What is more shameful? The atrocities we committed or covering up those atrocities?
One of the matters that surprised me when I was writing for a number of publications from Finland like the Financial Times, was how its geopolitical isolation helped it to cover up some unpleasant facts about itself. Its isolation gave it a free hand to write history to avoid it answering unpleasant things like its alliance with Nazi Germany in World War 2.
One of these unpleasant episodes of its history, which have gathered dust for decades, is the complicity of Finnish SS-volunteers in atrocities against Jews and civilian population of Nazi-occupied Russia.
Relations with Nazi Germany were so good that Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and Marshall Carl Gustaf Mannerheim drank a schnapps together in Mikkeli in fall 1942
For me personally, the geographic and later during the Cold War its geopolitical remoteness from Western Europe molded Finland into being too alike. Up to the 1970s even Finnish historians continued to use pseudoscience disciplines like eugenics dividing Finns into two “races:” the Nordic and East Baltic. Even at elementary schools in the 1970s, children leaned that that the letter n stands for the n-word.
This led to distorted views about oneself just like Heikki Waris’ academic denial in the cold war years of the 1960s. He wrote: “Racial homogeneity particularly characterizes the Finnish people who have practically no racial minorities…Consequently, racial prejudice and discrimination are nonexistent.”
Being too alike has given racism and exceptionalism fertile ground to grow and shed roots.
Near-isolation has not helped us to deal with our demographic woes. As the population grays, and as our demographic, social and economic problems grow, some of us will search for answers in populist and Islamophobic parties like the Peussuomalaiset.*
It’s not difficult to connect the dots and seek the answer why racism, fascism, and nationalism are on the rise.
I believe that it will be the migrants, their children and grandchildren that will cure this country of its myopic view of itself and the outside world. They will be an effective antibody against racism.
Back in the good old structural racism days of the 1980s, laws such as the Restricting Act of 1939 (law 219/1939), which became redundant in 1992, prohibited foreigners from owning real estate and acquiring a majority stake in Finnish companies—limiting this to 20% normally and 40% under special permission. Other “darlings” of that period were that foreigners weren’t allowed found newspapers, never mind organize demonstrations and be politically active.
At the time in Finland, there was no habeas corpus, no right to appeal your deportation, and no laws against racism never mind hate crime. Even Soviet citizens were forcibly returned to the former Soviet Union after requesting asylum.
Yes, all the above occurred before EU membership in 1995.
Distance and perspective
As time distances us from the Cold War and World War 2 and gives us space and courage to ask some difficult questions, it’s clear that our involvement in those two wars will come under greater scrutiny from within and outside.
Last year, Efaim Zuoff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center made an appeal to President Sauli Niinisö to launch an independent investigation of Finnish SS-volunteers and their involvement with Einsatzgruppe death squads that were responsible for murdering an estimated 2 million people, mostly Jews. It’s findings became public on Saturday, reports Yle News.
The independent investigation confirmed several cases where Finnish SS-volunteers of the Waffen-SS Wiking Division engaged in barbarous acts against civilians and Jews in Ukraine and the Caucasus.
Even if the documents of the investigation could not conclusively confirm that they took part in such atrocities, the question is how did they not know or even take part in such mass murder. The war waged by Nazi Germany in the East was a war of annihilation. It’s aim was to wipe off the face of the map Jews and Communists and replace them with lebensraum German settlers. Finland also had its lebensraum, or living space, that included large swathes of land in the east.
In Oula Silvennoinen’s doctoral dissertation of 2008 revealed for the first time the Einsatzkommando Finnland handed some 500 POWs to the Germans who probably executed all of them.
New studies about our history yet published will not only help us mold a stronger sense of identity but most importantly warn us not to commit the same mistakes of the past.
* The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13, 2017 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity never mind Muslims and other visible minorities. One is more open about it while the other says it in a different way.
A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.