Setting the record straight on Finland

By Ted Belman.

I recently sent out a mass mailing of some wonderful pictures of a rally for Israel in Finland. I had received an email with these pictures and with the title Findland loves Israel.

Then I received a letter arguing that its wrong to say Finland loves Israel. I agreed and changed the title to Finnish Evangelicals love Israel.

Then I received an email from a friend of Barry Rubin that I wanted to share with you. Read on.

Dear Mr.Belman,

There is an email going around about Finland, Finnish Jews and Gustav Mannerheim that is troubling for many a good reason. I don’t know whether you or someone else forwarded that email to you and then you decided to pass it on ahead, but there needs to be some light shed on what you have been promulgating. I received your mail from Prof.Barry Rubin who thought it would be of interest to me, and he was right, it did. Please don’t take this email wrongly, many people have misguided notions about Finland during that period in time, I just want to set things right, or at best, give you my two cents worth. Do with it as you like.

Your email states that:

    [The situation in Finland was a lot more complex. Jewish men served in the Finnish Army in the war against the Soviets alongside the German troops stationed in parts of Finland {South East and North East}. Marshall Carl Mannerheim a white Russian cavalry general was the Commander in Chief of the Finnish Army and as a Russian he hated the Germans with passion and thus objected to any German request in principle but not because of any feeling of pity for the Jews. Mannerheim, for example, stopped the Finnish Army from approaching the Murmansk-to-Leningrad railway line for critical Allied supplies to save the Russians from defeat because crossing these red lines would have never been forgiven to Finland.]

While it is entirely true that Mannerheim had a deep dislike/disgust for the Nazis, he did not hate the Germans, who had earlier trained divisions of Finnish soldiers towards the end of the Czarist period when Finland was still a Duchy to the Czarist state. These soldiers were crucial for the White army in fighting the Reds during Finland’s own civil war. During the Winter War and the Continuing War, Finnish Jewish soldiers knew of Mannerheim’s philosemitic character, having been allowed to build a one of its kind, field synagogue, with his blessing. I happen to know the offspring of the men who founded that field synagogue, and they all hold Mannerheim with highest regard.
The Finns refused German policies and tactics that didn’t mesh with their own plans for self survival. The Finns were co-belligerents with the Nazis, due to the Soviets’ war of occupation for all of Finland, something that the German Nazis approved of, until they saw how the Finns held off the Soviets during the Winter War and saw a potential ally. Mannerheim understood this, hence the deep distrust for the Nazis and the protection of Finnish Jews.

Your email also states the following:

    [In general the sentiment towards the Jews in Finland before and during the World War II was quite hostile. Jews interned from Austria in Finland were handed over to Germany and were sent to Auschwitz but not the Jews that had Finnish citizenship. Towards 1944 there were plans to arrest and court martial Mannerheim with subsequent deportation of all Jews to Auschwitz next to certain.]

While it’s true that foreign Jews were handed over to the Nazis, (and later apologized for) this reflects the one hand not knowing what the other was hand was doing: SUPO, the Finnish state police at the time had some Nazi sympathizers in its ranks, but that doesn’t reflect on the Finnish government The State police had a larger say in the handling of immigration affairs, and these Jews handed over fell prey to a small cabal of men who were in fact Nazis themselves. The government was never sympathetic to Nazi ideals, but due to the wars at hand, self preservation had theír attention more than individuals. Sad but true.

The Soviet show trials dared at one time to prosecute Mannerhiem, but quickly changed its mind, choosing to center its attention of the PM, Risto Ryti, who was forced to sign an arms agreement with the Nazis in exchange for his political support for the Nazis, all done for the sake of huge weapons shipments that proved crucial during the latter stages of teh Continuing War, when the Soviets made a last final push through Ihantala located in the Isthmus. My father-in-law was badly wounded during that fight.

Your email goes on to add:

    [1) Mannerheim in 1919-1920 as the caretaker for the new Republic of Finland was forced by the Allies {Britain and USA} to grant Jews citizenship or be refused grain shipments that were so crucial to Finland after a long and brutal civil war between Whites and Reds causing widespread hunger. So Finland became the last state in Europe to grant its Jews citizenship;]

This is entirely untrue. From the Helsinki Jewish Community’s own website [1], and I’m I know the people responsible for the uploading and upkeep of that site, states the following:

    “The struggle for equal rights for Jews was taken up in the Finnish Diet in 1872. The press debate on Jewish emancipation that started about that time continued during the 1870s and 1880s. There was not, however, yet to be any change for the better in the status of the Jews in Finland. By the end of the 1880s there were about a thousand Jews resident in Finland. It was not until 1917, when Finland became independent, that the Jews received civil rights. On 22 December 1917, Parliament approved an Act concerning “Mosaic Confessors,” and on 12 January 1918 the Act was promulgated. Under the Act, Jews could for the first time become Finnish nationals, and Jews not possessing Finnish nationality were henceforth in all respects to be treated as foreigners in general.”

Also, the email wrongly insists:

    [2) Late 1920s white farmers black shirts sympathetic to Hitler started a march towards Helsinki as part of a coup de tat. President Svihuvud {Swine Head literarily} although extreme far right as an ex Judge would not tolerate any illegality and went to the Finnish Radio to request everybody to go home and everybody went home because everybody knew that Svinhuvud would have slaughtered all of them had they disobeyed his order;]

Pehr Svinhufvud was appointed Prime Minister prior to the incident your email mentions, yes, at the insistence of the Lappua Movement who were anti-Communist, but it’s unclear to me whether they were indeed national socialists of the Hitlerite persuasion. Itend to agree with the notion that they were arch conservative as was Svinhufvud, but not “far-right”, (Fascist) a euphemism used by the Left for someone who’s a patriot and not a Marxist socialist. He refused to be manhandled by both the Marxists and the Lappua Movement and enforced the law.

As for the government not forgiving Mannerheim’s treatment of Hitler, this sounds strange. There is an unsubstantiated story of his lighting up his cigar in Hitler’s presence, but nothing more than that. I know all about Abraham Stiller’s (Not Benjamin as the email wrongly stated) interventions with the Government. I translated for retired journalist, Rony Smolar, large chapters of his book, Stiller, for the English speaking market.

Due to Stiller’s intervention, many in the government became aware what the small cabal of lower ranking officials were doing and planning with heads of SUPO, to get rid of Finland’s Jews. This never came to pass due to information Stiller gave, as well as Himmler’s suitcase (during his stay at the Seurahuone Hotel) having been poured through and copied by a spy, with a list of Jewish names having been found in it. So, the Finnish government knew thanks to these efforts.

The last parting statement is interesting as well:

    [All in all the Finns were never pro Jewish but rather pro German and anti-Semitic. It was just the good fortune of the Finnish-Soviet war ending mid 1944 that saved the Finnish Jews from deportation to Auschwitz.]

Most Finns could have cared less, pure and simple. Anti-Semitism is a common shared trait in all of these Nordic states, but Finns still remain less attracted to that disease than most in Scandinavia. Most importantly, it’s wise to understand the general history of the state and war(s) in question. Finland stood to lose whether the Germans or the Soviets won big. However, the only way Jews were to be victimized in mass, was if Finland were ever to lose its sovereignty to either side. Most Finnish Jews knew this, even though there was extreme anxiety in their community due to Finland’s relations with the Nazis and the activities of a cabal of rogue bureaucrats and officials.

Cheers/Kenneth Sikorski

A Short History of Finnish Jews

July 25, 2010 | 1 Comment »

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  1. email from Israel’s Amb to Finland.

    I find the need to react to the e-mail you received, which is full of inaccuracies, to say the least.

    As for the demonstration – it was organized by Christians – friends of Israel with the full participation of the Finnish Jewish Community. The Leadership of the Jewish Community as well as many of its members, participated in the demonstration, as can bee seen from the photos you published.

    As for Marshall Mannerheim – his relation with the Jewish Community is very well recorded. Mannerheim writes in his own dairy that his was approached by Himmler (apparently on two occasions) regarding the “Jewish Question” and responded that “in Finland there is no Jewish Question”.

    Mannerheim respected and honored the Jewish Community and spent Finnish Independence Day on the 6th of December 1944, as President of Finland, in the Synagogue of Helsinki, together with the Jewish Community.

    As for the general sentiments towards Jews during, before and after the Second World War, it should be noted that when the Chief of the Helsinki Police decided on his own, to deport 8 Jewish refugees to the hands of the Gestapo in Tallinn, (and this was the only case when Jews were deported from Finland to the hands of the German Authorities) it was encountered with great criticism by the whole Finnish Leadership as well as the Finnish Media which published editorials condemning that decision. As a result there was a demand to have the Helsinki Chief of Police stand trial as a war criminal.

    Till today there is great respect and appreciation, in the Jewish Community of Finland, for Marshall Mannerheim and his treatment of that Community during the most horrible period of Jewish life in Europe.

    Avi Granot

    Ambassador of Israel

    to Finland and Estonia

    Yrjonkatu 36A

    00100 Helsinki, Finland

    Tel: +358-9-681-20221