Foreign - Thursday 20.11.2003

Government orders investigation into extradition of POWs to Germany during Continuation War

 Professor Ylikangas to submit report in late January

The Finnish government has decided to commission an investigation into the deportation of foreigners to Nazi Germany during the Continuation War.
President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) met on Wednesday to discuss a request for information from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Halonen and Vanhanen decided to ask Professor Heikki Ylikangas to investigate the matter.
In its letter the Wiesenthal Centre called for a full report on the deportations and, if possible, the punishment of those responsible.

The call was sparked
by a book written by researcher Elina Sana, who concludes that Finland extradited more than 3,000 foreigners to Germany during the war. Previously history books have told about the deportation of just eight foreign Jews.
Secretary of State Risto Volanen says that the investigation by Professor Ylikangas will serve as a foundation for possible further action, and that the report can be delivered to the Wiesenthal Centre.
"This was the quickest way to react in an open society", Volanen said.
Ylikangas has been given until the end of January to complete his study.

Political historian
Professor Seppo Hentilš said on Wednesday that Finland has no alternative than to launch an investigation.
"The Holocaust is such a sensitive issue in Central Europe, that we cannot just shrug our shoulders."
Hentilš sees Sana's book as merely a first step in the process of investigating the deportations.
"We would need quite a project involving many years of work by several researchers if we wanted to investigate this matter thoroughly."

The publication of Elina Sana's book
has also raised interest in another chapter of Finnish history - the extradition of large numbers of people, including Ingrians, to the Soviet Union after the end of the war.
"From the human perspective these tragedies are just as bad and just as worthy of investigation", Hentilš says.
Soviet prisoners of war in the Second World War generally suffered a very grim fate: they did not get to enjoy freedom even after they were sent back home.
"Under Soviet law they were seen as traitors. They were given sentences of 10 to 12 years in labour camps, and it was only after Stalin's death that they began to be released - if they survived that long", Hentilš says.

The Wiesenthal Centre
issued another press release on Thursday welcoming Finland's decision to investigate the deportations.
In a statement issued in Jerusalem by the Centre's main Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff called independent scholars to be used for the investigation.
The statement concludes: "The investigation of these events is likely to prove painful and embarrassing for Finland, which admirably protected its own Jewish citizens from being murdered by Nazi Germany during World War II, but the clarification of these deportations, which had such tragic consequences, is a necessity if Finland seeks to honestly confront its record during the Holocaust."

Previously in HS International Edition:
 Wiesenthal Centre wants more information on Finnish wartime deportations (19.11.2003)
 Wartime refugees made pawns in cruel diplomatic game (11.11.2003)

 Simon Wiesenthal Center - News releases

Helsingin Sanomat

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