Nazi salutes and the growth of far-right ideology in Finland

by , under Enrique

In two weeks, two Perussuomalaiset (PS) politicians got their fingers burned badly after one made a Nazi salute with a Hitler mask while another took a picture of another one who made the same salute in parliament. One of the reasons why some Finns can do this in public is because they have a blind spot for the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by the Nazis in World War 2.

Turku University historian Markku Jokisipilä agrees. He was quoted as saying on Iltalehti that some people in Finland don’t see Nazism the same way as elsewhere in Europe because they don’t grasp its connection to the Holocaust.

It’s been quite a week for the PS but what can you expect if too many of its members have a fascination with Nazi Germany.

In the first case, Kangasala councilman Jani Viinikainen, resigned from the PS after it became clear that it was him wearing a Hitler mask and making a Nazi salute below.

Viinikainen, a far-right politician who has a close ideological ties with Hirvisaari, first denied he was in the picture. He tried to play down his role by stating that the Nazi salute he made wasn’t at a 45° angle and done with his left arm.

Former PS councilman Jani Viinikainen on the right with Seppo Lehto on the far left.

Finland still has a problem with Nazism because it has never debated openly its role with Hitler’s Germany during the Continuation War (1941-44). Debating it would be opening a can of worms that would put into serious question the credibility of some of our most important historic leaders like Marshal Carl Mannerheim.

The excuse, which impairs our understanding and condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in World War 2, is our hatred of the former Soviet Union and the Russians.

The same reasoning we used to go to bed with Nazi Germany works to promote far-right ideology today in Finland. Since we loathe Muslims, the new enemy, it’s fine to join and vote for a right-wing populist party like the PS and make Nazi salutes.

This ideological juggernaut that conditions our world view usually gets the last say and permits some to be tolerant of intolerance. It has given birth to far-right politicians like Hirvisaari, Jussi Halla-aho, Juho Eerola, Olli Immonen and many others. How do you explain a party like the PS that rose from relative obscurity to the country’s third-largest in parliament in 2011?

You can belong to a legally registered party in Finland and still wear a brown shirt under your suit. It’s not shameful and permits you to come to terms with “jokes” like the one below by Lehto.

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Seppo Lehto, who was sentenced to a 2.5-year prison sentence for ethnic agitation, gave a Nazi salute in parliament on Friday. He was PS MP James Hirvisaari guest.