The Jews who fought for Hitler
Following the 1939 Winter War with the Soviet Union, in which Finnish forces famously inflicted massive casualties on the numerically and technologically superior Soviet invaders by waging a brutal guerrilla war, Finland made a Faustian pact with Hitler to preserve their independence in September 1940. Now a German ally, the Finns launched an offensive to retake lost territory that perfectly coincided with Army Group North's aims in Operation Barbarossa, as it occupied Soviet troops, blockaded the Soviet Baltic fleet and pressured Leningrad. Paradoxically, the Finnish Army's ranks included 200 Jews, who fought for Hitler's aims.
Finland's experience of World War Two is fascinatingly ambivalent, as emphasised by the Jewish soldiers participation in the invasion of Russia. Despite being a Nazi ally, the Western allies remained sympathetic towards Finland because of their inspiring defence of democracy in 1939, and the fact that they held democratic elections throughout the war. However, Britain still declared war. The Finnish authorities also defied the SS by refusing to hand over any of the country's 2,000 Jews.
The Finns committed atrocities in the war and pursued policies that are easily likened to those of Germany. 19,000 Soviet prisoners of war died in prison camps, and they even enacted a small scale Lebensraum ('Living space' - the Nazi ideal of depopulating Eastern Europe and resettling it with Germans to create a 'Greater Germany'). Following the fall of Keralia, they transferred 24,000 Russian civilians to concentration camps, 4,200 of whom died. This illustrated how Finnish nationalism was just as unsavoury as that of Nazism.
Another parallel between Finland and Germany was their historical use of the Swastika, a traditional Baltic symbol of good luck. The symbol was the emblem of the Finnish airforce since 1918, predating the Nazi's use by two years. A blue swastika is still on Finnish aircraft today.
Despite Finland's affiliation with the Nazis, their overriding aim was to remain independent and democratic, a goal that was achieved even if it meant putting nationalism before morality.
|Jewish soldiers that fought for Hitler|
|Current Finnish Air Force Academy logo|