Marshal Mannerheim, celebrating his 75th birthday on 4 June, 1942, received a surprise visit by Adolf Hitler. Thor Damen, a sound engineer working for the Finnish Broadcasting Company, tossed a microphone on the parcel shelf of the ceremonial carriage, allowing for the two men’s conversation to be covertly recorded.
This is the English version of an article published in 2006. The original article (in Finnish) can be found here.
Taping the Führer’s private conversations was strictly forbidden. The original 17 minute clip is, by all accounts, the only documented sample of Hitler’s non-public style of speaking. In the following clip, the secret recording can be heard in its entirety.
Actor Bruno Ganz listened to the tape as preparation for his role as Hitler in Der Untergang (2004). Ganz used the recording to study the Führer’s natural style of speech.
An “artistic soul” recounts his setbacks
A restored copy of the original recording contains the end part of Adolf Hitler’s birthday speech to Mannerheim as well as Mannerheim’s reply speech to Hitler. The speeches are followed by casual conversation in German between Hitler and Mannerheim, carried out in the salon carriage, apparently by the coffee table. The recording breaks off in mid-sentence.
At the start of the surviving excerpt, Mannerheim states that the Finns could not have imagined how well equipped the Soviet Union was for the Winter War. The end part mainly consists of monologue by Hitler; the strength of Russian armored forces came as a surprise to him as well.
After having recounted his military setbacks and the background for his campaign in the East, Hitler praises the Finns, criticizes the Italians, and describes himself as a nature lover as well as an artistic soul.
In addition to Hitler and Mannerheim, the salon carriage is occupied by president Risto Ryti and general field marshal Wilhelm Keitel.
The recording process had to be aborted when a German officer caught on to the situation. The tape remained with the Finns and was enclosed in a sealed cardboard container.
Together against the “plague-nest of Bolshevism”
In his official birthday speech for Mannerheim, Hitler tells of his earlier plans to visit Finland incognito, not just to acquaint himself with the people, but also to attend the Olympic Games which were to be held in Helsinki. Hitler also revealed his admiration for Finnish freedom fighters in Berlin during the First World War.
The Führer goes on to express his joy over Providence having led him to command the German armed forces. The lasting bonds between the German people and the Finns – Mannerheim included – were formed in the war of 1918, and this second struggle would strengthen the ties between the allied nations for all time.
In his reply, Mannerheim speaks of a battle for “the highest values, spiritual and material civilization” that Finland and Germany, “united as brothers in arms”, are fighting for the salvation of Europe. He expresses his wish for the incapacitation of the “plague-nest of Bolshevist barbarism” by the end of 1942.
For a long period of time, only copies were available of the birthday recording taped in Immola. Yle obtained the original tape in the autumn of 1992 when Kai R. Lehtonen made a story about its peculiar history.
Translated from Jukka Lindfors's article.