BOSTON (Dec. 27)
How the Finnish Government defied Hitler’s orders to deport the Jews of Finland to extermination camps is reported today from Helsinki in the Christian Science Monitor. The story was told for the first time in authentic detail by the chief of the wartime Finnish censorship, Prof. Kustaa Vilkuna.
In July, 1942, during the height of the campaign on the Eastern Front, Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler visited Finland. The relatively few who knew of the visit were sure it was no pleasure or vacation trip, but what his objective was, neither the President of the Republic nor any of the Cabinet officers would divulge.
It was observed, however, that for months after Himmler’s departure members of the Finnish Government labored under a heavy burden of anxiety. Hitler had demanded the surrender of the Jews who had sought sanctuary in Finland from Nazi terror–this could be surmised and it is now confirmed by Professor Vilkuna.
Beyond this, however, was the awful knowledge of what Himmler’s black portfolio contained. Himmler had brought to Finland with him a complete catalogue of Finnish citizens of the Jewish faith. There were nearly 2,000 names. It was clear to the Finnish Government that Hitler’s demand for Jewish refugees was only a preliminary measure to a mass liquidation of Finland’s Jews.
“In the fall of 1942, it was obvious that, since no general deportation could be organized,” Professor Vilkuna writes, “the Gestapo could demand our Jews in small groups on various grounds and charges for examination and trial in Germany. This grave knowledge seems to have given additional strength to the determined reaction following the police measure leading to the first surrender.”
SECRET DECISION OF FINNISH GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT JEWS
How the Finnish authorities gained their knowledge was through “an incredible brave and successful coup.” Silently operating soldiers, “who were alert to every danger photographed the contents of the portfolio belonging to Himmler, the world’s best-guarded police chief.” The wartime Finnish military intelligence, incidentally, is reputed to have been far more efficient in many respects than the German.
Nazi pressure on Finland concerning the Jews was exerted at a bad time. The Third Reich was still at the height of its power. North Finland was full of German troops engaged against the common Soviet enemy. The Finns were critically short of supplies and dependent on German imports. To rebuff Hitler would have been to invite dire consequences.
The Finnish Government did make a courageous secret decision not to surrender a single Jew, refugee or native. But in its response to Himmler it hemmed and hawed, bidding for time. It was pointed out that Finland was a parliamentary state and no measures of the kind proposed could be taken until Parliament met in the fall.
When fall came and the Finnish Government did nothing toward implementing Himmler’s proposals, “some genius in the ranks of the Gestapo hit on the idea of ‘police action’ requiring neither Parliament nor even leave from the government.” Four Jewish refugees accused of various crimes were surrendered to the Gestapo by the Finnish State Police strictly in line with collaboration on the police level.
As soon as it reached the knowledge of the government, prompt steps were taken. Preparations for the surrender of more “criminals” among the Jewish refugees were halted by vigorous intervention on the part of government authorities.