Lapland War

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Finnish ski troops in the Lapland War (1944/45)
A sign of the German Wehrmacht erected in Muonio : "As a thank you for unproven brotherhood in arms"

The Lapland War was a military confrontation between Finland and the German troops stationed in the country during World War II . It lasted from September 1944 to April 1945 and was the last of the three wars fought on Finnish soil during the World War. There were also fighting between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army . The forces on the German side were commanded by Colonel General Lothar Rendulic .


After the defeat in the Winter War (1939/40), Finland fought together with the German Reich against the Soviet Union in the Continuation War from June 1941 to regain the territories lost in the Winter War. In January 1943 the Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim came to the conclusion that a German defeat was foreseeable due to the German defeat at Stalingrad and the demolition of the German siege ring around Leningrad . On February 3, 1943, an informal war cabinet in Mikkeli around Marshal Mannerheim, President Risto Ryti and Finance Minister Väinö Tanner decided that, in view of the looming defeat of the Germans, Finland would have to leave the war separately in good time in order to secure its existence. The independence of the country was to be preserved under the abandonment of East Karelia .

In the summer of 1944, Finnish and German units jointly fended off a Soviet offensive on the Karelian Isthmus aimed at occupying the country. The Red Army was roughly stopped on the front lines of the Winter War. At the same time, however, the German eastern front largely collapsed in the course of Operation Bagration . In view of the looming military catastrophe, Ryti resigned on August 1, 1944 and left the office to Mannerheim. This intensified the peace talks with the Soviet Union that had already existed through Swedish mediation.


On September 19, 1944, the Moscow armistice ended the continuing war between Finland and the Soviet Union . In order to save its independence, Finland ceded some areas and was also obliged to expel the German troops , which had previously been virtually allied, by military means within 14 days. Since this deadline could not be met, a sham war arose, which the Finnish General Quartermaster, Lieutenant General AF Airo, described as an "autumn maneuver". The Finns and the Germans made secret agreements, with the Germans mining the retreat route and destroying bridges as part of this tactic in order to provide the Soviets with solid evidence against a “quick pursuit” by the Finns. However, the pressure from the Soviets on the Finns was so strong that they increasingly attacked the Wehrmacht, whereupon the Germans also used the scorched earth tactic in the course of the fighting . Entire villages, individual houses, roads and bridges were destroyed or mined, which greatly slowed the advance of the Finnish pursuers. The city of Rovaniemi burned down completely in a fire caused by the explosion of an ammunition train .

The fighting dragged on into the spring of 1945. The German troops withdrew to the north as part of Operation Northern Lights in order to escape to Norway, which was still occupied by German troops . The last place in Finland that was evacuated by the Germans after the fighting with Finnish troops on April 25, 1945 was the village of Kilpisjärvi in the far north-west of the country on April 27, 1945 . The following day, Lieutenant General Hjalmar Siilasvuo informed Field Marshal Mannerheim that Finland had been freed from German troops.

The Lapland War is also known as the “Children's Crusade”, as the armistice agreement with the Soviet Union called for the demobilization of the Finnish army and this led to the fact that units with very young, inexperienced soldiers were deployed on the front on the Finnish side. A large proportion of the Finnish failures were due to the use of landmines .

See also


Web links

Commons : Lapland War  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Wegner : The end of the war in Scandinavia. In Karl-Heinz Frieser (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 8: The Eastern Front 1943/44 - The War in the East and on the Side Fronts. Munich 2011, p. 963f.
  2. Bernd Wegner: The end of the war in Scandinavia in Karl-Heinz Frieser (Ed.): The German Empire and the Second World War. Volume 8: The Eastern Front 1943/44 - The War in the East and on the Side Fronts. Munich 2011, pp. 988f.
  3. ^ Political History of Finland since 1809 - From the Grand Duchy to the European Union. ISBN 3-87061-833-7 .