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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wehrmacht and SS in Finnish Lapland

A German WWII sign post in Lapland has been recreated.

The exhibition "Wir Waren Freunde" i.e. "we were friends" in Arktikum in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland tells the story of the German military in Lapland during WWII in a new way. See it before it closes on Jan 10, 2016.

While not a large exhibition and with few objects it is still worth seeing, particularly if you already have a special interest in the Germans in the Arctic. It provides a great deal of new information, also in English, about the German military in and around Rovaniemi, making clear how much the German presence meant for the local economy. The local authorities even called the labour market in Lapland during the war years 1941-44 "the time of Babel". However, as the exhibition correctly points out, not only Finns worked in the machinery that kept the German military in Lapland functioning but also other Nordics as well as Dutchmen, Hungarians, Belgians, Russians and Ukrainians.

Tourist entrepreneurs in Finnish Lapland adapted their stuff to German military customers - two historical articfacts in the exhibition.

Of all the photos on display in the exhibition I had only seen one or two before and there is a great deal about the many local German installations and love affairs including many letters. There is also a special focus on the regional German military newspaper, the Lappland-Kurier.

The Germans in the Arctic actually had several newspapers, regional ones and for certain units. Lappland-Kurier must have been the largest of them. Here also a Finnish issue of the largest propaganda magazine the Germans made, Signal.

The exhibition booklet contains a lot of the amazing photos from the exhibition, and there is a booklet version in English/German.

There is another section in Arktikum that one should not miss, which is a permenent display. It was many years since I last saw it and I think it may have been improved as I do not remember it being as impressive as it is. It consists of two very large dioramas (scale 1:100?), one showing Rovaniemi before the war and one after the massive destruction in 1944. My photos here (below) both show the diorama of the just destroyed city. Click on them to see them in slightly larger size.


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