The Finns are an extraordinary race. Alone of the combatants of the First World War, they repaid the loans made by the United States at that time, and in 1939-1940 they were celebrated as the "Little Finland" that took a terrible toll of the Red Army when it tried to grab off the country as its share of the booty of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. (Stalin got about 10 percent of Finland's territory in a rather embarrassing treaty, along with Latia, Lithuania, Estonia, and half of Poland.) When Germany and its Axis partners invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Finland understandably joined as a "co-belligerent" on the German left (northern) flank, in an attempt to regain the land it had lost the year before. Thus its involvement with the Viking Division.
At the request of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Jerusalem, the Finnish government undertook a study of its citizens Finns who had served in the SS combat units in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. I can't imagine any other nation that would have done the same, or anyhow with so little window dressing. The resulting document is not an easy read, but it's fascinating, and it's a free PDF download from the Finnish National Archives. There's also a paperback edition, which unfortunately shows as unavailable on Amazon.com. Blue skies! — Daniel FordThe Second World War -- the worst thing that ever happened. It started in September 1939, with Hitler's Wehrmacht invading Poland from the west, while Stalin's Red Army stormed in from the east. Among their victims was a five-year-old named Basia Deszberg. The Russians shot her father and brother in the Katyn Forest, then loaded Basia, her sister, and her mother into a cattle car for a horrific three-week journey to the steppes of Kazakhstan, there to survive however they could. Over the next eight years, they would escape through Persia, Lebanon, and Egypt to find safe haven in England.
Meanwhile, I was growing up in a United States mired by the Great Depression. Europe's agony was America's windfall! I went from hardscrabble poverty to a college degree and a fellowship that took me to the English university where Basia was also a student. This is the story of our meeting, our travels, and our parting. "It's an extraordinary book, highly original, gripping, at once full of joy and of sorrow" (Cosmopolitan Review).
Available as a paperback or an ebook at Amazon and other online bookstores.
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Posted July 2019. Websites © 1997-2019 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved. This site sets no cookies, but the Mailchimp sign-up service does, and so does Amazon if you click through to their store.