History of the Jews in Finland

The History of the Jews in Finland began when the Jews first settled in the Kingdom of Sweden-Finland in the 18th century, during the tolerant reign of King Gustavus III. They were allowed to reside in a few towns in Swedish parts of the kingdom, such as Marstrand, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Norrköping and Karlskrona, but not in the Finnish part. The ancestors of the Jews of Finland came to Finnish towns, which were then under Russian rule, at the end of the 18th century. The first Jew said to have settled on Finnish soil was Jacob Weikam, later Veikkanen, in 1782, in the town of Hamina which was by then already under Russian rule. During the period of Finnish autonomy (1809-1917) more Russian Jews established themselves in Finland as tradesmen and craftsmen or retired officers from the Tsarist army. It was only after Finland became independent that Jews were granted full rights as Finnish citizens. That was in 1918, when they were given the right to obtain Finnish citizenship.

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. The field synagogue operated by Jewish prisoners.jpgthe 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 conditions) and 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. Eventually eight Jewish refugees were handed over to the Germans, a fact for which Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen issued an official apology in 2000.

Approximately 2600-2800 prisoners of war were exchanged for 2100 Finnish prisoners of war with Germany. About 2000 of them joined the Wermacht, 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, tough they were not extradited based on religion.

The number of Jews in Finland in 2006 is approximately 1,300. The Jews in Finland are best regarded as a religious minority and cultural minority, because ethnically and linguistically they are a heterogeneous group. The Jews are well integrated into Finnish society and are represented in nearly all sectors of it. Their educational level is high. The Jews, in common with Finland's other traditional minorities, as well as immigrant groups, are represented on the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO). In contrast to some other countries, such as Germany and Hungary, the Jews of Finland have had no objection to being considered a national minority. There are two synagogues, in Helsinki and in Turku as well as a local Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi based in Helsinki.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.