The March of Life in Turku, Finland

On August 18, 2018, the first March of Life took place in the southern Finnish city of Turku. More than 200 participants marched from the Jewish synagogue through the city center with white-and-blue flags of Israel and Finland to express their love and support for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. In front of the Turku Cathedral, the main church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland, an excerpt from the Independence Day Declaration, which had been approved on 15.05.2018 at the March of the Nations in Jerusalem, was read. The Declaration confesses that Christians for millennia have preached against Jews and that antisemitism still continues to live in the hearts of many Christians today.

"My wish is that this small flame of our voice against antisemitism ignites a big fire all over Finland," said organizer Maarit Vigren at the March of Life in Turku, Finland. Dan Portnoj, member of Turku's Jewish community, confirmed at the closing ceremony that the March of Life in Turku was urgently needed, as antisemitism has increased significantly in the city in recent years. A visible sign for this was i.a. a neo-Nazi march that was carried out the same day in Turku. Maarit Vigren explained that antisemitism is often expressed in indifference and silence, and as a citizen of the city of Turku, she asked for forgiveness that through her own silence, antisemitism in her surroundings has increased.

Two German participants reported how the Wehrmacht and SS units came to Finland in 1942 "to eradicate Jewish life and misuse the country for their own purposes." Despite the so-called "brotherhood of arms" between Finland and Germany, the soldiers did not come as friends: "They came in the wake of a war of annihilation. The burning of Finnish towns and villages after the dissolution of the Alliance had shown the true face of German troops. "Many participants were very moved by this statement as they heard for the first time how Germans spoke about their history and expressed their deep regret.

Paula Karppanen, coordinator of the March of Life Finland, talked about her grandfather, who worked at the headquarters of the Finnish armed forces during the war, and asked for forgiveness that the Finns did not help the Jewish population in their misery: "Today we have to talk about this past, take responsibility and stand up to current antisemitism. "

The Israeli ambassador to Finland, Dov Segev-Steinberg, thanked her warmly when he heard about the March of Life in Turku. Participants of the March from different regions of Finland agreed that Marches of Life are necessary also in their cities. The book "Breaking the Veil of Silence", written by March of Life Initiator Jobst Bittner, explaining the basics of personal research as well as the beginnings of the movement, will be published in Finnish in October 2018 - an opportunity for many Finns, their family and friends to work through the past of the city history.

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