A report released by the National Archives of Finland found that Finnish soldiers participated in mass murders of Jews, foreign civilians, and Russian prisoners of war during World War II.
The report concluded that 1,408 Finns volunteered in the Nazis’ Fifth SS Panzer Division (Wiking), and participated in massacres in Ukraine and the Caucasus between 1941 and 1943.
It is hard to determine how many Jews and other people were murdered with the participation of Finnish soldiers, the report said, but the figure probably totals around 10,000 people. The massacres took place in dozens of cities, including Hrymailiv, Ozerna, Skalat, Tarnopol, Zboriv, Zolochiv, and Krivichi, mostly in the summer of 1941.
Professor Jussi Nuorteva, director of the National Archives of Finland, said the Finns were initially unaware of the German plan to exterminate the Jews, and their main motive for joining the SS was a desire to fight the two countries’ common enemy, the Soviet Union. Among other things, the Finns hoped to receive military training that would help them fight the Red Army.
World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945, and during the space of those six years, Finland fought four wars: three against the Soviet Union and one against Nazi Germany. The country’s Jewish community numbered some 2,000 people in 1939, but was augmented by hundreds of Jewish refugees after the war began. Eight of them were handed over to Germany, and Moshav Yad Shmona – literally, “a memorial to the eight” – is named after them. The moshav, located near Jerusalem, was established by Finnish volunteers.