The Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS (German: Finnisches Freiwilligen-Bataillon der Waffen-SS) was a motorized infantry battalion of the German Waffen-SS during World War II. It was formed from Finnish volunteers and fought on the Eastern Front as part of the SS Division Wiking. The unit was disbanded in mid-1943 as the two-year commitment of the volunteers had expired and the Finnish government was unwilling to allow more men to volunteer. About 1,400 men served in the battalion throughout its existence.
The Finnish government recruited men for service with the Waffen-SS for a two-year term in early 1941, although negotiations over the details lasted until the end of April. This delayed their arrival until May and the roughly 400 men who had military experience in the Winter War were sent to the SS Division Wiking in mid-June where they were dispersed throughout the formation. The inexperienced volunteers were held back for training and were formed into the SS-Volunteer Battalion Northeast (motorized) (German: SS-Freiwilligen-Battalion Nordost (mot.)) on 1 June. By the end of the month, the battalion had about 1,000 men. It was renamed the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS on 13 September and additional volunteers arrived over the next several months to bring its strength up to around 1,180 men. The unit was sent to the front at the beginning of January 1942 where it was attached to the SS-Regiment Nordland of the SS Division Wiking, serving as its third battalion. The battalion participated in the Battle of the Caucasus in mid-1942 and the subsequent Third Battle of Kharkov in early 1943, after the German defeat during the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 forced the Germans to evacuate the Caucasus.
The mathematician Rolf Nevanlinna was chairman of the Committee for the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS. 1408 men served in the battalion during its existence. The unit lost 255 men killed in action, 686 wounded and 14 missing during its service.
Implications of war crimes
Research by Finnish historian Andre Swanström identified at least six Finnish Waffen-SS volunteers who had in Swanström's opinion implicated themselves in crimes, including shooting Jews in Ukraine in 1941. In one letter, an SS private wrote to an officer and military chaplain, Ensio Pihkala, objecting to being on the shooting detail because "for the execution of Jews, less skilled personnel would have sufficed". In 2018, in response to a request from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Finnish authorities announced a committee of inquiry into the activities of the battalion. The committee's work, including by researchers of the National Archives of Finland, conclude at the end of 2018. Swanström's allegations were not new, having been investigated by Finnish State Police in the past, with no evidence of crimes being found. On 2 February 2019 Finnish authorities concluded that "Finnish Waffen SS volunteers likely did participate in carrying out atrocities against Jews and civilians", with this not being a formal charge of war crimes.
In 1968, Finnish historian Mauno Jokipii published a book Panttipataljoona: suomalaisen SS-pataljoonan historia ("History of the Finnish SS Battalion") detailing the history of the unit. The work was influenced by the organization of the former Finnish SS men, Veljesapu; in 2000, the copyright for the book was transferred to the organisation. Among others, historians Oula Silvennoinen and Marko Tikka argued, in the light of the archival material that emerged in the 2010s, Jokipii's estimates of nationalist radicals, fascists and National Socialists among its ranks was underestimated. According to Silvennoinen and Tikka, about 46 per cent of volunteers, or more than double the number compared to Jokipii's calculations, would have shown themselves to be adherents of fascist ideology. According to Swanström, 36 percent of the volunteers declared being supporters of the clerical fascist Patriotic People's Movement (IKL), while 10 per cent declared being supporters of the various minor Finnish Nazi parties and 7 per cent supporters of traditional right-wing parties. According to Swanström, the ideology of the Finnish SS men was connected to extreme Finnish nationalism and a particular Finnish form of Lutheran revivalism (herännäisyys). According to Jokipii, the Finnish SS men did not participate in the brutal executions of Jews by the Germans, but some of them testified as eyewitnesses to murders.
- ^ Ueberschär (1996), pp. 1072–73; Tessin (1980), pp. 89, 186
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- ^ CNAAN LIPHSHIZ (14 July 2018): Ahead of Trump-Putin summit, 5 things you didn’t know about Finland and the Jews, The Times of Israel
- ^ Olli Koikkalainen: "Juutalaisten teloittamiseen riittää kehnompikin ampumataito". Aamulehti 3. kesäkuuta 2018, s. A20. Alma Media.
- ^ JUHA MUURINEN:(17 October 2018): Tarkemmin ottaen tutkimus ei tuo mitään uutta esille. Swanströmin ”löytämät” tapaukset on aikanaan huolella tutkittu Valpon toimesta, eikä mitään rikoksiin viittaavaa löytynyt. Näitä tapauksia on jo lehdistössäkin puitu vuosien varrella useita kertoja., Iltalehti
- ^ Ziemann, Marcus (8 February 2019). "Riippumaton selvitys: Suomalaiset SS-miehet todennäköisesti osallistuivat saksalaisten mukana juutalaisten ja siviilien surmaamiseen 1941–1943". YLE.
- ^ Olli Koikkalainen: Uusi tutkimus muuttaa kuvaa puhtoisista SS-vapaaehtoisista. Aamulehti 3. kesäkuuta 2018, s. A21. Alma Media.
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- Tessin, Georg (1980). Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939–1945. 14: Die Landstreitkräfte: Namensverbände/Die Luftstreitkräfte (Fliegende Verbände)/Flakeinsatz im Reich 1943–1945 (1.udg. ed.). Osnabrück: Biblio-Verl. ISBN 3-7648-1111-0.
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- George H. Stein, H. Peter Krosby (October 1966). Hans Rothfels, Theodor Eschenburg (ed.). "Das finnische Freiwilligen-Bataillon der Waffen-SS" [The Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS] (pdf). Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (in German). Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. 14 (4): 413–453. Retrieved 2010-04-20.