Introduction to Rescue in Finland


Nazism did not flourish in the small Scandinavian nation of Finland.  In the late 1930’s, when news reached Finland that the Nazis were persecuting Jews in Germany, Finnish leaders and the Finnish press expressed harsh disapproval.

When World War II began, however, Russia became a military threat to Finland.  Consequently, Finland sought an alliance with Germany rather than losing their independence.

In 1942, German troops occupied Northern Finland and the Nazis enacted anti-Jewish laws.

In July 1942, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler went to Helsinki to enlist Finnish government cooperation in deporting Finland’s Jews to concentration camps. There were 2,000 Jews living in Finland. Some of these Jews were refugees who had immigrated from Germany and Austria before 1939.  Accompanying Himmler was his personal doctor, Felix Kersten, a native of Estonia who had served in the Finnish Independence Army.  Kersten volunteered to act as an intermediary to the Finnish government. He alerted the Finnish government and leaders about the Nazis’ plan to murder the Jews of Finland.

Finnish Foreign Minister Rolf Whitting refused to discuss the issue.  Finnish military Commander in Chief Field Marshall Karl Gustaf von Mannerheim informed German officials that if even one of the Finnish Jews was molested, Finland would declare war on Germany.  Nonetheless, in February 1943, eight Jews were deported from Helsinki to the Auschwitz. Only one survived.  When information about the true nature of the deportations reached Finland, there was widespread protest by the Finnish Social Democratic Party.  In addition, Finnish clergymen and the Archbishop of Helsinki protested.  As a result of these protests, the Finnish cabinet refused to allow any further deportations of Jews.



Survival of Jews in Finland


Jews of Finland – 99% (2,000 survived, 7 lost)[1] Approximately 200 German Jewish refugees resided in Finland at the time of the German occupation are included. Jewish population in 1939 was 2,000. Numerous Finns protested the proposed deportation of Finnish Jews.





[1] Bauer & Rozett, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia the Holocaust of, s.v. “Estimated Losses in the Holocaust,” pp. 1799-1800; Benz, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Finland,” pp.  204-206; Rautkallio,1987; Svensson.


Updated November 4, 2017