Russland, SS-Division "Wiking", Panzerspähwagen/ German Federal Archives.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, has appealed to Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to launch an official inquiry into the participation of Finnish volunteers in Holocaust crimes, in the wake of new research on their service in Ukraine in 1941.
Research published in October by Dr. Andre Swanström, chairman of the Finnish Society of Church History, strongly suggests that Finnish volunteers who served in the Viking Division of the Waffen-SS were actively involved in the mass murder of Jews in Ukraine.
Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that he was awaiting a response to a letter he sent earlier this month to Niinistö in which he wrote: “I am certain that you would agree that such revelations require a forthright response by the Finnish authorities and appropriate measures to investigate this matter.”
“You might recall that in a similar situation in November 2003, president Halonen immediately initiated the establishment of a commission of inquiry to examine the deportation from Finland of approximately 3,000 foreigners to Nazi Germany, among them Soviet political officers and Jewish prisoners of war, who were thereby sentenced to almost certain death,” he added.
The establishment of that commission resulted in extensive research and the publishing of numerous books on the subject. Zuroff hopes that the same will happen now, following the findings of this latest research.
“All the research until now claims the Finns were not involved in killing the Jews,” he said, noting that Finland protected its own Jewish community.
“And this comes as a total surprise to researchers and society – it’s important,” Zuroff told the Post. “It’s a pattern,” he added, noting that similar revelations were made recently regarding the role played by SS volunteers from Denmark and Norway.
“A lot of our work of today is maintaining accuracy of what happened during the Holocaust,” Zuroff stressed.
“I hope that you fully understand the gravity of the research by Dr. Swanström and recognize the importance of a serious investigation of his findings,” Zuroff wrote to the Finnish president. “While the initiation of such an inquiry will no doubt be a painful step for Finnish society, it is only by honestly and courageously facing past mistakes that such unfortunate crimes can be prevented in the future.”