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History of the Jews in Finland

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Title: History of the Jews in Finland  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of the Jews in Europe, Middle Eastern diaspora in Finland, Religion in Finland, Jews and Judaism in Europe, Finland–Israel relations
Collection: Jewish Finnish History, Middle Eastern Diaspora in Finland
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

History of the Jews in Finland

Jews in Finland
Suomen juutalaiset
יהדות פינלנד

Ben ZyskowiczRuben StillerMauritz Stiller

Dan TolppanenBenjamin RubinsteinMax Jakobson
Total population
about 1,500[1]
Regions with significant populations
Helsinki (80% of the Finnish Jewish community), Turku (13%), Tampere (3%)[1]
Finnish, Hebrew, Swedish
Related ethnic groups
Russians in Finland, Finnish Tatars

Finnish Jews are Jews who are citizens of Finland. The country is home to approximately 1,500 Jews, who mostly live in Helsinki.[1] Jews came to Finland as traders and merchants from other parts of Europe.


  • History 1
  • World War II 2
  • Today 3
    • Antisemitism 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


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. During that time, most of Finland was included in the Kingdom of Sweden. In Sweden, Jews were allowed to reside in a few towns—all of them 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.[2]

Despite the legal difficulties, during the period of Finnish autonomy (1809–1917) 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 II

Finland's involvement in World War II began during the Winter War (30 November 1939 - 13 March 1940), the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland prior to Operation Barbarossa, (launched in June, 1941). A total of 204 Finnish Jews fought in the Finnish Army during the Winter War, of whom 27 were killed.[3] Finnish Jews were among those made refugees after the Red Army conquered Karelia.[4] Finnish national anger at the outcome of that war led to Finland's involvement in the Continuation War (1941–1944). While Germany launched Barbarossa, Finland simultaneously resumed hostilities against the Soviet Union. This resulted in democratically-ruled Finland fighting alongside Nazi Germany. Because Finland was not a totalitarian state dominated by the Nazi party, Finnish Jews were not subject to the mass persecution and genocide of the rest of Europe. As Finland was never invaded by Germany, Finland's Jews did not meet the same fate as Jews in Russia, where the genocide was perpetrated by, or under the cover of, the occupying Wehrmacht. Approximately 300 Finnish Jews fought in the Continuation War. As Finland's forces had substantial numbers of German Army forces supporting their operations, the Finnish front was almost certainly unique in having a field synagogue operating in the presence of Nazi troops.[5][6]

Approximately 500 Jewish refugees arrived in Finland during World War II, although about 350 moved on to other countries. About 40 of the remaining Jewish refugees were sent to work in Salla in Lapland in March 1942. The refugees were moved to Kemijärvi in June and eventually to Suursaari Island in the Gulf of Finland.

In November 1942, eight Jewish Soviet refugees (along with 19 other deportees) were handed over to

  • Jewish Community of Helsinki
  • Chabad Lubavitch of Finland
  • What's in it for non-Christians, thisisFINLAND
  • An essay about Jews in Finland during WWII
  • ‘While Jews serve in my army I will not allow their deportation’ Jewish Quarterly

External links

  • Cohen, William B. and Jörgen Svensson (1995). 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 0-89604-121-2.
  • Cohen, William B. & Jürgen Svensson (2001). Finland. In Walter Laqueur, ed., The Holocaust Encyclopedia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 204–206. ISBN 0-300-08432-3.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e The Jewish Community of Helsinki: A Short History of the Finnish Jewry
  2. ^ Jewish Heritage Europe – Finland
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Hannu Reime (8 October 2010). "Un-Finnish business". Haaretz. 
  5. ^ Vuonokari, Jews in Finland During the Second World War
  6. ^ Suomen juutalaiset sotaveteraanit saivat muistopaaden MTV3. 2002-04-28. Retrieved 2010-02-26.(Finnish)
  7. ^ Cohen, William B. and Jörgen Svensson (1995). Finland and the Holocaust. Holocaust and Genocide Studies 9(1):70–93.
  8. ^ Jews in Finland During the Second World War by Tuulikki Vuonokari (2003): University of Tampere website. Retrieved 3 August 2006.
  9. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1985). The Holocaust. Holt. p. 534.  
  10. ^ Jukka Lindstedt: Juutalaisten sotavankien luovutukset. Historiallinen aikakauskirja 2/2004: 144–165
  11. ^ a b Meinander, Henrik (2009). Suomi 1944. Siltala. p. 17.  
  12. ^ STT-IA. "Juutalaiset sotilaat taistelivat saksalaisten rinnalla Suomen itsenäisyyden puolesta". 1997 12 5. Verkkouutiset. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: Antisemitism – Summary overview of the situation in the European Union 2001–2011, p. 26.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Swastikas appeared on Zyskowicz election posters". CFCA. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  17. ^ Jarla, Pertti: Pakotettuna pyytämään anteeksi. (In Finnish.) Suomen Kuvalehti, 14 June 2011.
  18. ^ [2]


See also

Finally, Sikorski states that he witnessed Muslims giving the Nazi salute or shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ("Allah is great!") during pro-Israel rallies.[18]

A further example of anti-Semitism Sikorski alleges was the Finnish hypermarket chain Prisma "promot[ing]" the book Jewish Domination by American anti-Semitic politician David Duke.

According to Sikorski, another example of anti-Semitism was the journalist Kyösti Niemelä writing in the Helsinki University paper Yliopisto that a Holocaust denier could teach a university class on Jewish history. His argument was that even high school teachers can talk about controversial issues without revealing their 'political opinions.' He thus reduced Holocaust denial to a 'political opinion.'

The Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest subscription newspaper, published a satirical cartoon depicting a scene from 1943 of a German guard holding a bar of "Free Range Jew soap." However, as the cartoonist Pertti Jarla points out, he was making fun of the double moralism of the National Socialism, but the humour was so black that the strip was commonly misinterpreted.[17]

According to writer and Finnish resident Ken Sikorski, there is an increase in anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic bias in the country. Sikorski gave a number of alleged examples in his interview with Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld in July 2013.

In 2011, Ben Zyskowicz, the first Finnish-Jewish parliamentarian, was assaulted by a man shouting antisemitic slurs.[15] Four years later, few electoral advertising with his picture were sprayed with swastika in Helsinki.[16]

Historically, antisemitic hate crimes have been rare, and the Jewish community is relatively safe. However, there are have been a few antisemitic crimes reported in the last decade; the most common types include defamation, verbal threats, and damage to property.[14]


There are two synagogues: one in Helsinki and one in Turku. Helsinki also has a Jewish day school, which serves about 110 students (many of them the children of Israelis working in Finland); and a Chabad Lubavitch rabbi is based there.

Most Finnish Jews speak Finnish or Swedish as their mother tongue. Yiddish, German, Russian, and Hebrew are also spoken in the community. The Jews, like Finland's other traditional minorities as well as immigrant groups, are represented on the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO).

The number of Jews in Finland in 2010 was approximately 1,500, of whom 1,200 lived in Helsinki, about 200 in Turku, and about 50 in Tampere.[1] The Jews are well integrated into Finnish society and are represented in nearly all sectors. Most Finnish Jews are corporate employees or self-employed professionals.[1]

During the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, about 28 Finnish Jews, mostly Finnish Army veterans, fought for the State of Israel. After Israel's establishment, Finland had a high rate of immigration to Israel (known as "aliyah"), which depleted Finland's Jewish community. The community was somewhat revitalized when some Soviet Jews immigrated to Finland following the collapse of the Soviet Union.[4][13]

The synagogue of Turku


Two Jewish officers, Leo Skurnik and Salomon Klass, of the Finnish army and one female Lotta Svärd member, Dina Poljakoff, were awarded German Iron Crosses, but they refused to accept them.[12]

Later in the war, Germany's ambassador to Helsinki Wipert von Blücher concluded in a report to Hitler that Finns would not endanger their citizens of Jewish origin in any situation.[11] According to historian Henrik Meinander, this was realistically accepted by Hitler.[11] Yad Vashem records that 22 Finnish Jews died in the Holocaust, all fighting for the Finnish Army.

In 1942, an exchange of Soviet POWs took place between Finland and Germany. Approximately 2,600–2,800 Soviet prisoners of war of various nationalities then held by Finland were exchanged for 2,100 Soviet POWs of Finnic nationalities (Finnish, Karelian, Ingrian, or Estonian) held by Germany, who might have volunteered in the Finnish army. About 2000 of the POWs handed over by Finland joined the Wehrmacht. Among the rest there were about 500 people (mainly Soviet political officers) who were considered politically dangerous in Finland. This latter group most likely perished in concentration camps or were executed. Based on the a list of names, there were 47 Jews among the extradited, although they were not extradited based on religion.[10]

After protests by Lutheran ministers, the Archbishop, and the Social Democratic Party, no more foreign Jewish refugees were deported from Finland. [9]

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