The world’s top Nazi-hunting organization welcomed on Sunday Finland’s establishment of an investigation into the participation of Finnish volunteers in crimes committed by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1943.
In a letter to the Simon Weisenthal Center in January, Finland’s prime minister Juha Sipilä vowed to set up a probe into the conduct of Finns who volunteered with the Waffen-SS as they carried out mass killings of Jews and other civilians in freshly-occupied Soviet territories.
On Wednesday, Sipilä revealed the details of what his office described as a “survey.” Backed by some 69,000 euros, Finland’s national archives will steer the probe along with representatives of the country’s prime minister and president.
The Simon Weisenthal Center’s Dr Efraim Zuroff lauded the “courageous decision” as “an important step in ensuring the accuracy of the historical narrative of the Holocaust.”
“At a time when numerous countries are trying to hide the crimes of local Nazi collaborators, the Finnish inquiry is an outstanding example of national courage and integrity in dealing with sensitive historical issues,” he said in a statement.
Zuroff wrote to the Finnish president urging an inquiry after a local historian discovered a testimony of a Finn who took part in mass killings of Jews in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic.
The letter suggested other Finns had also taken part, upending previous research that had not unearthed Finnish involvement in Nazi activity in Ukraine.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews were estimated to have been killed during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, chiefly at the hands of roving deaths squads whose task was to eliminate Jews and other Nazi targets.
The SS-established groups also attracted non-German volunteers, including local Ukrainians and many from the Baltic states.
An entire unit made up of Danish volunteers was also incorporated after that country was invaded by Germany, despite its famous efforts at protecting its own Jewish community by smuggling them on boats to neutral Sweden.