But is Dietl up to the task? My understanding his that he began the
Continuation War with only 4 divisions, one - the SS Nord - being the
worst motorised division in the German armed forces.
True enough. As mentioned before, the 6th SS-Gebirgsdivision was one
of the worst formations in the German armed forces, although the lack
of motorization was the least of their problems. Even with
state-of-the-art combat vehicles, they'd have still been worthless.
In the subsequent 6 months Dietl was reinforced with two more divisions, one -
the 163rd Infantry - being allowed transit by Sweden, arguably the most evil
Scandinavian country of WWII.
Purely out of curiosity, what line of argument makes Sweden "the most
evil Scandinavian country of the Second World War" - assuming that one
has to revert to the use of the ahistorical adjective "evil", that is?
A mere granting of free transit to one division of the Wehrmacht? In
this case, I think that I could make a reasonably convincing
counterargument that the willing and enthusiastic collaboration
provided to the Third Reich by a certain segment of the population in
Sweden's western neighbour could easily make this another Scandinavian
country far more "evil" than Sweden, never mind the presumably
mitigating circumstances under the occupation and its atmosphere of
As I understand it, there was never more than one German division operating
in southern Finland during 1941.
Correct. The one division which operated in the south was precisely
the above-mentioned 163rd Division of the Wehrmacht, which was, as I
recall it, kept mostly as a reserve formation for the Army of Karelia
(i.e. the Finnish force assembled for the offensive on the norther
side of the lake Laatokka/Ladoga).
So, provided there is a ceasefire so Finnish units are not longer engaged
with the Red Army, how does Dietl capture Helsinki?
Syd, look at the map, and draw your conclusions.
For all practical purposes, the German and Austrian forces in northern
Finland would already be holding half of the country under occupation
and guarding the land routes to the Swedish border and the sea route
from Petsamo to the west. What's more, there are first-class German
military formations based in the capital of Estonia, less than fourty
kilometres from Helsinki, and the units in question can be easily
redeployed for an assault against southern Finland by sea and by air.
In the meantime, Leningrad is still under siege, Moscow seems to be
about to fall, and Stalin sure as hell will not be able to provide any
substantial assistance for his newly-acquired cobelligerent in the
northwest even if he wanted to (and I seriously doubt his
Simultaneously, the Finnish army would still be deployed far in the
East Karelian woodlands and the Karelian Isthmus at the moment of any
potential cease-fire, and transporting the men back from the front to
defend the capital and the coastline would take precious time,
guaranteeing the Germans a fair window of opportunity to exercise
infinite justice on their traitorous former comrades-in-arms (and if
we assume that the transportation of the troops away from the front
would have started already before the actual announcement of the
armistice, it means that the Germans would have inevitably noticed it
and most likely responded by a pre-emptive military action in order to
safeguard their position in Finland).
So, this potential Finnish-German war of '41 would start in a
situation where some 50% of the Finnish national territory would
already be under the control of German forces, where both the
Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe would be within a striking distance of the
Finnish capital, where there's no possibility of assistance from the
Soviet Union, the Western Allies or Sweden, where Finland is
completely isolated from all sides, and where virtually all of the
Finnish army would still, in spite of the cease-fire with the Soviets,
be deployed in the worst possible direction imaginable.
Even Yugoslavia and Greece had better odds of survival against the
historical German invasions.
And if we are generous and assume that the Third Reich wouldn't be
able to move against Finland until after the hard winter of '41-'42 -
which is certainly a possibility -, the outcome would still most
likely be a German occupation of a substantial Finnish territory in
south, west, southeast and north. Granted, the central parts of the
country could very well still remain in the hands of the Finnish
military units - which, of course, would mean years'-long
guerrilla-style campaigns stretching back and forth all over the
country, thoroughly destroying the infrastructure and inflicting
massive casualties and suffering on the civilians.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out how this process would end in
Jussi seems to be arguing that given the particular hand they'd been dealt in
June 1941, Finland's military/political leadership played their cards as best
If you don't mind, I'd like to clarify my position.
There has always existed a certain historiographical indoctrination
(for want of a better word) in Finland in the past - in the sense that
various scholars, politicians and other people who have commented on
historical events have felt a need to convince both themselves and
others that all the decisions which were made during the war were
_correct_, and what's more, that these decisions were also always
_motivated by the right reasons_. I can remember this already from my
high school days, when we were shown an educational video where Max
Jakobson solemnly declared that "all the decisions which the
government and the military made during these years were right". Of
course, this interpretation is by no means unique to Finland alone -
the same belief in the fundamental correctness of wartime policy
obviously exists quite strongly in the United States and Britain (as
witnessed by the comments of several British and American posters on
this forum, I might add), it existed in the late Soviet Union, and it
exists in the present-day Russia. The examples are too numerous to
count. The decision to use atomic weapons against Japan _had to be_
right; the British action at Mers-el-Kebir _had to be_ correct; the
destruction of Dresden _had to be_ necessary; the Molotov-Ribbentrop
pact _had to be_ a sound diplomatic move; the Finnish wartime
diplomacy _had to be_ always right; et cetera. For some strange
reason, no one wants to hear that the decisions made by the government
which their country had over sixty years ago might have been
(A natural corollary to this belief in the ultimate righteousness of
one's own side is obviously the chastizing of the various political
decisions made by those countries which, for one reason or another,
happened to end up on the other side in the conflict in question. They
_had to be_ wrong, and not just partly, but in _everything_.)
While these kinds of viewpoints may be defensible to some extent,
especially in the case of those countries which, thanks to their
"right" decisions, emerged from the war more or less unscathed, it
nonetheless ignores the fact that the wartime political and military
leadership did not, at the time, possess any particular foresight of
the future events. In the case of Finland, the ruling class very often
found itself working under stress with only limited choices. In a
situation where the one and the only option which was left to be
picked also turned out to be, if not beneficial, at least marginally
tolerable, the potential positive outcome can hardly have been due to
any kind of a political genius. Moreover, the same leadership also
occasionally considered alternatives which, with hindsight, could be
described as ludicrous and silly, but which were, for one reason or
another, abandoned. And sometimes, this same leadership most
definitely pursued a route which was manifestly dangerous at the time,
and the manner with which they behaved would no doubt be considered
irresponsible today... yet somehow, all of the potential negative
repercussions did not take place as a result of this behaviour.
Therefore, while some of the "right" decisions can be attributed to
the common sense and the existence of a detailed thought-out policy,
it's also very clear that there were some entirely irrational factors
at work at the time.
This isn't to say that turning down the vague peace offer which Stalin
made in the autumn of '41 was incorrect. On the contrary, if I had to
make some kind of a value judgement, I'd tend to think that it
actually was the proper thing to do, given the normal, established
practices of diplomatic interaction; both the badly-handled mediation
and Stalin's eventual denial that he had made any offer in the first
place would seem to reaffirm that in the circumstances of the autumn
of '41, such peace negotiations would have been doomed from the start.
However, this doesn't mean that I believe that this particular
decision was some kind of an integral part in the continuation of a
"fundamentally correct" wartime policy, let alone that I believe that
such a policy can really be said to have existed. Do I make myself
(I should perhaps also note that the "official" viewpoints have not
remained unchallenged in Finland, quite the opposite. The wartime
policy began to be questioned immediately after the war was over - a
natural development, given that the war had ultimately sealed the
territorial loss and thus ended in a defeat. And, of course, the
questioning of the various "official truths" has also, at times, gone
to somewhat extreme lengths. For example, while I can certainly accept
Heikki Ylikangas' argument that the message dispatched by Göring was
one factor contributing to the decision to conclude a peace in March
'40, I most definitely cannot accept his argument that it was the
_only definite_ factor, let alone his reasoning that for all practical
purposes, the Finnish government made the decision to side with the
Third Reich as early as in March '40. Moreover, I think that part of
his reasoning is ridiculous - for example, the suggestion that the
appointment of Rolf Witting as the foreign minister in March 27th '40
was a signal of a new, already well-established German-oriented
diplomacy simply because Witting's first language was German is, in my
personal opinion, hopelessly ludicrous.)
But the German forces in Finland in 1941 are pitiful and ill-deployed. Can
the Germans shift additional forces in to tilt the balance of power against
I am reminded of the assistance the Red Army gave Yugoslav partisans late
in WWII, before withdrawing from their country. Are the Finns likely to be
offered such generous support in the ATL? Are they likely to accept?
Open for questions. Personally, I'm reminded of the shape which
Yugoslavia was in immediately after the Second World War.
It's a good point. Normally we applaud nations when they act in their own,
enlightened self-interest. But Finland had shackled herself to Operation
Barbarossa, the Axis/USSR war where more than 20 million Soviet citizens,
half of them civilians, were killed.
"Shackled" is hardly the most appropriate term. If this had been the
case, there'd have been no Declaration of Neutrality on June 22nd '41,
let alone the separate peace in 1944, of course.
Now the Finns killed almost no civilians and those soldiers they killed died
largely through the ordinary usages of war.
Assuming that one doesn't count some six to seven thousand people who
died of malnutrition and diseases in the ill-organized
concentration/internment camps in the occupied East Karelia during
1941-1942, that is.
So while it is unfair to lump Finland in with the Nazi bad-hats - much as it
is unfair to execrate those members of Al-Queda cells who have never been
suicide bombers - this unfair criticism nevertheless sometimes happens.
I should perhaps note that in my opinion, those members of the
Al-Qaeda network who have _not_ engaged in suicide bombing operations
could, in fact, be held morally _more_ condemnable than those who
actually have followed their high ideals to the very end. Twisted
logic? You may blame it on my cultural background. In Finnish eyes,
Eugen Schauman - the assassin of governor-general Bobrikov - was
elevated to a higher moral level mostly because he had committed a
suicide immediately after the assassination, and thus willingly paid
for his crime by taking his own life. Likewise, an active Al-Qaeda
follower who advances the goals of the sinister organization by an
active act of suicide terrorism by trading his/her life for that of
another human being could inevitably be considered morally superior to
a passive Al-Qaeda follower who also, in a different way, advances the
goals of the sinister organization but is not willing to exercise the
final justice on himself/herself in return.
Of course, one should keep in mind that this kind of moral elevation
can apply only to that very special kind of suicide terrorists who
always maintain the perfect moral balance by exchanging only one human
life for their own, concentrating specifically on single, solitary
human targets and refraining from acts of mass murder. For example,
assuming that those terrorists who carried out the airstrikes on
September 11th 2001 would have evacuated the crews and the passengers
of the airplanes beforehand, and then directed their hi-jacked jets
against singular targets - like, say, against certain American or
European politicians and intellectuals known for their violent
hostility towards Islam, one plane for each target - their acts of
suicide terrorism might have been, if not morally acceptable, at least
excusable; each of the terrorists would have killed only one person,
and then immediately paid for the deed by a voluntary act of
self-inflicted final justice afterwards. This could also apply to a
situation where, say, a young Palestinian activist would choose to
assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister and immediately committ suicide
afterwards (and preferably leave a written appeal for peace on his/her
body in the process, which is exactly what Schauman did).
But I digress. Besides, this logic which places direct action above
higher moral level vis-à-vis indirect action or passiveness would also
seem to suggest that extraditing innocent people to countries which
are likely to exterminate these people is actually more morally
condemnable than the eventual act of extermination in itself. While
this philosophy would no doubt delight certain venerable institutions
such as Süddeutsche Zeitung, it's also likely to annoy some Finns and
Canadians, which is something that I most definitely wish not to do.
In addition, some people might also think that I'm sick. So perhaps I
should stop right here.
And Janne has touched upon a provocative WI - WI Finland had not joined the
Great Patriotic War? Would as many non-Finns have died?
The Soviet and German soldiers who died in combat on the Finnish front
would have still had more than ample opportunities to get killed in
the general carnage of the eastern front. The same goes for those
Soviet PoWs who were handed over to the Germans by the Finnish
Some of the unfortunate civilians who perished in the concentration
camps of Eastern Karelia could have still ended up dead as a result of
other wartime events, but many of them could very well have survived.
Most of the Soviet civilians who died in the siege of Leningrad would
have probably still suffered their historic fate after the German
advance had cut the railways south and southeast of the city. A
neutral Finland could have hardly done anything to alleviate their
The various "undesirables" might have still ended up deported by VALPO
to the Gestapo and the SD. Who says that a neutral country would not
have extradited refugees to a totalitarian dictatorship?
Ingrians, Karelians and other ethnically-related people who
volunteered to fight for the Finnish armed forces during the war and
ended up dead (either killed in action, or executed for treason by
Soviet authorities after the war) might have still volunteered to
fight in the German armed forces and suffered the same fate.
Hard to say. Perhaps a tentative "yes", especially on the second
count, but otherwise I remain a cynic.
 Oddly enough, not all supporters of 20th century mega-killers suffer
from such guilt-by-association. People seem to forgive Harold "All the
way with LBJ" Holt and forget about Ronald Reagan's support for Pol Pot.