Book Reveals Horrors of Wartime Internment Camps

A dark episode of Finland's wartime history has been highlighted in a recently-published book. Author Marja-Leena Mikkola interviewed Russian civilians who had to spend years of their childhood in wartime internment camps. Many of them perished.

The book named Lost Childhood (Menetetty Lapsuus) turns the clock back to the final years of World War II and specifically examines the plight of ordinary Soviet citizens, who were put into internment camps in Eastern Karelia.

During the Second World War, Finnish troops not only took back areas that had been ceded to the Soviet Union after the Winter War in 1940 - but also overran territory that had always been Russian, such as Soviet Karelia.

Finns Had Planned Ethnic Cleansing?

The Finnish military administration moved Russian civilians - mainly women, children, babies and old people - into internment camps. The idea was to incorporate the region into a greater Finland and later deport the civilians to the Soviet Union or German-occupied territories. Nowadays, this would be called ethnic cleansing.

Author Marja-Leena Mikkola interviewed Russians who had to spend years of their childhood in the internment camps. Her book tells a tragic story of abuse, disease and death.

About 25,000 Russians were held behind barbed wire in a dozen camps in the occupied territory. Only one in five came out of the camps alive. Many died through the effects of malnutrition. The survivors say there were no summary executions, but discipline was strict and Finnish guards shot dead anyone trying to escape.

The survivors have called on Finland to compensate for their suffering.