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Hunger Plagued POWs Held by Finland in WWII

Finnish researchers are examining the National Archives to determine the true conditions of Finland's prison camps during World War II. One-quarter of the nearly 90,000 Soviet prisoners - both soldiers and civilians - died while detained at the camps.

Hunger and disease claimed the lives of most of the victims. However nearly 1,000 POWs met a violent end. Some were shot while trying to escape, while others were killed by their guards.

Finland took over 60,000 Soviet soldiers as prisoners during World War II. Nearly 19,000 of them died in prison. In 1942 alone, 15,000 war prisoners perished in the camps. At the time, Finland was suffering from immense food shortages. However, the head of the research project Lars Westerlund said negative administrative attitudes towards the prisoners played a role in the high number of deaths.

The researchers also studied the treatment of civilians detained in the Finnish camps. Finland established about a dozen concentration camps, later called relocation camps, in the Petrozavodsk region in Finnish-occupied Soviet Karelia. Some 24,000 Soviet citizens were held in the camps. Of those, 4,500 died, one-third of whom were children. Most succumbed to malnutrition, however poor shelter, a lack of clothing and disease also contributed to the number of deaths.

While the number of victims is known, research into the detention camps is still underway. Now backed with government funding, researchers hope to uncover more information about the life endured in Finnish Continuation War prison camps.

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