World War II Finland: Concentration Camps (1941-44)


Figure 1.--Here are Russian children at a Finnish concentration/relocation camp at Petrozavodsk (June 1944). After the Finns withdrew from Petrozavodsk, Soviet troops encountered the camp. Soviet war correspondence Galina Sanko took this photograph. The photograph was not published until 1966 in I.M. Batser's book 'Eto bylo na Karelskom fronte'. The sign in Finnish reads as best we can make out, 'Siirtoleirl. Pääsy leirille ja serustelu audan Lapi ampumisen uballa kielletty.' That means something like, "Siirtoleirl . Access to the camp and serustelu audan Lapi firing uballa prohibited." Hopefully a Finnish reader will help translate it. Presumably the Russian words say the same. We do have some details on the children. A Soviet sorce tells us, " Soviet children, prisoners 6th Finnish concentration camp in Petrozavodsk. During the occupation of Soviet Karelia Petrozavodsk Finns was established six camps for the maintenance of local Russian-speaking residents . The camp was located in the area №6 transshipment exchange , it held 7,000 people . The photo was taken after the liberation of Petrozavodskby by Soviet troops (June 28, 1944). This photograph was submitted as part of the evidence at the Nuremberg trials of war criminals . The girl, who at the photos from the second column to the right - Claudia Nyuppieva - many years later published his memoirs." We do not yet know the full citcumstnces behind this image. Note that while the children are behind barbed wire, there are several other notable aspects: 1) the children look healthy and well fed, 2) they are reasonably dressed, and 3) there are buildings in the background that do not look at all like concentration camp buildings. There are reports of poor consitions in the camp, including lack of food, and thousands of deaths and not all come from Soviet sources. We are not sure yet about precisely what occurred in these camps. Source: Central Archive of Republic of Karelia.

When the Russians advanced into Finnish territor during the Winter War (1939-40), the Finns first evacuated their civilians to safety. Thus there were no Soviet concentration camps for Finnish civilians or deportments as occurred in the other countries the Soviets invaded. The Soviets had a huge network of camps. Many people from the countries they invaded pr partitioned (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Romania) were arrested. Some were shot. Others were sentenced to the camps or deported to various desolate areas of Central Asia or Siberia. [Solzhenitsyn] This did not, however, happen to the Finns. When the Finnish Army advanced into East Karelia during the Continuation War (1941-44), they did encounter Soviet civilians. The Finns set up concentration camps for the civilians which theu operated until the Red Army reoccupied the area. The first camp was located at Petrozavodsk (October 24, 1940). One source estimated 4,000 people perished ther primarily because of malnourishment, most dieing during the spring and summer of 1942. [Laine] A Russian reader writes, "According to Finish sources more than 64,000 Soviet citizens were imprisoned in Finnish KZ camps and more than 18,000 of them died. We are unsure at this time what Finish organization was repoonsible for the camps and why so many people perished there. This appears to be a factual account. It is an aspect of World War II that is not often mentioned in World War II histories. The fact that Soviet actuins against civilians was even nore horrendous does no fiminish what occurred in the Finish camps. It is an aspect of World War II that most Finns would like to forget. Finnish researchers are trying to examine just what occurred. Apparently about 25 percent of about 90,000 Soviet prisoners (both soldiers and civilians) died while in Finnish custody at the camps. Most died from hunger and disease. There were about a dozen Finnish concentration camps which they later referred to as relocation camps, located in the Petrozavodsk region in Finnish-occupied Soviet Karelia. Some 24,000 Soviet citizens were held in the camps and 4,500 died. Anout one-third of the deaths were reportedly children. The mortalities were primarily the result of inadequate nutrition, however poor shelter, the lack of warm clothing and disease were also contributing factors. One sourece claims that conditions at the German camps in Finnish Lapland were better than at the Finnish camps. About 13-15 percent of the POWs died in the German camps hich was about half of the death rate in Finnish camps. [Frolov] We have not seen a good assessment as to why this occurred. Of course there was a great deal of bitterness in Finland toward the Soviets and durung the War supplies includung food was in short supply. Many of the deaths appear to have occurred during the Winter of 1941-42 before the Finns had prperly organized the camps. Sivier policy was another factor, Apparently Stalin did not allow the civilian population evacuate. We are not sure why, but as evacuarion would have brought them into Lenningrad, with limited supplies, this may have been a factor, Stalin also ordered a scoarched erth policy. So it was Soviet policy that denied the civilians means od sustance and shelter. We do not know what the condition of the civilans were when they came into Finnish custody. While the civilians deths, especually the children reflects bady on the Finns, the POW deaths are a differentb matter. It would be useful to know what the death rate was of Finnish POWs in NKVD hands. Soviet treatment of German POWs was genocidal, but so was German treatment of Soviet POWs. We know from the Katyn massacre that the Soviets treated POWs and civilins brutally, even countries that were not involved in war crimes like Poland. The same was true when the Soviets seized control of the Baltic states as part of their early aggressions as a NAZI ally. So it ould be useful to have informtion on Soviet treatment of Finnish POWs. There were few Finnish civilians in Soviet hands because the civilians fleed areas to be turned over to the Soviets. In countries that the Soviet Union occupied entirely or in part as a NAZI ally (Poland. Finland, Estonia. Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania as well at Soviet deportations of its own people far great attrocities were commited against far more infividuals, including children.

Sources

Frolov, Dmitri.

Laine, Antti. Suur-Suomen kahdet kasvot (Otava, 1982).

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. Gulag Archipelago (1973).






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Created: 10:53 PM 6/13/2008
Last updated: 11:55 PM 1/29/2015