Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thank You Finland

During World War Two, Finland was an oasis of security for its approximately 1600 Jews. Strangely enough, Finland was also an important ally of Nazi Germany. There are many oddities about Finland, not the least of which is its language, which is totally unrelated to the other languages spoken in Scandinavia.
Until 1917, Finland was a part of the Russian Empire. The February and November revolutions gave critical mass to the Finnish movement for independence. On November 15, ten days after Finland's Parliament declared itself to be "the possessor of supreme State power" in Finland, the Bolshevik government, in one of the few acts for which it can be praised, recognised Finland as an independent nation with a right to self determination.
America had rightly labeled the bombing of Pearl Harbour as "a day that would live in infamy". 1939 and 1940 were a time of perfidy in which the U.S.S.R. waged its infamous war of aggression against Finland. It succeeded in wresting a chunk of Finnish territory but was thwarted in its aim to reabsorb the entire Finnish Republic.
The Finns, who had run their country as a well functioning democracy between the world wars, made the difficult decision to ally itself with Nazi Germany to preserve some semblance of independence. The magnitude of the threat posed by the U.S.S.R. makes such a decision totally understandable. If anyone can fault the Finns, it is not the U.S.S.R. , considering their own treaty of Friendship with Nazi Germany, that lasted from 1939 to 1941.
During the war with the U.S.S.R., the Jews of Finland had complete civic equality. They served in the Finnish army and even had a field synagogue that was known to the Germans. The Finns made it entirely clear that they would permit no discrimination against any Finn based upon their religious allegiance. Jewish soldiers were completely loyal to Finland and its treaty obligations to Germany. Some maintained their integrity by refusing German military decorations.
There was some effort by the Germans to interest Finland in a" final solution". There are various accounts of intrigue in connection with this. It can be said that the decency of the Finnish people and Finland's strategic importance were a winning combination for the Jews of Finland. Refugees and prisoners of war were not as fortunate. Some were handed over to Germany or its other allies not as Jews but as aliens with indifference to their fate in German hands. Finland actually tried a military officer of the Finnish army after the war who had handed over eight Jewish prisoners to the notorious Estonians, who murdered most of their Jewish population.
Finland did an amazing job of maintaining their allegiance to rigourous standards of civic equality for all its citizens. In looking at Finland I see that there is a difference between World War Two and the war against the Jews. When I contrast Finland's record with that of Poland, Belarus, Croatia, Latvia Lithuania and Estonia, the Finnish Republic and its citizens earn my unflagging gratitude. Just as it is central to my identity to celebrate the exodus from Egypt, it is a matter of Jewish honour to remain forever thankful to those who stood by us in our darkest hour . To the people of Finland I say Todah Rabbah, Paljon kiitoksia, and thank you.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe(with thanks to Wikipedia and the web page linked below)

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