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Remembered Today:

Atrocities in Finland


OpsMajor
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I have recently read an article that infers that after the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty the Germans sent an expedition to Finland to rescue the 'Whites' from a savage civil war where "...even 'Boy Scouts' took part in a competition of atrocities." Is the author using the term 'Boy Scouts' rather loosely or does he actually mean that boys of an organisation that was only 10 years in being were actually committing atrocities?

Mike

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If you search the web there are even photos of white Finns executing Red Finns, for example Executed Reds. The term "Boy Scouts" probably refers to the 27th Jaeger Battalion, the initial 186 men who went to Germany where called Pathfinders or Scouts, and where commanded by the founder of the German Scout movement Major Maximilian Bayer. They are sometime called this, the correct term was "Pfadfinderkursus", which translates more correctly as Pathfinder Course. I suspect that this is where the reference to Boy Scouts comes from.

Without wishing to call down the religious zeal of Finns, I would warn you to be very careful about Finnish Sources, they call it an in Independence War, or more correctly a Civil War. The Independence of Finland was forced on the Russians by the Germans as part of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. The Finnish Senate had declared Independence a year before in the chaos of the revolution, but the Treaty made it stick.

The original German plans had been to attack St Peterburg from the south and north, using an expedition through Finland, and German trained Fiinns as reconnaissance.

This plan was scrapped with the fall of Tsarist Russia, but when the Russians dithered signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the German made plans to send a force to Finland, this they did after the signing of the treaty, which also guaranteed removal of the Imperial Troops in Finland, estimated at at least 80,000.

There was a Civil War as you referred to and some 82,000 Red Finns where captured, I have yet to comb though the figures, but its clear that over half where captured by the German Force of around 10,000 men. Helsinki was also captured by the Germans, which brought about the collapse of the Red goverment.

Unfortunately many of the captured Red Finns died in captivity, it was a covered up, and it only recently being acknowledged.

The Finnish sources will state that the Jaegers formed the backbone of the White army, that is true but it had not been planned that way. Some Jaegers went to the Red side, even brothers split, one being White, other Red, having trained in Germany together.

Apologies to the mods if this post attracts indignant Finns, I shall monitor it.

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I see you interested in SAD's. The Jaegers had this when training in Germany, there was even a play done about it in Finland in the early 1980's, sorry I can't recall the title even though I saw it at the Swedish Theater.

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When researching Eastern Front forticiations that still survive I came across a Russian built fort that in turn became a Russian general criminal prison while still remaining I believe as a military garrison. The fort survived the wars and revolution etc.... On the website it states that against the stone building (bungalow type office building) that captured Red Finns were executed regularly. Sorry but I can't recall the actual name. It is NOT in Helskinki though. Check out Baltic Sea or Baltic Fortications via google or Finnish Forts or Finnish Fortifications and you should find it.

John

Toronto

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As I have said before there are quite a few photos on the net of these executions, some with bodies falling, try the Finnish newspapers such as Helsinki Sanomat, or others.

I have even seen bullet holes in walls where people where executed.

There is a Finnish Film called Spring 1918 (Raja 1918), which goes into the complexities of sorting out the border with Russia, be warned though the dialogue has been written by Finnish Racing Drivers so in sparse. :rolleyes:

Helsinki, especially the North of it had been hugely fortified by the Russians during the Great War.

If you want to read more check this out Clicky Click, but the usual health warning about Finnish sources, it fails to mention the Germany Forces, which captured most of the Reds.

The Red Finns even condemned Sibelius to death, and he only just escaped capture on a train.

Do be aware that this is not a subject easily discussed in Finland, and they have very long memories, and it got very nasty in some communities, like many Civil Wars.

But forgiveness abounds, I recall the for the 50 anniversary one of the invited guests was a Red Finnish Leader, who lived then in the US.

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MartH: Thanks. Are you saying that the major Helsinki newspaper is historically digitized? If so can you please provide us with a hyper link. You repeat that the Finns more or less ignore the significant if not crucial German invovlement in their War of Indpendence and play up their "freedom fighters." One can extrapolate this ignoring of actual military occupation authorities and/or invaders who "helped" various groups obtain "independence" such as the Poles and Ukrainians.

John

Toronto

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John, I think it is, but it is Finnish Clickty Click. So it the main Swedish one Husi. Don't know how far back.

I am cautious to go into the Finnish approach to history because on other forums which have Finns, they make some of the people on this forum who beat you to death with knowledge seem positively cautious. I really think that digging into this topic might make them appear, and destroy the Great War Forum, unfortunately I do not jest.

Its is a bit different to other counties, above the normal nationalist reasons, Finnish history has had to play down the German involvement between the wars because the Allies disapproved, (they even tried to have a German Prince as Head of State, which neither Poland or the Ukraine did), and after the war because the Soviets disapproved, and might have wiped them out. Also Finnish is history often written without context to the what else was going on in the world.

Please don't put the the word freedom fighters in quotes, for example, my own grandfathers activity, is second to none, he started out as an undercover agent/courier, he then joined the Jaegers, and was condemned to death by the hated Russians, his family gave him up for dead, and gave away his prize stamp collection. By some miracle the Finns got Independence, and he lived. Though off topic, the Finns in the Second World War retained their Independence, Helsinki was one of 3 European capitals that was not captured.

I often educate my Finnish relations to "new bits of Finnish History", for example the Finnish army attacked one of the Canadian contingents in the Northern Russian Expedition, and got an extremely bloody nose, I am sure if this had happened in WW2, such was the improvement of the Finnish Army, I believe the Canadians would have been wiped out, (except for the Canadians of Finnish Extraction :rolleyes:)

This tale does illustrate that in 1918/19 the Finnish nation did not have much much military training, and as result the Germans under Von der Glotz where very successful against the untrained Reds. Even units in the 1914-1917 Tsarist ORBAT, that had Finnish in the title where actually called that because they where stationed there, not country of origin. In 20 years they became formidable, and although their role in the original independence is overplayed, their role in keeping it, is even underplayed by the Finns.

I shall now retreat, sorry make a strategic withdrawal, awaiting the fundamentalist righteous Finnish onslaught.

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Thanks MartH: Checked out the main Helsinki based Finnish National Library digitalization of their historic newspapers: the LATEST year available is 1910 and no later years are currently available. As to that other newspaper it only goes back to 1999.

John

Toronto

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi, MartH!

Just noticed this very interesting thread. Certain issues can get very intense. I do remember in my readings that, in Russia, the Finnish Reds were considered very purist and extreme, and were a factor in Russia.

The apparent intensity reminds one (me at least) of the delightful Turkish/Armenian issue. As in many situations, the diaspora are much more extreme than the folks in the homeland. The Turks and Armenians are signing wide-ranging agreements to work on their issues, and the Armenian diaspora are furious, and when the Armenian president recently visited France, the French had to deploy formations of riot police to protect the President from his countrymen.

The principal source of ire is the Armenian argeement to a proposal to form an international study commission to actually study what happened between the two (and many others, Kurds, Tartars, probably Georgians, Russians), a move that the Turks have been urging for about five years, I think. I have heard interviews, BBC, I think, with diaspora leaders expressing how hopping mad they are at this outrageous proposal.

I will now retreat to the same bunker that MartH is huddled in.

Bob Lembke

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  • 6 months later...

MartH,

I don' t think you are going to upset anyone too much with your opinions on the Finnish Civil War. Personally, I think you are highlighting Germany's role in the war too much. But, your opinions seem quite a conventially pro- Jääkäri and shouldn't annoy anyone too much. Noticed you didn't mention Mannerheim... How pro Jääkäri are you? Was Mannerheim a White Russian ? :whistle:

Without wishing to call down the religious zeal of Finns, I would warn you to be very careful about Finnish Sources, they call it an in Independence War, or more correctly a Civil War. The Independence of Finland was forced on the Russians by the Germans as part of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. The Finnish Senate had declared Independence a year before in the chaos of the revolution, but the Treaty made it stick.

Good point about terminology... Class War or The Rebellion would be the Red option

Your comments about the treaty are fair enough. Although, you fail to mention that Finnish Civil War was almost over when the treaty was signed and the German army entered Finnish territory. Also, I really think you should have mentioned Vladimir Ilyich when discussing Finland's declaration of Independence and The Brest- Litovsk Treaty. In addition, and I may be wrong about this, I' m pretty sure Finland was still technically "at war" with the Soviet Union until 1920 and the Tartu Treaty

This plan was scrapped with the fall of Tsarist Russia, but when the Russians dithered signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the German made plans to send a force to Finland, this they did after the signing of the treaty, which also guaranteed removal of the Imperial Troops in Finland, estimated at at least 80,000.

You fail to mention the Germans were invited (against Mannerheim's wishes) to Finland by the Finnish Senate. Or at least the Finnish Senate, which had been stripped of its Social Democrat members. No way was there 80,000 Soviet (not Imperial Russian) troops in Finland in March 1918. That's a pre war figure. The involvement of Russian soldiers in the Civil War is very well researched and that estimate is clearly massively wrong. Some more Soviet troops came across the border right near the end of fighting, but at a rough guess, I'd say there was probably more like one or maybe two thousand Soviet troops, in country, in March

There was a Civil War as you referred to and some 82,000 Red Finns where captured, I have yet to comb though the figures, but its clear that over half where captured by the German Force of around 10,000 men.

That's interesting. Where did you come up with half? Certainly, most of the larger groups of Red prisoners, captured in southern and eastern Finland were rounded up after the German intervention. So, you could well be right. Surrending to the Germans probably would have been quite attractive to the Reds given the aforementioned tendencies of the White Finns to commit attrocities

Also, I think John is probably talking about Suomenlinna, which, at least from my prespective, is actually in Helsinki. Although, there were many camps were executations took place after the war, so maybe he means somewhere else. None of the other camps were in "a Russian built fort" though. Suomenlinna, to get back to atrocities, wasn't the worst camp in terms of conditions. But, it's probably the best known as it's in/very near to Helsinki

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This tale does illustrate that in 1918/19 the Finnish nation did not have much much military training, and as result the Germans under Von der Glotz where very successful against the untrained Reds. Even units in the 1914-1917 Tsarist ORBAT, that had Finnish in the title where actually called that because they where stationed there, not country of origin. In 20 years they became formidable, and although their role in the original independence is overplayed, their role in keeping it, is even underplayed by the Finns.

Could you explain this paragraph again? I really don't understand what you are trying to say...

But forgiveness abounds, I recall the for the 50 anniversary one of the invited guests was a Red Finnish Leader, who lived then in the US.

Are you talking about Oskar Tokoi? Wouldn't really be describing him as particularly "Red". He fought for Britain, against the Bolsheviks, after the Civil War.

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