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Finland calls for probe of Finnish SS soldiers' possible role in war crimes during WWII

The probe was prompted by a request from the "chief Nazi hunter" from an international Jewish human rights group, according to the prime minister's office.

The picture from a Nazi news report shows soldiers from the SS Walloon brigade during fighting at the Eastern Front in January 1944. Image: Berliner Verlag / AOP

On Thursday, the Finnish Prime Minister's Office called for an independent probe into the role of Finnish Waffen-SS soldiers in the killing of Jews and civilians during World War II, between the years 1941-1943.

The office said the independent investigation will be based on the examination of archive material and work on the effort would be complete by the end of November.

"The decision on any follow-up measures will be taken after this," the Prime Minister's Office press release reads.

Specifically, the probe will examine actions carried out by Finnish volunteers of the Waffen-SS Wiking Division in 1941-1943.

Probe prompted by call from "Nazi hunter"

The decision to investigate the matter, according to the office, was prompted by an appeal made by Efraim Zuroff of the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Zuroff, whom the office described as the centre's "chief Nazi hunter," reached out to Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the beginning of the year to launch an investigation regarding whether Finnish soldiers took part in war crimes during the war.

According to the PM's office, a representative of the president replied to Zuroff, saying that Finland would fund an independent review of the Finnish Volunteers' Batallion of the Waffen-SS.

The cost of the investigation is not expected to exceed 69,000 euros, according to the PM's office. The survey is to be worked on by project- and supervision groups which will be able to draw further help from external experts, according to the release.

"The supervision group will have representatives designated by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Office of the President of the Republic and the National Archives of Finland and it will be chaired by the representative of the Prime Minister’s Office," the office said.

Finnish researcher says it's possible

Finnish historian André Swanström, who has researched Finnish SS soldiers' activities during that period, says he has seen evidence that indicates that Finns took part in the execution of Jews, according to Svenska Yle.

The new, independent investigation will also draw information from Russian and Ukranian archive materials, according to Jussi Nuorteva, the head of Finland's national archive.

"That's what is new now," Nuorteva said, explaining that the archives contain information from countries that were fighting against the SS.

"About 1,400 volunteers from Finland took part [in the battalion] and only about a dozen of them are still alive. The youngest of them were 17 when they enlisted and are now 95 years-old or older," Nuorteva said.