Wednesday, June 13, 2018

February 20, 1944: Poor Finland

Article by Opa for the Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper: The Mercury Chronicle


Allies Should Consider How Finland Got In Present Mess

Editor's note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theater carries the weight of his internment camp experiences in Nazi Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent. The Mercury-Chronicle each week brings you his interpretation of the war in Europe.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

Finland's position is more difficult and more peculiar than that of Poland as a diplomatic and military football that is being tossed around between Germany and the Allies. Before judging her too harshly, and before expecting from her an attitude which may turn out to be a suicidal one, the Allied world should consider how Finland got into the mess in which she finds herself at the present.

Finland was one of the first European countries that felt and fight the sting of unprovoked aggression. At that time, Russia was in the same boat as Germany, and for that reason the entire Allied world encouraged Finland in her heroic struggle. When Germany suddenly betrayed her former good friend, Russia, Russia suddenly became an ally of England, and the Finnish war was looked upon with a different set of glasses.

Finland, in order to get rid of Russian occupation, joined up with the Nazis and succeeded in driving the Russians out. The Nazis were surprisingly careful in their treatment of the Finns in order to keep the good will of their newly-won partner, and there had been absolutely no desire on the part of any major group of Finns to throw off the Nazi yoke in favor of a Russian one.

Only recently, when the Russians came closer again toward the Finnish borders, and when the Nazis showed their determination to resist the Russians in Finland to the last Finn, did the feeling change.

New Peace Movement

At the present, there exists a very strong group of Finns, mainly from the Social-democratic party. Finland's largest party, which openly calls for peace with Russia, which would mean a break with the Nazis.

Voionmaa, one of Finland's most prominent statesmen, and Paasikivi, former foreign minister of Finland, are the leading figures in the new peace movement. Both these men were present at the peace conferences between Russia and Finland early in 1940. For the first tie since the Russo-German war, a Finnish paper has broken the censorship ban and got by with it: the "Sotslalidemokrati" published on the first page, a call for peace with Russia. The Helsinki radio broadcast Cordell Hull's warning to the Finns to quit the war, and the Finnish population listened to Moscow's radio giving them the warning that unless Finland makes peace now, "the vipers who are crawling on their bellies before Hitler, saying they wish to defend Finland as far east as Petrozavodsk, may find the Red Army defending the Soviet Union as far west as Helsinki."

Through Sweden, the Finns received the terms for peace with Russia. They include: (1) Restoration of the 1940 frontiers, ie, the frontiers which remained after the Russian invasion of 1939-40. (2) Russian occupation of Finland until the end of the Russo-German war. (3) Demobilization of the Finnish Army. (4) Reorganization of the Finnish government to eliminate Ryti, Tanner, etc. (5) Russian guarantee of Finland's survival after the war. (The Russians remain silent as to whether Finland should survive as an independent state, or as a Soviet Republic.)

Can't Fulfill Peace Terms

These terms are extremely lenient in comparison with the unconditional surrender which is demanded from other Axis nations. There is no question that Finland could not expect the Nazis to give her terms that even approach these in consideration and leniency. The great drawback, however, is that Finland may not be in a position to accept these terms. Nazi troops are in Finland and show no inclination whatsoever to leave voluntarily. The Nazis threaten to give to the Finns a sample of Gestapo rule, if Peace with Russia should be negotiated, and to change Finland into a bloody battlefield in case of Russian invasion. The Finns haven't any more power to fulfill Russia's peace terms than Badoglio's government had to deliver Rome to the Allies.

What the Allies are working for at the present may not be so much a real peace treaty between a Finnish government and Russia, as the assurance that the Finnish population, in case of a Russian advance into Finland, will be pro-Allied and that they will accept the Russian terms as soon as they are free to do so.

Well now it's poor Finland. They have no good choices in front of them. To fight off the Russian occupation, they joined the Nazis after the Russians flipped sides. They got the Russians out, but now they have the Nazis. It was the lesser of the two evils at that point. They thought. Now they get to decide which really is the lesser of two evils. The Nazis are losing the war (which I'm guessing the Finnish aren't really invested in, other than their own security). The US is sending propaganda encouraging them to join the Allied efforts (which is compelling, since they're the current winning side), the Russians are giving more violent images for them to ponder if they don't cooperate, and the Nazis have their own threats to add to the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" decision pot. 

My guess is that Finland really just wants everyone to leave them alone. They played sides to gain their own security, and their hand ended up not taking the pot. I think it is interesting that Russia's "deal" is supposed to be so delicious wit the argument that Finland can't ask for much since they were allied with the Germans. Um. So were the Soviets? And Italy? And a number of other places that seem to be able to flip sides without too much penance. Finland is at a disadvantage because they have something people want, and very little power to fight off any oppressor. So everyone gets to make big demands with the idea that Finland doesn't really have any good choices. 

Finland does ultimately kick the Germans out (at a price: they didn't leave nicely) and make nice with the Russians. It's not a win for them, but it's better than a total loss. They were able to keep their country with some modified borders, and ended up owing Russia reparations. 

Finland could easily have played this same game with different results, it just didn't work out for them.

Before you get upset about Finland playing with the Nazis, remember that they were fighting for survival. At the time the Nazis were their obnoxious neighbors who were ridiculous and dangerous- but maybe didn't have the infamy (yet) that Russia had. I'm not sure, maybe they knew full well it was a deal with the devil, but like I said before, war makes for weird negotiating.

I feel bad for Finland, they were the cheered underdogs when they first resisted Russia, and they ended up owing Russia reparations at the end. 

My Grandmother used to have a phrase that annoyed and amused my family: "Poor Ron." She would express pity for my Dad, but the irony was that it almost always was some circumstance where he was inconvenienced, but everyone else was paying a higher price. Like when my Dad had to go on business trips and my Mom was home taking care of three children. Poor Ron. In that same vein: Poor Finland.

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