New Finnish War Politics Document Found

    TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: When I was in Finland last summer a news story surfaced in the papers about the surfacing of a document relating to T.M. Kivimaki’s dealings in Berlin with Reich Marshal Hermann Goering who recommended Finland’s acceptance of the harsh peace terms demanded by the Russians to end the Winter War of 1939-40. It was released by the current Foreign Minister of Finland Erkki Tuomioja, and relates to today’s play reading of “When Summa Fell“ (“Kun Summa petti”). Dr. Tuomioja deposited it the Finnish National Archives. It can also be found in Dr. Tuomioja’s website home page in the original Finnish, along with his own introduction and the closing commentary of Dr. Heikki Ylikangas, who wrote “When Summa Fell”. Dr. Tuomioja’s home page is:, if you‘d like to read it in Finnish. This English translation is my own. -- Harry Siitonen, October, 2005.

From the Website of Dr. Erkki Tuomioja

“A new document illuminates Finland‘s war politics.“. Opening statement on home page, July 29, 2005.

         My sister Tuula Raivio gave me an interesting document that she found among the papers of her late husband Pekka Raivio a few weeks ago. How and from where it had wound up in them, we do not know. The question is about the so-called H.V.-Letter to the then-Foreign Minister Rolf Witting from Toivo Mikael Kivimaki, Finnish envoy to Berlin in the years 1940-44, containing a report of his meeting with Reich Marshal Goering on St. Johannes Day, 1941, a few days after Germany had attacked the Soviet Union, with Finland allying with it.

         I have checked out and found that this kind of letter has been found no more in the archives of the Foreign Affairs Ministry than it has in the Kivimaki and Witting collections in the National Archives. This is not surprising when considering a memo written by Risto Ryti on June 8, 1943,which can be found in the National Archives collections: “Former Foreign Minister Witting here. Brought me a packet of letters addressed to me which had remained in his possession. He said that Kivimaki had asked him, as well as me, to burn all personal letters which had come from Kivimaki.”

         It is quite understandable that those concerned did not want to leave traces of such sensitive discussions in archives. The writer of the letter was charged in the so-called war crimes trials which followed the war and this kind of letter would not have supported his defense.

         The letter in its entirety is as follows. Photocopies of the original pages are attached, Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.

 June, 26, 194

Mr. Foreign Minister Rolf Witting

    H.V. (H.V. is an abbreviation for Hyva Veli, or Good Brother--Translator).

         On St. Johannes Day at Noon I was invited to see Reich Marshal Goering at Karin Hall to present him a White Rose Great Cross with attached chain. With me were our military attache Colonel Horn as well as Colonel Veltjens, well-known in Finland for his German military exploits. Goering received us in his spacious office where he was alone by a war map, explained at first at length about military accomplishments. --- In two days they had advanced to Minsk and destroyed 2,562 Russian aircraft --- and then he allowed me the occasion to perform my mission.

         I said a few words as I presented the Great Cross to him to honor him for the advice he gave to me in February, 1940, that we had to make peace with Russia quickly and on the same occasion of his promise that Finland would get back what it would lose, with interest., and for the greetings he had sent me as Prime Minister through Field Marshal Mannerheim during the summer of 1935 which had promised that if Russia attacked Finland, Goering would immediately send a fleet of airplanes to our aid. In his answering speech, Goering began with a reminder about my speech that a swastika is decorating the Cross’s chain, which is also the symbol of the German coat-of-arms, and continued that he had said all during the Finnish War that Finland had to make peace before Russia had liquidated Finland’s intelligentsia and leadership, through which the Finnish people would have been terminally destroyed and said that he had rejoiced that Finland had followed his advice. Now Finland will get its compensation. Together with Germany, it is joined in battle against the Eastern demons. Communism is to be eliminated in Russia and Russia (will be) divided into small nations which can never again be a threat to Western Civilization. Finland can select such borders as it desires. At the map he asked what borders do we want, to which I indicated to him the Soviet Karelian border and the city of Onega on the Vienanmeri (The White Sea), stating that the old Finnish settlements ran within the said borders, the same as the Kola Peninsula has old Finnish settled areas. To this he said it would be necessary to make an economic agreement with Germany over the riches of Kola. But would Finland want Petrograd? -- to which I replied that Petrograd will always be a threat to Finland -- to which he said: “Thus, it has to be destroyed, and it’ll be destroyed the same as Moscow will be destroyed.” After this, he discussed extensively Molotov’s visit to Berlin in November, 1940, when Molotov had made a demand that Germany should not aid Finland which was under Russia’s sphere of influence and the conquest of which is important to Russia. For two days Goering avoided responding to Molotov’s question, when Molotov on the third day made it so direct that an answer could not be avoided any longer. Goering had used the interval to indicate Finland’s heroism to the Fuhrer, who then responded to Molotov’s question why Germany did not want to leave Finland to Russia, that first, Germany did not want a new war in the North, and, second, that Germany cannot leave a heroic people like Finland’s alone, since heroism is the best quality and characteristic of a people which Germany truly honors in all peoples. Molotov had to be satisfied with this answer. (Auswartiges Amt gave, as is remembered, as a result of this discussion, a dry explanation, according to which Germany didn’t want a new conflict in the North and that Germany had reason to expect that Russia would observe this wish. Goering sent Colonel Veltjens to see Mannerheim, who got a more complete explanation of the matter from him, which also became more fully known through other means.)

         After this, Goering took me into the orchard where just the two of us sat under a summer canopy for about a half-hour. During its passage, Goering discussed Germany’s diplomatic actions before the war broke out, the importance of occupying Crete at the beginning of military operations, and Sweden’s attitude -- which I’ve related in my Report No. 8. Then he inquired how the Finnish working class accepted the situation and assured me that when the military campaign has ended in Europe, no war will come to Europe again, but a great era of employment and prosperity.

         As we returned to his office, Goering explained Germany’s operational plan, and asked to thank President Ryti and Field Marshal Mannerheim for the great honor they had awarded him, and in this manner the hour-long audience was concluded.

With best regards,

         Your brother,

          (initials handwritten)

         I don’t see any reason to doubt the authenticity of this document. The confirmation of this on the basis of the paper and the typewriter that were used, will of necessity be the task of others after I have surrendered the document to the National Archives.

         In itself, the document will not change the historical picture associated with the beginning of the peacemaking process to end the Winter War and the start of the Continuation War, but it will certainly give material for continuing the discussion about them. For that reason I have asked Professor Heikki Ylikangas, who has been a key participant in this discussion, for his comments on the letter.

Ylikangas’s Commentary

         Dr. Erkki Tuomioja has kindly sent for my comment a duplicate copy of a letter received from his sister, obviously for the reason that I have been a participant in a lengthy exchange of opinions about Finland’s and Germany’s relationship concerning the Winter War. I agreed gladly to his request for commentary.

         The letter in question from Finland’s envoy to Germany T.M. Kivimakl to Foreign Minister Rolf Witting of June 26, 1941, is in many ways an important source for historical research. To my understanding, it is also a new source, since it has never reached my hands earlier at least and I haven’t noticed it quoted in any literature on the subject. The letter not only illuminates the relations between Finland and Germany, but Finland’s military objectives in World War II.

         The fact that Finland wanted to award Germany’s Reich Marshal Hermann Goering a high decoration in that way, speaks for itself, similarly that Goering received this expression of recognition on St. Johannes Day, June 6, 1941, three days after Germany began its attack on the Soviet Union. Finland’s intent was to remind Goering of his advice which he had given during the Winter War in February, 1940, and which contained his recommendation to Finland to make peace regardless of its conditions, since Finland would get back everything that it lost with interest. It was just this that Kivimaki had talked about when he presented the award of recognition to Goering. The text of the letter didn’t actually mention that the promise of February, 1940, was associated at the time with a clear statement about Germany’s soon-to-happen attack on the Soviet Union, but it has to be seen as implicit in Goering’s statement of that time since how else except by means of war could Finland be promised the return of all its losses with interest. Especially important is Goering’s statement in which he said that he “rejoiced that Finland had followed his advice.” In this light, Germany had interpreted Finland’s decisions at the end of the Winter War as a result of Goering’s statement being taken seriously and followed. All in all, the letter from these portions supports my interpretation about a subject which has in recent years been intensely been debated by researchers.

         Another significant point in the letter is the question of Finland’s military objectives in the war, about which there is also information in other sources. Finland’s political leadership’s territorial objectives -- objectives of conquest -- were quite clear from the beginning of the war. No Mannerheim sword-in-sheath order of the day influenced or created them, as has sometimes been claimed. According to reports, Finland did not seek only Viena or Aunus, thus Finnish-speaking living areas, (in Eastern Karelia--HS) in addition to the Karelia lost in the Winter War. The Greater Finland* perimeter appears to include also the Kola Peninsula, in the ceding of which to Finland Goering clearly hesitates. On the other hand, Leningrad-Petrograd was, according to the report, simply a standing threat to Finland, not a territory it wanted to take to govern, Goering’s statement that “Finland can select what borders it desires” reveals how important Finland was to Germany, at least as a military ally. Finland, after all, was the only democratic ally in the invasion front against Russia, and in addition, because of its “Winter War miracle” enjoyed great prestige in the world,

         At the end of this letter is a third important point. Kivimaki tells of Goering’s inquiry: “How the Finnish working class accepts the situation.” This perhaps was meant to clarify whether Finland’s working class would join in the ongoing war of aggression where Finland “together with Germany” “is engaged in battle against the rule of the Eastern demons.” Evidently Kivimaki’s answer was favorable in Goering’s view, since upon receiving it, Goering emphasized a long era of peace to come. The Left’s traditional opposition to war would thus attain its goals.

Heikki Ylikangas
July 29, 2005.

* TRANSLATOR’S EXPLANATION. “Greater Finland“ refers to the romantic nationalist ambitions of extreme right-wing officers of the Finnish Army after the conclusion of the Finnish Civil War in 1918 to expand Finnish borders to the East encompassing Russian Karelia to unite all Finno-Ugric Finnish-speaking peoples within a Greater Finland. Leading a volunteer army, they attempted several military incursions into East-Karelia and Petsamo between 1918-22, in what were called the “heimosodat” (“tribe wars”). All expeditions were repulsed by the Soviet forces with heavy losses to the attackers. --- HS.