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Report: Finnish SS soldiers carried out atrocities against Jews and civilians during WWII

In 1941-43, a total of 1,408 Finnish volunteers served in the Waffen-SS, finds a probe prompted by an international Jewish human rights group.

Mustassa sotilaskypärässä on ns. Parteiadler, natsipuolueen symboli. Symbolissa kotka seisoo hakaristin päällä.
Image: Alamy / AOP

An independent investigation confirmed several cases in which Finnish SS-volunteers of the Waffen-SS Wiking Division engaged in violent acts against civilians and Jews in Ukraine and the Caucasus during WWII. However, the documentation, including old diaries was considered vague and could not entirely be confirmed, according to the report.

"As the documentation on these events only occasionally mentions the number of civilians killed by Finnish volunteers, the real numbers are likely to be higher, perhaps at least a few dozen," the report stated.

Historical documents lacked exact times and dates of atrocities, making it impossible to determine who issued kill orders and who carried them out.

Jussi Nuorteva, Director-General of the National Archives of Finland, said that once back home, Finnish SS soldiers smoothed over events or just kept quiet.

"Active efforts were made to project that the Finnish SS soldiers were mainly on the front line, unaware of the bigger picture," explained Nuorteva.

He said the starting point for Finns' involvement with Nazi forces was to provide the country’s troops with military training to fight the Soviet Union.

None of the eight surviving Finnish SS veterans were interviewed for the report, partly because of their advanced age and because their engagement with the Nazis has already been well documented.

State Secretary Paula Lehtomäki said it was important to conduct more research on difficult and significant historical events. "We share the responsibility for ensuring that such atrocities will never be repeated."

Probe prompted by call from "Nazi hunter"

The decision to investigate the matter 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 last year to launch an investigation regarding whether Finnish soldiers took part in war crimes during WWII.

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