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Finnish trolls in hate campaign against young German survivalist

A young German woman who came to Finland to test her wilderness survival skills has packed up and left the country short of her goal of spending the summer. Her abrupt departure follows a torrent of online abuse from Finns objecting to her project.

Charlotte nuotiolla.
Charlotte Arnswald spent one month in the wilds of eastern Finland. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Last week Yle told the story of the adventurous young German student Charlotte Arnswald, who planned to spend her summer in Finland living off the bounty of the land.

Arnswald took up residence in a shack in a remote forest in northern Savo, where she embarked on her wilderness experience. In an interview with Yle, she described how she burned twigs for warmth in the chill of Finland’s late spring and foraged last season’s lingonberries as well as beetles and bugs for sustenance.

However, it wasn’t long before some Finns took to discussion forums to attack the young woman. According to Yle, the discussion threads were flooded with hundreds of comments harshly condemning her and calling for her to leave the country. Others even went so far as to threaten her with physical and sexual violence, however it is not clear why people objected to Arnwald's survivalist project.

Attempts to track shack

People engaging in the online witch hunt actively tried to trace the location of the shack where Arnswald was to spend the summer. When Yle originally reported on the wilderness buff, it used images of the young woman and her makeshift shelter. Amateur online sleuths used the photos to try and pinpoint Arnswald’s location and called on locals to come forward with information about her whereabouts.

Jaana Keränen, a resident and landowner in Sonkajärvi, had given Arnswald permission to stay on her forest property. On Sunday, she took to Facebook to publicly declare her feelings about the case.

"This is a guest of our family, who is living in our private forest, in our private shelter and is burning firewood provided to her from our stores," Keränen wrote.

Ashamed to be Finnish

Keränen told Yle that she was saddened and taken aback by the hate speech that she read online. She said that it was worrying that Finns are ready to resort to violence when confronted by diversity.

The landowner compared the situation to a Finnish woman staying alone in a forest in Germany and a local minority group planning to search for her on a public website.

"The idea that she would be living in that shack knowing that there are people in Finland who want to come there and teach her a lesson, is intolerable for us as hosts," she added.

She followed up by saying that Arnswald left Finland for personal reasons. Yle was unable to reach the German student for comment.

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