- Approximately 2,000 Jews lived in Finland at the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. In November 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, which led it to cede land to its attackers. When the Germans attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Finns joined the invasion and allowed Germany to use their territory as a base of operations. Although anti-Semitism was practically nonexistent in Finland, the Germans sought to spread its anti-Jewish ideology throughout the country. In July 1942, Heinrich Himmler urged the Finns to deport its Jews but found the government unresponsive to its appeal. Much of this reaction was due to the outstanding record of Finland’s Jewish soldiers in the war against the Soviet Union, in which their casualty rate was disproportionately higher than the rest of the population. Speaking at a synagogue in Helsinki in 1944, Field Marshall Carl Mannerheim praised the contribution of Jewish fighting men in defense of the nation. Needing the Finns as an ally on the eastern front, Himmler discontinued his pressure on the government to deport its Jews. Finland’s Jews, for the most part, escaped from the clutches of the Germans, although eight Jewish refugees were handed over by the Finnish police to the Germans in Tallinin on 6 November 1942. Of the eight, only one survived the war.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.