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Speech by Minister Tytti Tuppurainen at the 80-year memorial event for the eight deported

Government Communications Department
Publication date 6.11.2022 18.31
Speech

Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen spoke at the 80-year memorial event for the eight deported in Helsinki on 6 November 2022. Check against delivery.

Distinguished ambassador of the State of Israel, distinguished ambassadors, representatives of the Jewish community of Finland, family members of the victims, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is truly an honour to deliver the message of the Finnish Government to this event that upholds a tradition of remembrance. 

Yes, to speak today is an honour, while the event we are gathered to remember is one of the most dishonourable moments in our nation’s history. It is an infamy, not to be forgotten in eight decades, not to be forgotten ever.

Eighty years ago, Finland was not a nation plagued by most extreme forms of antisemitism. Or to be more precise, most virulent forms of antisemitism were not shared by the majority of ordinary people. Indeed, full religious freedom and thereafter full civil rights were awarded to our Jewish community soon after our independence in January 1918. It was to be one of the last acts of the Finnish Parliament before our country descended into civil war. 

Even during the Continuation War while Finland allied herself with Germany and its criminal Nazi regime there was no intention to persecute our Jewish citizens let alone plans to let them become victims of European-wide Holocaust.

Deporting eight Jewish persons from various European national backgrounds to Nazi murderers was therefore a failure of our responsibility to provide protection for foreign nationals that trusted us to protect them. And their trust should have been well-founded. While at that time there was no international convention for the protection of refugees, such responsibility was understood to be a part of civilised nation’s legal system.

Major newspapers, Helsingin Sanomat and Suomen Sosialidemokraatti, published editorials against planned deportations and based their opinions in the concept of responsibility to protect refugees. Also, some government ministers acted: Minister Väinö Tanner stopped deportations giving the victims a temporary reprieve. And minister Karl-August Fagerholm threatened to resign should the deportations take place.

In all likelihood there were plans to deport about hundred-and-fifty Jewish refugees. In the end the lying and deceiving antisemitic politicians and civil-servants managed to send eight of them – including a baby boy born in Finland – to certain death. Their false story line presented the deportations as a regular police operation, smearing Jewish refugees as criminals and burden to our society. 
 
Dear friends!

Deporting Jewish refugees to become victims of the Holocaust can be seen as part of wider problem of violating human rights, and especially violating human rights of refugees.
 
Today, as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has opened up as a large-scale war and Russian leadership has openly declared its genocidal motives, a refugee crisis is once again part of European political landscape. Millions of exiles are on the move, fearing the Russian terror bombing or fearing the murdering and torturing enemy troops.

So far European response has been exemplary as we have welcomed Ukrainians as refugees. However, we must understand that this refugee crisis of Ukraine may last a while. Russia’s war against Ukraine started eight years ago, and we do not know how long it will last. We have to have patience, we have to be prepared to resist the lies and deceptions aimed at Ukrainians. Moreover, we must be aware of need to protect the especially vulnerable groups of refugees, for example the Roma refugees leaving Ukraine.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

while we recognise similarities between the refugee crisis of today and the plight of the European Jews eighty years ago, we must see the differences as well. The Holocaust with its meticulous planning and ruthless execution was something humanity had never witnessed.  

Alone finding Jews as victims of murderous persecution was in many ways a unique operation. The Nazis and their allies murdered Jews in Eastern Europe where there were centuries long cultural differences between Jews and Gentiles. Jews were therefore easily found as victims. But the murderers managed to find out Jews in Western European countries where Jewish culture, and Jewish way of living, was almost identical of the gentile populations. Nazi criminals spared no effort.

The evil of the Holocaust stands out among any crimes perpetrated by human beings. We must recognise the unprecedented nature of the Holocaust.

I am personally somewhat unease of the fact that in Finland the 27th of January is known as the Day of Remembrance of the victims of persecutions. It should be known as the Remembrance of the Holocaust, the Day of freeing the remaining prisoners of Auschwitz. 

On the other hand, I am relieved to tell that Finland is a fully dedicated party to International Holocaust Remembrance Association. We as a listed country recognise the common definition of antisemitism and understand that antisemitism is oftentimes expressed as criticism against Israel. Let us be clear: antisemitism cannot hide behind anti-Zionism.
 
Dear friends!

The last members of the generations that witnessed the Holocaust will pass away in the near future. With sadness we will see that the last survivors will no longer be among us. They will no longer bear witness of what happened. Their suffering will live only in oral traditions and in the historical records. And the same has already happened to the Righteous among the Nations, the people who risked their careers and livelihoods and, in many times, risked their lives when doing what was right, helping Jews to escape persecution.

The perpetrators of the crime of the Holocaust have almost all passed away as well. Most of them have died of old age with only punishment being their lifelong guilt. In Finland the men who sent away these eight human beings we today remember, were not made to face any legal consequences. And indeed, in the post-war years of the Finnish society there was enough of revenge seeking that finding justice would have been difficult.

Today we must remember that while the victims and the perpetrators of the Holocaust may not be among us in forthcoming years, the evil of antisemitism lives. For us Europeans the antisemitism is really the original sin, burning in slow fire century after century and waiting to burst in flames. 

Yet there is another strong undercurrent in our culture as well. Of treatment of refugees, it says: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself.” That is what the Holy Bible tells us. It indicates our responsibility as human beings for one another. It is a responsibility that cannot be outsourced, not to Rwanda, not anywhere. It is here and now, it is there where we see distress.
 
Distinguished ambassador of the State of Israel, distinguished ambassadors, representatives of the Jewish community of Finland, family members of the victims, dear friends!

The memory of the eight deported reminds us that all the historical events are sums of individual lives. Today, we must be better.