers without a right of return to Germany. In October 1938, the passports of German and Austrian Jews began to be stamped with a capital red J, signifying that the passport holder was Jewish and without a right to return to Germany. This dramatically worsened the chances of holders of such passports to be accepted anywhere. (7)
Finland’s consulate in Vienna had been rather liberal in granting visas to Austrian Jews, with which a few hundred were able to enter the country. Even this small number roused the fears.
Finland’s consulate in Vienna had been rather liberal in granting visas to Austrian Jews, with which a few hundred were able to enter the country. Even this small number roused the fears. In August 1938, a number of unions representing handicrafts and retail trade, fearing competition on the part of the refugee Jewish tradesmen entering Finland, appealed to the government to deport those already admitted, and prevent the entry of further Jewish refugees into Finland. The matter came to a head with the turning back in late August of a group of 53 Austrian Jewish refugees on board the steamer Ariadne, seeking entry into Finland. They were forced to remain on board and return in due course to Germany. The liberal and social-democrat press in Finland erupted in appeals for the relaxation of immigration policy, and the Swedish press soon joined in criticism of the Finnish government. But the adopted line was not eased. (8)
Jewish refugees in Finland were helped by the Finnish Jewish community, certain Christian organizations and the Social Democratic Party.
Apart from the state-run Refugee Aid Centre, which anyway concentrated its efforts solely on the refugees from Soviet Russia, the Finnish state had no organs or means to aid the refugees in Finland. They were thus on their own, and had to secure help through their personal contacts and the still-feeble structures of the Finnish civic society. Jewish refugees in Finland were helped by the Finnish Jewish community, certain Christian organizations and the Social Democratic Party. The National Socialist takeover in Germany had already in 1933 created pressure for European sister parties to help those Social Democrats fleeing Germany, and the Spanish Civil War further increased the need for organized aid efforts. In Finland, the Social Democratic refugee aid grew from the concept of succor to the “victims of Fascism,” into whom the Jewish refugees could in time also be included. (9)
“Should this policy of neutrality fail, we will end up under either the Bolsheviks or the Germans. And the latter option is better, even if not pleasant.” (10)
As the 1930s drew to a close, Western Europe drifted apart from Eastern Europe. European countries were more or less forced to choose between the two great dictatorships, Germany and the Soviet Union. For Western Europe the traditional enemy, the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union, was rapidly replaced by a much more acute threat, that of a resurgent and rearming Germany. In Eastern Europe, the choice tended to be equally simple. The Soviet Union was a major security policy problem throughout the region, and its growing assertiveness led its neighbors, Poland excepted, to seek support and protection from Hitler’s Germany. Finland was no exception. Finland’s official policy of neutrality was dictated by the glaring lack of serious security political options and credible allies. If it came to a choice between Hitler and Stalin, few in Finland were ready to seriously consider the choice: Germany, even under the Nazi regime, was almost a foregone conclusion. As the former prime minister, future president of the republic and a towering figure of the Finnish political Right, J. K. Paasikivi, summed it up in a letter in April 1939: “should this policy of neutrality fail, we will end up under either the Bolsheviks or the Germans. And the latter option is better, even if not pleasant.” (10)
In the Shadow of the War
The August 1939 non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union carved up Eastern Europe and placed Finland within the Soviet sphere of interests. Germany accordingly did not react when the Soviet Union cancelled the Finnish-Soviet non-aggression treaty and attacked Finland in November 30. Throughout the conflict Germany maintained an official pro-Soviet policy and obstructed international efforts to deliver aid to Finland. This was in marked contrast to the wave of international sympathy, which expressed itself in efforts to help Finland both materially, and by a stream of volunteers from several countries. As a sign of inter-Nordic sympathy, the largest contingents of volunteers came from Sweden, Denmark and Norway. At the end of January 1940 the Finnish military leadership extended the call also to the foreigners residing in Finland, while at the same time exposing the most enduring ethnic prejudices even a situation of dire crisis could not erase, deciding to accept everyone “whether they have military training or not, émigrés of Russian origin and Jewish refugees from Central Europe nevertheless excluded.” (11)
Finland was forced to sue for peace in March 1940, had to cede considerable tracts of its eastern regions, and hastily resettle the roughly 400,000 thousand internal refugees fleeing from the area to be ceded.
No amount of sympathy or volunteers could decide the war. Finland was forced to sue for peace in March 1940, had to cede considerable tracts of its eastern regions, and hastily resettle the roughly 400,000 thousand internal refugees fleeing from the area to be ceded. The fear of renewed Soviet aggression led the government to eagerly embrace any help it could get from Germany, and the first German troops entered Finnish territory in September 1940. Ostensibly, it was a question of transit traffic between Germany and German-occupied northern Norway. In Finland the agreement was widely interpreted to mean a tacit guarantee against further Soviet designs on Finland. The side consequence, however, was that Finland became irresistibly entangled in and drawn to the German plans for war against the Soviet Union. On the eve of operation Barbarossa, Germany had already almost 100,000 soldiers on Finnish territory. Even more crucial, the entire northern half of the country had been agreed to constitute a German-controlled theatre of war. This had further consequences, as the German military was to be accompanied also by the German Security Police, tasked with waging the ideological and racial war against the Soviet Union.
Their intended use was to pacify the occupied territory, and prepare it for the future German ‘overlordship’ by liquidating those strata of society deemed capable of resistance and leadership: Soviet functionaries, Red Army political officers, active Communists – and any and all Jews.
The German combat troops entering Soviet territory upon commencement of hostilities on June 22, 1941 were followed by special task forces of the German Security Police and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). These were divided into four Einsatzgruppen, roughly thousand-strong each, which divided into smaller Einsatzkommandos. Their intended use was to pacify the occupied territory, and prepare it for the future German ‘overlordship’ by liquidating those strata of society deemed capable of resistance and leadership: Soviet functionaries, Red Army political officers, active Communists – and any and all Jews. Almost as an afterthought, the SS leadership in June 1941 set in motion measures to set up a Security Police and SD Einsatzkommando also for the German-controlled part of the Finnish-Soviet front, Finnish Lapland. The unit was hastily put together, its designated leader, SS-Sturmbannführer Gustav vom Felde, arriving in Helsinki in the last days of June, when the assault into the Soviet Union was already in full swing further south. (12)
In Helsinki, vom Felde contacted the leadership of the Finnish Security Police, and the guidelines for joint action in the coming campaign were laid out. The competence of the German security police and the Einsatzkommando did not extend to Finnish citizens, but both sides accepted the need to hasten the destruction of the Soviet Union, and ease the future governance of former Soviet territory, by destroying the perceived mainstays of the Soviet system. The Finnish Security Police therefore detached several of its officials to work under vom Felde’s command, and he departed for Lapland. (13)
For the civilian Jewish refugees, things seemed already much dimmer.
With Finland’s joining the war against the Soviet Union, and the advance of Finnish troops ultimately into Soviet Karelia, tens of thousands of prisoners-of-war were taken, far more than the prisoner-of-war administration was equipped to handle. After this, there were three different groups of Jews in war-time Finland. The Finnish Jews, those either holding Finnish citizenship or being equal to citizens on the basis of an already lengthy residence, were in the most secure position. For the civilian Jewish refugees, things seemed already much dimmer. The only way to leave Finland after June 1941 was via Sweden, the only alternative being to remain in Finland, in the worst case without permission, documents, or livelihood. Non-citizens were subject to deportation should they attract the negative attention of the Security Police, and a deportation to German-controlled areas most likely ended in death. In 1941-1942, the Security Police deported a total of 12 Jewish refugees into the hands of German authorities.
In 1941-1942, the Security Police deported a total of 12 Jewish refugees into the hands of German authorities.
The third group of Jews consisted of Soviet Jewish prisoners-of-war. Their total number in Finnish custody was recorded to be 405, but it is likely to have been higher due to the fact that many Jewish prisoners undoubtedly sought to hide their ethnic identity. The Finnish military authorities adopted the German practice of separating the prisoners suspected of political activity, commissars and politruksinto a separate camp, from which they funneled the most troublesome into the hands of the Einsatzkommando Finnland in the north. A total of 521 Soviet prisoners-of-war are known to have been handed over this way, among them 49 prisoners registered as Jews. Successful war operations provided the rationale and the cover under which it was possible for the Finnish authorities to participate in the ideological and racial war of the mighty German ally. (14)
The German attempt to deport the Danish Jews in late 1943 caused even such highly visible friends of Germany as the philosopher Eino Kaila to publicly denounce Nazi Jewish policy in the major daily of the Finnish political Right.
The high-water mark of Finnish-German cooperation was reached in 1941-1942. The ebb began with the waning German fortunes of war. In November 1942 the Finnish Security Police could still arrange a deportation of eight Jewish refugees from Finland into German hands, but the ensuing press clamor was already a symptom of the weakening grip of censorship, and doubts about Finland’s future in the war. The German attempt to deport the Danish Jews in late 1943 caused even such highly visible friends of Germany as the philosopher Eino Kaila to publicly denounce Nazi Jewish policy in the major daily of the Finnish political Right. Finland was looking for a way out of the war, and there was less and less reason to remain politely silent about such matters. (15)
The window of opportunity when Germany could have presented Finland with an official request to deport either all, or the foreign Jews in Finland, had by 1943 closed. While all the Jews in Finland had been earmarked for destruction in due time, Finland was never put to the ultimate test. As was fitting for a small country, throughout the war Finland had sought to maintain relations to the Western Allies. Even the British declaration of war in 1941 did not frustrate this policy of insuring oneself for all eventualities. After Stalingrad, United States’ support came to be seen as increasingly essential for a successful exit from the war and Finland’s continued existence as an independent state. It was also important that Sweden remained a relatively free enclave, where the politicians, press and public both followed, and were keen to comment on, Finnish affairs. The SS leadership did not forget the Jews in Finland, but there were strong arguments for Finland not emulating German Jewish policy, at least until a decisive German victory would have been secured.
The Demise of Exceptionalism
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland and President of the Republic, paid a visit to the Helsinki synagogue on Finland’s Independence Day, December 6th, 1944. The war on the European continent was still going on in full force, and the destruction of its Jewish population continued in the extermination camps. The old marshal was a shrewd politician who throughout his career successfully avoided compromising himself directly, even while he at times entertained the conspiratorial schemes of the radical Right. The visit to the synagogue was another clever move, with which Mannerheim sought to secure the potentially valuable loyalty of the Jewish community. That he felt it advisable to do so is an indication of the growing need to distance oneself from the still in-progress Holocaust in order to maintain political credibility. (16)
There were two ways to try to avoid accusations of culpability to Nazi atrocities and the accompanying political discredit: by resigning from responsibility, or by speaking out.
At the time of Mannerheim’s visit, the battle for Finland’s future course was already in full swing and the Holocaust a potential weapon in it. There were two ways to try to avoid accusations of culpability to Nazi atrocities and the accompanying political discredit: by resigning from responsibility, or by speaking out. Mannerheim, and virtually the whole Finnish political elite, chose the first course by acting as if they had nothing to explain. The reasons for their choice are to be found in the post-war position of Finland, which came to be very different from the rest of the defeated and occupied Eastern Europe. The choice was crucial in determining the shape of post-war Finnish discussion regarding the Holocaust.
Finland was never occupied, and while the Communists immediately returned to the political scene after the Finnish-Soviet armistice in September 1944, they failed to gain control of the key state institutions. The majority of the parliament, the civil service, courts and the military remained in the hands of non-Communists. Status quo ante bellum prevailed, and most members of the pre-war political elite and civil service were able to continue their business as usual also after the war. In 1941 Finland had been taken to war by a broad based coalition government including the Social Democrats, and had been governed during the war in an atmosphere of Burgfrieden. After the war, the Social Democrats emerged as perhaps the most active anti-Communists in the battle to limit the growth of the Far Left influence. While the Communists and their allies sought to change the status quo also through accusations of Fascism and war crimes, their efforts were eventually frustrated by the fact that the vast majority of Finnish politicians had little interest in burrowing into the embarrassing details of the very recent past. (17)
Immediate post-war political necessities have continued to shape the discourse on Holocaust in Finland, to this day.
Immediate post-war political necessities have continued to shape the discourse on Holocaust in Finland, to this day. Suggestions of connections between war-time Finland and the Holocaust still tend to bring forward defensive reactions, consisting of comments seeking to relativize or belittle Finnish responsibility. A typical rhetorical tactic is to divert attention to Stalin’s crimes, which supposedly makes it superfluous to even speak about those of Hitler. The number of Jews victimized through direct acts of Finnish authorities is quickly declared so low as not to warrant any further discussion. Or, it is said to be preposterous to pay so much attention to the victims, when there were so many Jews who on the contrary found refuge in Finland, and whom Finland can be said to have protected. To any of these tropes a hardly veiled allegation of Far Left political sympathies can be added, intended to demolish the credibility of anyone seeking to connect Finland’s history with the history of the Holocaust. They simply have nothing to do with each other, runs the creed of Finnish exceptionalism.
Defensiveness is a symptom of underlying guilt, sustained by decades of circling around but never really engaging the real issue.
Defensiveness is a symptom of underlying guilt, sustained by decades of circling around but never really engaging the real issue. Finnish exceptionalism has rested on the convenient myth of the separate war, which has allowed the Finns also not confront the memory of the Holocaust. Within the exceptionalist framework, Finland is not really perceived as part of a larger whole, of Europe, or Nordic countries. Within this narrative framework, Finland fought alone against the Soviets in 1939-1940, then again simultaneously with, but independent of, Germany in 1941-1944, had virtually nothing to do with the Holocaust, instead protecting both its own Jewish minority and a not inconsiderable number of Jewish refugees, and generally being a country where “anti-Semitism simply did not exist,” to borrow the promotional sleeve text of one early study. In the same narrative vein, Finland finally emerges into the post-war period with a peculiar, but actually a shrewd and very independent-minded arrangement with the Soviet Union only the unenlightened could disparage as Finnlandisierung. (18)
The national memory culture and historiography have both displayed a strong tendency towards isolationism. Subjects of historical study difficult or impossible to understand without an inter- or transnational background – such as cooperation with the Nazi regime, or the Holocaust – are either dismissed as being outside the Finnish experience, or are given an exclusively national, exceptionalist interpretation – like describing Finnish participation in the Waffen-SS as a national project aimed at securing Germany’s diplomatic support without further meaningful connotations.
Finnish exceptionalism regarding the Holocaust and the whole German alliance period was born out of the post-war political necessities, produced by the uncomfortably close distance to the Soviet Union.
The fall of the Soviet Union and Finland’s entry into the process of European unification seems finally to have begun to change the rules and demands to memory policy. Finnish exceptionalism regarding the Holocaust and the whole German alliance period was born out of the post-war political necessities, produced by the uncomfortably close distance to the Soviet Union. During the 2000s, research has brought forth new knowledge regarding Finland’s history with the Holocaust. The public awareness is slowly digesting the fact that Finland in 1939-1945 participated in a general European conflict where it simply could not pick and choose which of its dimensions it got involved with. There were forces and people in Finland quite ready to cooperate with the Nazi regime in realizing even its most extreme ideological and racial projects, and it is time to face these unwelcome facts.
• • •
Silvennoinen, Oula. “Helsinki: On the brink – Finland and the Holocaust Era.” In Civil Society and the Holocaust: International Perspectives on Resistance and Rescue, edited by Anders Jerichow and Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Banke, 148-161. New York: Humanity in Action Press, 2013.
- Hans-Jürgen Döscher, Das Auswärtige Amt im Dritten Reich, Berlin: Siedler 1987.
- Michael Jonas, Kolmannen valtakunnan lähettiläs, Wipert von Blücher ja Suomi, Helsinki: Ajatus 2010.
- Matti Lackman, Esko Riekki, Jääkärivärväri, Etsivän Keskuspoliisin päällikkö, Suomalaisen SS-pataljoonan luoja, Helsinki: SKS 2007.
- Hannu Rautkallio, Finland and the Holocaust, The Rescue of Finland’s Jews, New York: Holocaust Library 1987.
- Esko Salminen: Aselevosta kaappaushankkeeseen, Sensuuri ja itsesensuuri Suomen lehdistössä 1944-1948, Helsinki: Otava 1979.
- Oula Silvennoinen, Geheime Waffenbrüderschaft, Die sicherheitspolizeiliche Zusammenarbeit zwischen Finnland und Deutschland 1933-1944, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2010.
- Oula Silvennoinen, Paperisydän, Gösta Serlachiuksen elämä, Helsinki: Siltala 2012.
- Jukka Tarkka: Karhun kainalossa, Helsinki: Otava, 2012.
- Taimi Torvinen, Pakolaiset Suomessa Hitlerin valtakaudella, Helsinki: Otava 1984.
- Taimi Torvinen, Kadimah, Suomen juutalaisten historia, Helsinki: Otava 1989.
- Vesa Vares: Hakaristin kuva. Kansallissosialistinen Saksa Suomen johtavassa puoluelehdistössä sisäja ulkopoliittisena tekijänä 1933-1939, Turku: Turun yliopisto 1986.
- Bernd Wegner, Oliver von Wrochem and Daniel Schümmer (eds.), Finnland und Deutschland, Studien zur Geschichte im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač 2009.
- Lars Westerlund (ed.), Prisoners of War Deaths and People Handed Over to Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939-55, Helsinki: National Archives 2008.
- Hans-Jürgen Döscher, Das Auswärtige Amt im Dritten Reich, Berlin: Siedler 1987, p. 227-236.
- Döscher, Das Auswärtige Amt, p. 227-236.
- Michael Jonas, Kolmannen valtakunnan lähettiläs, Wipert von Blücher ja Suomi, Helsinki: Ajatus 2010, p. 270-271.
- Vesa Vares: Hakaristin kuva. Kansallissosialistinen Saksa Suomen johtavassa puoluelehdis- tössä sisä- ja ulkopoliittisena tekijänä 1933-1939, Turku: Turun yliopisto 1986, p. 14-21; Matti Lackman, Esko Riekki, Jääkärivärväri, Etsivän Keskuspoliisin päällikkö, Suomalaisen SS-pataljoonan luoja, Helsinki: SKS 2007, p. 323.
- Lackman, Esko Riekki, p. 332; Taimi Torvinen, Pakolaiset Suomessa Hitlerin valtakaudella, Helsinki: Otava 1984, p. 110-111; Esko Salminen: Aselevosta kaappaushankkeeseen, Sensuuri ja itsesensuuri Suomen lehdistössä 1944-1948, Helsinki: Otava 1979, p. 18-22.
- Torvinen, Pakolaiset Suomessa, p. 126-127.
- Torvinen, Pakolaiset Suomessa, p. 91.
- Torvinen, Pakolaiset Suomessa, p. 95-96.
- Torvinen, Pakolaiset Suomessa, p. 127-133.
- Oula Silvennoinen, Geheime Waffenbrüderschaft, Die sicherheitspolizeiliche Zusammenarbeit zwischen Finnland und Deutschland 1933-1944, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2010, p. 33.
- Oula Silvennoinen, Paperisydän, Gösta Serlachiuksen elämä, Helsinki: Siltala 2012, p. 469.
- Silvennoinen, Geheime Waffenbrüderschaft, p. 164-168.
- Silvennoinen, Geheime Waffenbrüderschaft, p. 168-171.
- Ida Suolahti: ‘Prisoner of War Transfers During the Continuation War’, in: Lars Westerlund (ed.), Prisoners of War Deaths and People Handed Over to Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939-55, Helsinki: National Archives 2008, p. 154, 157, footnote 292.
- Malte Gasche and Johan Strang,’Der Kriegseinsatz des finnischen Philosophen Eino Kaila’, in: Bernd Wegner, Oliver von Wrochem and Daniel Schümmer (eds.), Finnland und Deutschland, Studien zur Geschichte im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač 2009, p. 92-93.
- Taimi Torvinen, Kadimah, Suomen juutalaisten historia, Helsinki: Otava 1989, p. 161-162.
- Salminen: Aselevosta kaappaushankkeeseen, p. 52; Jukka Tarkka: Karhun kainalossa, Helsinki: Otava 2012, p. 26.
- Hannu Rautkallio, Finland and the Holocaust, The Rescue of Finland’s Jews, New York: Holocaust Library 1987.