Finland's responsibility in the siege of Leningrad

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Ando
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Finland's responsibility in the siege of Leningrad

Post by Ando » 11 Mar 2003 12:36

How much blame was placed on Finland after the war for the thousands of civillian deaths due its involvement in the blockade of Leningrad? Where any generals charged with war crimes?

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Post by Juha Hujanen » 11 Mar 2003 15:25

Here's few lines i did write about Finnish part in siege of Leningrad in erlier disccussion.

Finnish troops had efectively defeated Russian troops in isthmus.3 Divisions were encircled South of Viborg.Divisions lost all they equipment and suffered heavy casualties(7000 KIA and 9000 POW).12000 men were evacuated to Leningrad.When Finns stopped at old border,they were 30km away from city.Ahead of them were only remains of badly beaten 23.Army and 291.Division.A political decision was made by Finnish leaders,that troops would not continue.And same was done in East-Carelia.Troops could have continue and meet with Germans in Tihvinä.Also decision was made that Finnish troops would not cut the Muurmansk railroad line.When attack stopped they were 6 Finnish Divisions in Karelian Isthmus and they would have been able to countinue to city itself.

Finnish President Ryti was strongly against military actions against city.He made sereral cases clear that Finnish planes should not bomb Leningrad,and they didn't.Only few recon flights were made but not a single bomb fell to city by Finns,and that is case with artillery as well.Airports around Leningrad were bombed,but they were military targets and quite legimate.

No Finnish soldiers or politicians were charged of siege of Leningrad.

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Depends how you want to look at the matter I guess

Post by JariL » 12 Mar 2003 09:02

Hi,

You can look at the matter from different angles. You could say that Finns are equally quilty as Germans because the Northern land route to Leningrad through the Isthmus was blocked by Finns. For starving it does not make much of a difference if you are bombarded as well. However, with this approach you also buy the idea that Soviet Union had every right to wrest Karelian Isthmus in the Winter War from Finland, because prior to 1940 the land was Finnish. Without the Winter War there would not have been a northern land route to Leningrad, not even in theory. It is an other matter weather the logistical system in the Isthmus would have allowed supplying Leningrad any better that the sea route through lake Ladoga.

If you look at the matter from Finnish point of view, Finnish political and military leadership decided not to participate in the destruction of Leningrad. So far at least there are no documents that would indicate the contrary. Finnish troops were stopped approximately on a line that followed the 1939 border line in front of Leningrad. We could discuss till the hell freezes weather a Finnish assault had led to the collapse of the city but that is not very relevant. Bombarding the city was strictly forbidden and during the winter the ice road was left more or less in peace. It would be wrong to say that the reasons to this were humanitarian. They were purely selfish. Leningrad was considered so big a potato that Finns could not handle it and as a consequence Finnish blood would be spilled in vain.

If you go into level of private people, many in Finland back then certainly wished that Leningrad would have sunk into the swamp where it was founded. How general this opinion was I don't dare to guess buit it does not seem to have had any effect on political and military decision making.

The population of Leningrad naturally saw no difference between Germans and Finns. They could not have had any idea on who did what. When Finland pulled out of war in 1944, many people in Leningrad could not understand why Finns were treated so leaniently (country was not occupied). They wanted to have their revenge. Interestingly the same attitude seems to have prevailed among the commanders of the Leningrad front as well. But for them the reason seems to have been more the double personal humiliation (1939-40 and 1941 offensive) caused to them by Finns that had to be paid back. Stavka was more coolheaded in the question and set strict limits both in time and resources for the attack against Finns in summer 1944. Leningrad front made several requests to get new resources to continue the operation, but they were turned down.

What comes to war guilt trials I don't think that surrounding a city was counted as a war crime, not even if the population was starving. It would have become a war crime if Leningrad had offered surrender and that had been refused (this by the way was Hitlers order. No surrender should be accepted). Then starving the people would have become a crime. As long as the defender decided to keep on fighting they also bear part of the blame for the outcome.

Of course, if war itself is deemed a criminal act then everything becomes criminal. Germany was condemmed for starting an agressive war in Nurnberg. Finnish leaders were accused for the same in our war guilt trial and received sentences up to 10 years in prison. But Leningrad was not specifically mentioned. Any references to Winter War and who was the aggressor then was naturally not allowed in the trial.

Regards,

Jari

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Post by Bair » 12 Mar 2003 13:06

Hi Jari,

thank you for your comment and view.


The population of Leningrad naturally saw no difference between Germans and Finns. They could not have had any idea on who did what. When Finland pulled out of war in 1944, many people in Leningrad could not understand why Finns were treated so leaniently (country was not occupied).


I am not so sure about this comment. It might be true for the 23rd Army men, I have a book from 1970s that tells about the Big offensive of June 1944, and there is not even a single mentioning of the Finns - it is just fascists or Germans, although there were no Germans at southern Karelian Isthmus.

During the siege there was a saying among the troops in Leningrad: Which Army does not fight the war? Swedish, Turkish, and th 23rd Soviet - it rhymes nicely in Russian, and describes the general condition at the Isthmus during the static war.

Views in Russia now are mixed, ranging from Prof Baryshnikov who believes that Finland was responsible for the all civilian deaths in Leningrad(you must have heard about his latest book, which caused so much critiquie in Finland by Vihavainen) to some views that Mannerheim saved Leningrad, ordering his troops to discontinue attacks on the Isthmus in 1941.

Maybe I should ask my grandmother about her view of the Finns during the Siege (she was in Leningrad till February 1942, before being evacuated on Ice road).

regards,

Bair
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Post by JariL » 12 Mar 2003 15:02

<I am not so sure about this comment. It might be true for the 23rd Army <men, I have a book from 1970s that tells about the Big offensive of June <1944, and there is not even a single mentioning of the Finns - it is just <fascists or Germans, although there were no Germans at southern <Karelian Isthmus.

Hi Bair,

My comment was referring to the civilian population. I believe communist party made reports of public opinion in Leningrad during the war (probably not gallup polls though;-) which were quoted in some article I saw once. Apart of Finland not being occupied also the fact that trade commenced with Finland caused some uproar especially when sugar and candies were sold to Finland soon after the armistice. They were exchanged to torpedoes of the Finnish navy. Russian subs then used the torpedoes against German ships in the southern Baltic. Wilhelm Gustloff may well have been sent to the bottom with a Finnish torpedo.

I don't know what the feelings have been after the war and how people see things today. Memories change to an extent over the years.

I don't know which sources have been used but I remember reading from a couple of books that Soviet soldiers were told before the attack in 1944 that there were German troops on the Isthmus to make sure that Finns fight. Finns, as they were told, were ready to quit the war if they could.

The above at first raised the moral of the soldiers considerably but it turned against its purpose when no Germans were encountered in battle. Many of the men also seem to have been unaware of the fact that Soviet Union had obtained Karelian Isthmus in 1940 because they felt that they were fighting on foreign soil. Buildings etc. did not look familiar and this also had a nagging effect on the moral. When the above factors were added to the increasing resistance of the enemy, moral of the troops seems to have taken a sharp dip. It has been claimed that in Tali-Ihantala the ratio between dead and wounded in the Red Army was about 1:7. Lots of hand and leg wounds from splinter. Officers reported that there were all too many "voters" during artillery barrages i.e. men that lifted a limb from cover in hope for a light wound. Artillery fire was hellish on both sides of the front so I would not be very surprised if the above would be true.

Soviet historians almost without exception used word facist for Finns too. In my understanding this was a political decision, and quite a foolish one if I may say so, because it sort of mentally discredited all what they had to say when the books were translated into Finnish.

Regards,

Jari

PS. I know you know this Bair, but to those who don't. Only german troops in the Isthmus were 303. assault gun brigade in Ihantala area (short visit to Vuosalmi too) and 122. infantry division north-west of Viipuri at the coast. Soldiers from this unit are probably the only German ones that Red Army soldiers met in battle. In the air Luftwaffes Stuka's of course flew sortie after sortie against land- and sea targets.

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Post by Hanski » 17 Mar 2003 20:00

Bair wrote: "I have a book from 1970s that tells about the Big offensive of June 1944, and there is not even a single mentioning of the Finns - it is just fascists or Germans, although there were no Germans at southern Karelian Isthmus."

Well, this is quite understandable for a publication of the Brezhnev era.
Just like you wrote and like JariL mentions in his P.S., indeed the Germans had a limited role at the Karelian Isthmus in June 1944, but maybe portraying the offensive as directed against them rather than the Finns was better compatible with the Communist Party ideology?

But for Prof Baryshnikov in recent times, what is his motive to keep publishing only old Stalinist views, when there should be free access for researchers to a wider variety of sources?

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Post by Ando » 18 Mar 2003 12:54

I am reading Russia at War 1941-45 by Alexander Werth and it has a small chapter about the Fins at leningrad. It mentions that some eye wittness have stated that a few shells did land in the city from the North. It did state that the southern side was much safer hower. The book was written in 1964.

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Post by Juha Tompuri » 18 Mar 2003 15:42

Ando wrote:I am reading Russia at War 1941-45 by Alexander Werth and it has a small chapter about the Fins at leningrad. It mentions that some eye wittness have stated that a few shells did land in the city from the North. It did state that the southern side was much safer hower. The book was written in 1964.

http://www.thirdreichforum.com/phpBB2/v ... hp?t=17516

Regards, Juha

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eye witnesses

Post by Sami_K » 18 Mar 2003 15:57

Ando wrote:I am reading Russia at War 1941-45 by Alexander Werth and it has a small chapter about the Fins at leningrad. It mentions that some eye wittness have stated that a few shells did land in the city from the North. It did state that the southern side was much safer hower. The book was written in 1964.


The problem with this is the same as with the pre-Winter War claim that "Leningrad is threathened by Finnish artillery fire".

The Finns simply had no field guns with that kind of reach. The only RailRoad gun pre-Winter War was a 152 mm cannon (Canet) with a max range of 20 km. Sure, the Finns DID capture the Soviet 305 mm RR-gun battery from Hanko, but far from intact. Can't recall how long it took to repair them, but it took a while. Besides, if memory serves, these captured 305 mm guns were never fired by the Finns during the war.

So in other words, there was no Finnish artillery that could've fired at Leningrad. In addition, HAD there been a railroad firing postion within 20 km from Leningrad (there wasn't), it would've been in range of half a dozen heavy coastal gun batteries of Kronstadt. To elaborate, look at the map below (the black line is the pre-Winter War border, to which the Finns advanced in 1941).
Image
The map shows the range of the heavy battery in Fort Rif. Kronstadt had several other batteries as well.
HAD there been a finnish RR-battery foolish enough to take their gun literally right to the front line to get in range shoot at the northern suburbs of Leningrad, I'm pretty sure the battery would've been dead quite quickly.

Best regards,
Sami Korhonen

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Post by Harri » 19 Mar 2003 00:24

This topic doesn't need more to add, so I will reply a bit off topic.

Sami, you forget that also 1st Railroad Battery [1. Rautatiepatteri] operated in Karelian Isthmus. This unit was equipped with repaired captured 180 mm Soviet railroad guns (180/57 NRaut) of which range was 34 kms. Unit had one gun when it was formed on 21.9.1941 and in December 1941 it received another. Third gun was given in June 1943 and the last one on 28.10.1943.

1st RR Battery operated in Karelian Isthmus on Viipuri - Koivisto - Terijoki railroad. It was intented against naval targets but I would be surprised it no other targets were fired (especially in the summer 1944). On the other hand Leningrad probably not belonged to the top priority targets.

305/52 ORaut gun was tested for the first time in Finland in October 1942. Two shots were fired on 15.10.1942 and three next day. On 18. and 19.2.1943 second repaired gun gun shot 7 times without problems. Third gun was ready in July 1943. So these were fired in Finland. The unit which had these super heavies was 3rd (Separate) Railroad Battery [3. (Erillinen) rautatiepatteri].

BTW the maximum range of the "reversed" 155 mm Canet gun was about 21.700 metres, but usually about 20 kms.

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Post by ReconMarine » 19 Mar 2003 08:13

I support the Finns.

Good people!

/S/ ReconMarine

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305 mm guns

Post by JariL » 19 Mar 2003 08:35

<305/52 ORaut gun was tested for the first time in Finland in October <1942. Two shots were fired on 15.10.1942 and three next day. On 18. <and 19.2.1943 second repaired gun gun shot 7 times without problems. <Third gun was ready in July 1943. So these were fired in Finland. The <unit which had these super heavies was 3rd (Separate) Railroad Battery <[3. (Erillinen) rautatiepatteri].

Hi,

These guns could not be moved into the Isthmus because there was a weak bridge en route that could not take the weight of the guns. Thus they remained in coastal defence role in Hanko sector for the duration of the war. They were later sold back to Soviet Union.

Regards,

Jari

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correct

Post by Sami_K » 19 Mar 2003 10:10

Harri wrote:This topic doesn't need more to add, so I will reply a bit off topic.

Sami, you forget that also 1st Railroad Battery [1. Rautatiepatteri] operated in Karelian Isthmus. This unit was equipped with repaired captured 180 mm Soviet railroad guns (180/57 NRaut) of which range was 34 kms. Unit had one gun when it was formed on 21.9.1941 and in December 1941 it received another. Third gun was given in June 1943 and the last one on 28.10.1943.


This is what you get when you write from the office and not from home where the books are...
:)
Yes, forgot them totally, weren't them too captured in Hanko?

Harri wrote:1st RR Battery operated in Karelian Isthmus on Viipuri - Koivisto - Terijoki railroad. It was intented against naval targets but I would be surprised it no other targets were fired (especially in the summer 1944). On the other hand Leningrad probably not belonged to the top priority targets.


- There still is the range issue. I don't know in what shape the RR from the frontline at Beloostrov to the rear was, but I somehow doubt that the 180 mm guns ever were near enough to Leningrad to have the city in range. Wasn't them guns kept in mobile reserve or something?


Harri wrote:305/52 ORaut gun was tested for the first time in Finland in October 1942. Two shots were fired on 15.10.1942 and three next day. On 18. and 19.2.1943 second repaired gun gun shot 7 times without problems. Third gun was ready in July 1943. So these were fired in Finland. The unit which had these super heavies was 3rd (Separate) Railroad Battery [3. (Erillinen) rautatiepatteri].


- Sorry for being imprecise, I meant it didn't fire any "combat shots", against the enemy. Tests and exhibition firings were of course made.


Harri wrote:BTW the maximum range of the "reversed" 155 mm Canet gun was about 21.700 metres, but usually about 20 kms.


- The 20 km is so easy to remember, don't mix me up! :)
...again, if memory serves (don't shoot me if I'm wrong), the 152 mm RR-gun mount had a smaller maximum elevation than the coastal gun mount, hence the slight difference.

Cheers,
Sami

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 19 Mar 2003 13:17

Jari:

Were these guns moved from Soviet Union to Hanko by rail or by ship? Can you tell what that weak bridge would have been? My opinion is that these guns were anyway too heavy and clumsy to operate in Karelian Isthmus.

Sami:

Well, good library helps a lot. And still I managed to make a mistake: the maximum range of 180/58 NRaut was 37.700 m according to Soviet sources. Finns captured four damaged guns in Hanko and "parts of one similar battery" in Karelian Isthmus but I don't know the exact total amount of these. 180 mm naval guns and belonged to mobile coastal defence. They shot occasionally Soviet coastal batteries in Kronstadt.

Yes, 305 mm RR guns were shot only for testing. You're right that 20 kms was the typical maximum range of 155 mm Canet gun as well as its RR version which was on naval mount.

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Post by Juha Tompuri » 20 Mar 2003 00:09

Hi,

AFAIK, the 180mm and 305mm RR-guns came and left (3x305mm and 5x180mm[4xHanko,1xSäiniö]) Finland by rail. AFAIK again, "we" got no money from them.
Some off-topics:
305 http://www.nortfort.ru/kgorka/foto_t1_e.html
180 http://www.nortfort.ru/kgorka/foto6_e.html
152 http://www.nortfort.ru/kgorka/foto_f2_e.html
Alex Goss has a good sense of :D ,for a lively russian :)

Regards, Juha

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