History of the Jews in Finland

History of the Jews in Finland

Finnish Jews are Jews who are citizens of Finland. The country is home to the approximately 1,300 Jews. The History of the Jews in Finland began in the 18th century.

Pre-Finnish Independence

The first Jew said to have settled on Finnish soil was Jacob Weikam, later Veikkanen, in 1782, in the town of Hamina which was at that point under Russian rule. [ [http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=26476 National Minorities of Finland, Jewry in Finland — Virtual Finland ] ] Prior to Finnish independence, Jews were allowed to reside in a few towns in the Kingdom of Sweden-Finland, outside the territory that is now modern-day Finland. In 1809 Finland became part of the Russian Empire, as an autonomous Grand Duchy but Swedish laws remained in force, meaning Jews were still unable to settle in Finnish territory. [ [http://www.jewish-heritage-europe.org/country/finland/finland.htm Jewish Heritage Europe - Finland ] ]

During the period of Finnish autonomy (18091917) more Russian Jews established themselves in Finland as tradesmen and craftsmen. As Jews were in principle prohibited from dwelling in Finland, almost all these Jews were retired soldiers from the Imperial Russian army. Being cantonists, forced into the Russian army in childhood, they were required to serve at least 25 years. After their term expired, they had, however, the right to remain in Finland regardless of Finnish ban on Jewish settlement, a right forcefully defended by the Russian military authorities. It was only after Finland declared its independence, in 1917, that Jews were granted full rights as Finnish citizens.

World War Two

During the Continuation War (1941–1944), in which Finland fought alongside Nazi Germany, Finnish Jews were not persecuted, and even among extremists of the Finnish Right they were tolerated, as many leaders of the movement came from the clergy. Many Finnish Jews fought in the War alongside the German Army [Vuonokari, [http://www.uta.fi/~tuulikki.vuonokari/fin-1.html Jews in Finland During the Second World War] ] . The field synagogue operated by the Finnish army was probably a unique phenomenon in Europe. Approximately five hundred Jewish refugees arrived in Finland, though about three hundred and fifty moved on to other countries. About forty of the remaining Jewish refugees were sent for work service in Salla in Lapland in March 1942. The work and conditions were difficult, they were made to work until their fingers bled and did not have clothing sufficient for the very cold weather. They were exposed to German troops. The refugees were moved to Kemijärvi in June and eventually to Suursaari island in the Gulf of Finland. It was believed that here they would not be able to have easy contact with influential Finnish Jews. In November 1942, eight foreign Jewish refugees were handed over to Nazi Germany [Cohen, William B. and Jörgen Svensson (1995). [http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/9/1/70 Finland and the Holocaust] . "Holocaust and Genocide Studies" 9(1):70-93.] , a fact for which Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen issued an official apology in 2000. [ [http://www.uta.fi/~tuulikki.vuonokari/fin-1.html Jews in Finland During the Second World War] by Tuulikki Vuonokari (2003): [http://www.uta.fi/english/index.html University of Tampere] website. Retrieved 03 August 2006.]

Approximately 2600-2800 prisoners of war were exchanged for 2100 Finnish prisoners of war with Germany. About 2000 of them joined the Wehrmacht, but among the rest there were about 500 political officers or politically dangerous persons, who most likely perished in concentration camps. Based on the a list of names, there were about 70 Jews among the extradited, though they were not extradited based on religion.

YAd Vashem records 22 Jews of Finland died in the Shoah

The current Jewish community in Finland

The number of Jews in Finland in 2006 is approximately 1,300. The Jews are well integrated into Finnish society and are represented in nearly all sectors of it. Most Finnish Jews speak Swedish or Finnish as their mother tongue. Yiddish, German, Russian and Hebrew are also spoken in the community.

The Jews, just like Finland's other traditional minorities, as well as immigrant groups, are represented on the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO).

There are two synagogues, in Helsinki and in Turku as well as a Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi based in Helsinki.

See also

* List of Finnish Jews
* History of the Jews in Sweden
* Finnish culture


Further reading

*Cohen, William B. and Jörgen Svensson (1995). [http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/9/1/70 Finland and the Holocaust] . "Holocaust and Genocide Studies" 9(1):70-93.
*Rautkallio, Hannu (1988). "Finland and the Holocaust. The Rescue of Finland's Jews". N.Y.:Holocaust Publications. ISBN 0896041212.
*Cohen, William B. & Jürgen Svensson (2001). Finland. In Walter Laqueur, ed., "The Holocaust Encyclopedia". New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. P. 204-206. ISBN 0300084323.

External links

* [http://www.lubavitch.fi Chabad Lubavitch of Finland]
* [http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=26476 Jews in Finland]
* [http://www.uta.fi/~tuulikki.vuonokari/fin-1.html An essay about Jews in Finland during WWII]

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