german finn

  • germans: ok, so our country is called Deutschland
  • the french: got it. the country of Allemagne
  • germans: ...no? that doesn't even sound like it
  • the english: oh no, we got it, it's Germany
  • germans: not even close
  • the polish: it's Niemcy, right?
  • germans: how are you each getting it wrong in a completely different way
  • danes: Tyskland
  • lithuanians: Vokietija
  • germans: ...
  • germans: anyone else?
  • finns: Saksa
  • germans: you know what? sure. whatever

Finnish Jewish Major Leo Skurnik (1907-1976). Scientist, doctor, and aspiring concert pianist, Leo Skurnik joined the Finnish Army as a medical officer when war broke out. Serving with Jakavälki Rykmentti 53 (53 Infantry Regiment), Skurnik was responsible for the unit’s medical care and welfare. While posted to Kiestinki’s Pocket in 1941, Skurnik took over part of the treatment duties for 6. SS-Nord.

By August of that year, the Soviets had almost completely surrounded both units. Under heavy Russian shelling, Skurnik decided the units’ combined field hospital had to be evacuated. At great risk to his own life, Skurnik led 600 wounded Finns and Germans through 5.5 miles of bogland under enemy fire, eventually bringing them all back safely to their own lines. For this, he was recommended for an Iron Cross Second Class (EKII). Said Colonel Wolf Halsti: "Major Skurnik did not only take care of the wounded, he also went himself to the frontline and brought them back under enemy’s fire. Whether it was a Finn or German, he brought them safe.“ 

When General Hjalmar Siilasvuo informed Skurnik that he had been recommended for the EKII, he laughed it off, saying he’d wait to see how long it took Berlin to refuse the award once they found out he was Jewish. To Skurnik’s great surprise, the medal was approved. When Skurnik learned this, he told General Siilasvuo: “My good friend, do you think I can take that kind of decoration? Tell your German colleagues that I wipe my arse with it!” The infuriated Germans demanded the general hand Skurnik over for punishment. Siilasvuo refused.