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Historian k


Seppo Hentil The Finnish-German Brotherhood of Arms as Politics of Memory Interdisciplinary seminar HISTORY, MEMORY, POLITICS Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Historian k

      Seppo Hentilä   The Finnish-German
Brotherhood of Arms as Politics of
Memory Interdisciplinary seminar HISTORY,
MEMORY, POLITICS Helsinki Collegium for Advanced
Studies September 23, 2010  
What are we exactly talking about when we talk
about politics of memory, politics of history or
public uses of history? There is no clear
definition or translation of these concepts into
English and neither there is it into Finnish
The Germans, however, have two long phrases in
regular use Geschichtsaufarbeitung and
Vergangenheitsbewältigung These may be
translated as treating the past, working over
the past, confronting it, coping, dealing
or coming to terms with it, even overcoming
the past The variety of possible translations
indicates the complexity of the matter at hand

If we would translate the phrase
Vergangenheitsbewältigung into Finnish indicating
to ruling, mastering or controlling over the
past, it would be quite misleading The phrase
means rather, as Timothy Garton Ash has
suggested, coming to terms or coping with the
past, and in that way we would be able to
control it My actual research project The
Finnish-German Brotherhood of Arms as Politics of
Memory confronts a major question of Finnish
national memory It also examines significant
themes in Finnish historical writing since the
Second Word War
In the circumstances subsequent to the Second
World War, fighting on the German side threatened
to become a severe political burden to
Finland Therefore one could expect that the
collaboration with Nazi Germany would have been
the core subject of Finlands Vergangenheitsbewält
igung during the post-war era Surprisingly
enough, the fact is almost the opposite Finns
are the only nation in the losing side of the
war which has succeeded to make the memory of the
war to a cornerstone of national identity and
self-consciousness ... and this is not even
enough the Finns living next-door to the
Bear were able to cherish their positive war
memories throughout the decades of the Cold War

Finland was not occupied by the Red Army in the
autumn 1944, and the old elite under the
leadership of Marshal Mannerheim (as President of
the Republic in 194446) was entitled to lead the
country from war to peace Under these
circumstances the Finns were not compelled to
make any thoroughgoing account of their wartime
politics The Soviet Union with which Finland
signed an interim peace treaty on September 19,
1944 chained Finland to its sphere of influence
with a treaty of friendship, cooperation and
mutual assistance (FCMA), signed in April 1948
The military article of this treaty was based
on German threat If Germany or some other
country allied to it were to attempt to invade
the Soviet Union through Finlands territory
In fact, the final result of the Second World
War, and especially the point that Finland had
fought on the German side, determined the
geopolitical position of Finland during the Cold
War, as long as the Soviet Union
existed Throughout the post-war decades it was
advantageous to the Finns to disassociate their
waging of war with the war of Hitler The Finns
succeeded quite skilfully in articulating the
explanation that they were in no way politically
or morally responsible for Hitlers war
Already during the war the Finnish government
declared that the Finns were waging their own
national separate war (erillissota) According
to this phrase, Finlands only objective in this
war was to compensate for the injustices which
the Soviet Union had caused when attacking
Finland in 1939 on the basis of the Hitler-Stalin
treaty The Winter War in 193940, in which the
tiny heroic nation defended her sovereignty
against the superior invader, legitimated the
so-called continuation war (jatkosota) in 194144
as a justified compensation war (hyvityssota)
The names, given by the Finns to the war
already in 1941 - as well as calling the peace of
the Winter War 1940 immediately as an interim
peace (välirauha) - are genuine reflections of
the attitudes of contemporaries
Finnish historical writing subsequently explained
Finlands joining the war in June 1941, at the
same time as Hitler launched his Operation
Barbarossa, with the so-called driftwood theory
(or floating log theory the Finnish phrase is
ajopuuteoria) The core of this explanation is
in fact that Finland was driven to the war to the
German side against its own will and without
active decision-making, Finland was like a log
caught and carried along by a rapid spring flood
The purpose of the driftwood theory was to
absolve Finlands political and military
leadership from joining the war to the German
Already during the 1950s and 1960s three foreign
scholars, Charles L. Lundin, Anthony Upton and
Hans Peter Krosby, presented documentary evidence
against the trustworthiness of the driftwood
theory, and then, by the end of the 1960s, the
younger generation of Finnish historians gave it
up, too. The collapse of the Soviet Union caused
a change in the overtones of the historical
debates on Finlands or fates in the Second World
War This change was at large neopatriotic by
nature New questions which had been impossible
to put during the Soviet influence (partly
because of a certain self-censorship practised by
the Finns themselves) were raised
In the new political climate since the collapse
of the Soviet Union the outcome of the Second
World war was interpreted in general as a
defensive victory (the Finnish phrase
torjuntavoitto) Along and at the same time with
the strengthening defensive victory rhetoric the
floor was opened to other kind of new questions,
too. The debate on certain shadowy aspects of
the war, especially on the historical
interpretation of the so-called Finnish-German
brotherhood of arms (from June 1941 to September
1944), caused headlines Elina Sanas
documentary book Luovutetut The Extradited
(WSOY Helsinki 2003) brought into the public
debate sides of the brotherhood in arms which had
previously stayed in the shade
The extradition of some three thousand Soviet
prisoners of war and hundreds of civilians, some
Jews among them, to the German army and to the
Gestapo attracted even wide international
attention The Simon Wiesenthal Centre requested
in a letter to President Halonen that the Finnish
government to clarify if there were some
precarious things in the history of Finland
during the war, which still were hidden The
Finnish government reacted quickly and nominated
Professor Heikki Ylikangas to write an experts
opinion about the state of research on the
problems in question
Ylikangas discovered serious shortages in the
previous research For example the authorised
military history of the Continuation War
(Jatkosodan historia) in six volumes describes
the extraditions with following six lines,
written by Professor Ohto Manninen (Vol 4, p.
282) Soviet prisoners of war which belonged
to kindred nations of the Finns were moved from
the German POW camps to Finland via Tallinn and
Danzig in December 1942 and in April 1943,
altogether 2048 men. Correspondingly 2661 Soviet
POWs, first of all belonging to national
minorities, commanders and political staff, were
extradited to German custody.
Ylikangas suggested that the human extraditions
from Finland during the war should be clarified
thoroughly, and one or two major research
projects should be established for this task
The results of the research project Finland,
POWs and Extraditions, 19391955, completed in
the National Archives in 200409, have added our
knowledge largely about the certain shadow sides
of Finlands warfare The head of the research
team Lars Westerlund has published two important
monographs, the first one on German POW camps in
the north of Finland and the second one on the
mortality of the Soviet POWs in Finnish custody
during the Winter and Continuation Wars As much
as one third of the Soviet POWs (almost 20 000
men) died on hunger and diseases in the Finnish
camps during the first 12 months of the
Continuation War
Oula Silvennoinens dissertation about the
cooperation between the Gestapo and the Finnish
State Police brought into day light a real
novelty, the SS-Einsatzkommando Finnland which
worked in the North of Finland and Norway and was
assisted by a group of Finnish policemen from the
State Police Antti Kujala deals in his
monograph with the illegel killings of ca. one
thousand Soviet POWs by the Finns So, it is my
principal task to study the Finnish-German
brotherhood of arms as politics of national
memory In other words my research question is
how the Finns have coped with the fact that their
country was fighting on Hitlers side in the
Second World War
From this point of view the phrase brotherhood of
arms is more or less a common denominator among
the political and historical ballasts which have
challenged the Finns to remember (and sometimes
also to forget) the war The driftwood theory and
the separate war thesis were the main historical
explanations (artefacts) with which the Finns
tried to repress the unpleasant memory of the
brotherhood of arms According to this
explanation, Finland was not guilty in the war
and did not have any responsibility for the
unhappy fate of being driven to the German side
in the war Therefore the peace terms, demanded
by the Soviet Union, ceded territories, war
reparations and the so called war guilt process
were an enormous unjust
  • I intend to bite into some major historical
    turning points in which the coping with the
    brotherhood of arms became necessary and times
    when it was more advisable to be quiet and to
    forget the unpleasant past
  • To make my project feasible, I will examine the
    arguments of the Finns in six historical turning
    points which were the most challenging from the
    viewpoint of Finlands national memory
  • In the negotiations on the interim peace treaty
    in 1944 and Paris peace treaty in 1947
  • 2. In the so-called war guilt process in 1946,
    in which eight prominent political leaders were
    sentenced to prison from two to ten years

  • In the negotiations on the FCMA treaty between
    Finland and the Soviet Union in 1948
  • In the political crisis between Finland and the
    Soviet Union in 1958 and 1961 in both cases the
    Soviet Union expressed its distrust to Finlands
    ability to prevent the potential threat of the
    West German militarism
  • In different phases during the 1960s and 1970s
    when Finland had to fight for the credibility of
    her policy of neutrality
  • 6. In the explanations given to Finlands
    position at the Second World War after the Cold
    War, for example, the heated debate in 200509 on
    the ideas of separate war and defensive victory

In addition to these six cases, my seventh case
will be forgetting and silencing the past, or in
other words repressing the memory of the
brotherhood of arms For instance, in official
speeches on memorial days, e. g., when the
Independence Day on December 6 was celebrated and
the significance of the war for saving of
Finlands independence was strongly pointed out,
the brotherhood of arms with Germany was
definitely forgotten and probably never mentioned
  • Sources
  • Academic and non-academic historiography
  • Published autobiographies, diaries, collections
    of speeches, etc. of politicians, intellectuals
    and journalists who participated to history
  • Newspapers and periodicals
  • Documentary films, photos, radio programs,
    recordings, etc.
  • Archival documents (letters, diaries etc.)
  • Museums and exhibitions
  • Film, fiction and fine arts (use of these sources
    is possible but because of limited resources not
    probable in this study)
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