Quote about dating a soldier
Livson is 97 now and a frailer version of the tough soldier he once was, but his voice remains loud and clear, his handshake firm and his opinions unwavering. “We weren’t Jews fighting in a Finnish army – we were Finnish people, Finnish soldiers, fighting for our country.” We have met in the cafeteria in the basement of Helsinki’s synagogue, alongside Livson’s wife and other members of the Finnish Jewish Veterans Society.The atmosphere is friendly, jovial even, in the way conversations among veterans sometimes are, but there is no mistaking Livson’s serious intent.They lived in permanent fear of their identity being revealed, but, incredibly, on the occasions that it was, the German soldiers took the matter no further.The men were Finnish, they had the full support of their superior officers, and the Germans – while often shocked to find themselves fighting alongside Jews – did not have the authority to upbraid them.If they had broken ranks, even for the Jews, it would have annihilated that argument.” One general, Hjalmar Siilasvuo, was positively proud of his soldiers’ Jewish ancestry.In the memoirs of Salomon Klass, another Jewish soldier who was offered the Iron Cross, Klass, who had lost an eye in the Winter War, tells a story about the general calling him into a meeting and introducing him to German officers present as “one of my best company commanders”.
“Politicians were determined to protect every citizen, even former communists.(Under Russian rule, Jews had been forced into the army at the age of 10 and made to serve for up to 25 years.) They were viewed with some suspicion by the rest of Finland, which itself had been ruled by Russia until its independence in 1917, and the war that broke out in 1939, known in Finland as the Winter War, was regarded by the small Jewish population as a chance to prove they were loyal Finnish citizens.Livson fought in the Karelian Isthmus and, although the army was eventually forced to retreat by the far larger Russian force, he fought so valiantly, demonstrating such great skill and initiative, that he was promoted to sergeant.“General Siilasvuo knew full well who I was and what segment of the population I belonged to”, Klass wrote. Perhaps more uncomfortable are incidents, revealed by the Finnish historian Hannu Rautkallio, of friendships struck up between Jews and ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers.“I have heard a story about one Jewish soldier who was making his way back to camp with a German of a similar rank,” says Simon.