The Finnish Boys

The Finnish Boys is the general term for Estonians who fought in the Finnish armed forces during World War II.

The first Estonian volunteers went to fight in the Finnish Winter War in winter 1939/40 in secret, because Estonia had declared itself neutral. Most of the men did not make it to the front. Some escaped to Finland across the ice in winter 1940/41. In June 1941, the Estonian reconnaissance group called Erna was formed in Finland. In the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, the group was despatched to the Red Army rear in Estonia. After Estonia was conquered by the Germans, Erna was disbanded. Some of the men returned to Finland and served in intelligence.

A mass escape to Finland started in 1943, when the German occupying powers undertook their secret mobilisation – all men born between 1919 and 1924 were compelled to serve in the war industry or in the military support staff, and those eligible to be drafted were forced to join the German army ‘voluntarily’. The Estonians who fled to Finland from the German mobilisation in 1943 formed an Estonian infantry regiment (IR 200). It was made up of two infantry battalions and fought in the Finnish Continuation War in summer 1944 on the Karelian Isthmus. Estonians also served in other Finnish regiments and in the navy.
In August 1944, the Estonians were brought back from the front and most returned home. On the one hand, the men wanted to fight the Red Army at home; on the other, Finland was preparing for a special peace with the Soviet Union and the foreign volunteers could have been extradited. The Germans promised the Finnish authorities that the returned soldiers would not be punished. A few hundred men stayed in Finland and were later allowed to travel on to Sweden.
In Estonia, the Finnish Boys were included in the Waffen-SS. Two battalions were formed, one of which was despatched to the Emajõgi River front, where it fought with notable bravery; the other battalion had no chance to fight. However, the Finnish Boys resisted the retreating Germans who wanted to forcefully evacuate them to Germany.

There were an estimated 3500 Finnish Boys. They represented the ‘third way’ – men who fought to re-establish Estonian independence and did not want to fight in either the German or the Red Army. ​

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