Prosessi / Der Prozess: An introduction

The project Prosessi / Der Prozess uses artistic and research practices to analyse the questions of violent practices. Starting point of the project have been a radio document called ”The Shadow of Holocaust – three parts from the closeness of the damnation” (Yle Radio One 2017), talking about people ”who lived somewhere on the outskirts of Holocaust” and discussing the secret German troops called ”Einsatzgruppen Finnland. Core of the project is based on a story from the Finnish internment camps, where Jewish refugees were used as forced labour: Finnish guards forced them to make barbed wire with their bare hands. Prisoners constructed special kind of a tool for making the work safer, but guards forbid them to use of the invented tool.

I knew that there had been German soldiers in Lapland – but in the stories of Finnish civil people they were kind men, friends and fellow soldiers; I didn´t think that there could be any ideological connection between our fight for the independency against overwhelmed enemy and the politics of Nazi-Germany. However, the radio document changed the idea that I had on the Finnish wartime history. I started with learning what kind of processes have been behind the story on the Finnish forced labour camp and the barbed wire tool. What had happened before the establishment of the camp on Suursaari island – and what was going on afterwards? I want to analyse societal processes via stories of individuals: not only stories of forgotten victims of the national socialists and their fellow travellers in Finland, but also forgotten stories of the people responsible of the injustice in the history.

I am documenting my learning process using artistic and research methods and posting a graphic diary and a blog, among other things. Platforms for publications will be confirmed later

I guess I am not the only one who need an extra lesson on this topic: in November 2018 CNN published, that every third European does not know almost anything about Holocaust. I see that there is a strong need of remembrance and recollection. I see there is also necessity of better knowledge on Finland’s role as a collaborator of Nazi-Germany. However, the topic is not a new thing. The discussion in Finland started at the latest in 2004 when Elina Sana’s documentary book called ”Luovutetut” (Extraditeds) was published. The publication awoke international attention: for example, Simo Wiesenthal Center asked president Halonen for more information on extraditions. As a result of that attention, research projects were started.

The project Prosessi / Der Prozess focuses on the destiny of Jewish refugees in wartime Finland. They ended up in the forced labour camps in Finnish Lapland and Suursaari island, which was situated in the southernmost frontline in the middle of the Gulf of Finland (nowadays the island, known as ”Hogland”, belongs to Russia). The status of these camps was as ambivalent as the role of Finland as an executor of Nazi-German policy: depending of sources, these camps are called either internment camps, labour camps or even concentration camps (managed by Finland, not by Germany). Anyhow, regardless of the title, the conditions in these camps were close to the conditions in European concentration camps under German rule – or even worse: in Laplandic camps there was no warm clothes (Jewish forced labours had to live in the middle of snowy forests in wet tents wearing summer clothes when temperature outside was -40 °C), there was not enough food and no rights to contact their family. Their work was only a punishment, without a real importance or meaning.

Moreover, the function of these camps seems to be similar to the one in camps organised by Nazi-Germany: there was a plan to send Jewish refugees from the Finnish forced labour camps to the concentration – and the extermination camps under German rule. Thankfully, most of the deportations were managed to be prevented. Nevertheless, the State Police of Finland (Valpo) have deported 12 persons identified as Jews to Gestapo: 9 of them died, 2 survived Auschwitz and the destiny of the last one is still unknown. Total number of the deportations by Valpo was 77 people. At the same time Finnish army officers extradited 521 POWs (Prisoners of war) for Einsatzkommando Finnland; 47 of them were identified as Jews. The destiny of these POWs is unknown (because of the lack of the documents) but the most likely fate of all these prisoners was that they perished in one way or another.*

There has been a connection between wartime Finnish forced labour camps, secret collaboration between Finnish and German security officers and the mission of secret German troops called Einsatzkommando Finnland, referring to the policy of Nazi-Germany. There are still more questions than answers, more unknown areas than knowledge, more silence than voices. However, there are some voices that we can hear – the voices of survivors. To make these stories visible, I would like to show how Finnish wartime history is engaged in the history of the Holocaust.

The bilingual name of the project ”Prosessi / Der Prozess refers to the different kind of processes. There is a process of progression which led to the extraditions of refugees, and also the process of manufacturing barbed wire by hands. It is possible to see also a reference to Franz Kafka’s novel called ”The Trial” (”Der Prozess” in German). Moreover, the form of the project reveals the my own learning process.

I am a visual artist (MFA) by profession. During my artistic process I emphasize the importance of writing and notation practice, but the project combining artistic and research approaches is quite a new way of working for me. However, I studied not only visual arts, but also couple of courses about political and military sciences. I hope that these fields of interest will help me to clarify and uncover the reality of violent practices not only as a part of the crisis in security of the society and existence of the state, but also as the crisis of the humanity.

The project results will have various formats – for example form of the article series, a working diary with graphics and an exhibition in Gallery Napa (Rovaniemi) presenting the project documentations. Platforms for the publications will be confirmed later. Most of the project results will be published only in Finnish at this time, but notations on social media channels and the homepage of the project are in English also.

Feedback and thoughts around the topic are welcomed – my possibilities to answer are limited, but I promise to read them all. E-mail address is: prosessi[at]korteniemi.eu

The project ”Prosessi / Der Prozess Part One” is managed by the Artists’ Association of Lapland and funded by Foundation EVZ. The project is included in the funding programme Remembrance of forced labour and forgotten victims.

* Source of number data: Jospeh R. White & Mel Hecker (Eds.): Ensyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945 Volume III (page 84). Indiana University Press 2018