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President Mannerheim's Letter to the Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, Sept. 2, 1944
In this hour of hard decisions I am impelled to inform you
that I have arrived at the conviction that the salvation of my
nation makes it my duty to find a means of ending the war.
The general development of total war greatly restricts
Germany's ability to send us sufficient help at the right time
and in the difficult situations which can be expected. It is my
sincere belief, however, that Germany wishes to offer us this
assistance. But the dispatch of a single German division to
Finland requires such a long time that our resistance against
the overwhelming superiority of the enemy might break
down before its arrival. I also fully understand that the situation
does not permit a sufficient number of German divisions
being kept permanently in readiness in Finland. The experiences
of the past summer confirm this.
The judgment of the war situation which I have just given
is shared by a growing majority of the representatives of the
Finnish people. Even should my opinion be other than it is,
it would not be possible for me, having regard to our constitution,
to ignore the plainly shown wishes of the majority
of the nation. When Field-Marshal Keitel recently visited
me, he insisted that the people of Greater Germany could
doubtless continue the war for another ten years if necessary.
I replied that even if one might hope that this be true of a
nation of ninety millions, it was equally true that we Finns
were physically incapable of continuing the war. The
Russians' great assaults in June exhausted our reserves. We
cannot expose ourselves to another such blood-letting without
the whole future of the small Finnish nation being
I wish especially to emphasize that Germany will live on
even if fate should not crown your arms with victory. Nobody
could give such an assurance regarding Finland. If that
nation of barely four millions be militarily defeated, there
can be little doubt that it will be driven into exile or exterminated.
I cannot expose my people to such a fate.
Even though I can hardly hope that my opinions and
reasons will be accepted by you, I wish to send you these
lines before the hour of decision.
Our roads will probably soon part, but the memory of our
German brothers-in-arms will live on.
In Finland the Germans have certainly not been the representatives
of a foreign usurper, but helpers and brothers-in-arms,
but even though that be the case, the position of foreigners
is bound to be a very difficult one. I can assure you
that during the past years nothing whatever has happened
which could cause us to regard the German troops as oppressors
or invaders. The conduct of the German Army in
Northern Finland towards the local population and the local
authorities will, I think, stand out in our history as an almost
unique example of correct and friendly relations in similar
I regard it as my duty to lead my people out of the war.
The arms which you have generously given us I will never
of my own accord turn against Germans. I cherish the hope
that, even though you may take exception to my letter, you
will share my wish and the wish of all Finns, that the change
in our relations may not give rise to animosity.
Source: The Memoirs of Marshal Mannerheim. Cassell & Co., London, 1953.