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.
“USS Kaskaskia (AO-27) and USS Hart (DD-594) Separate, after refueling at sea on 23 December 1944. Photographed from a blimp of squadron ZP-31. This was one of a series of experimental refuelings conducted by these two ships during 12-23 December 1944 to develop improved fueling at sea techniques. Hart’s camouflage is Measure 31 Design 16d.”
Finnish Jewish soldiers pose outside a field synagogue at the River Svir sector, winter 1942. The synagogue was just a few miles from German positions. Reportedly, Germans visited this synagogue on several occasions. From Rony Smolar, son of Isak Smolar, who founded the synagogue:
“It was an unbelievable picture. German soldiers in their uniforms, sat shoulder to shoulder with praying Jewish men. The Jewish worshippers noticed that some of the Germans even showed a certain respect for the Jewish service.”
I have heard a story about one Jewish soldier who was making his way back to camp with a German of a similar rank. The Jew said to the German, ‘When we get back to camp, don’t tell people I’m Jewish.’ The German replied, ‘But nothing would happen to you – you’re a Finnish soldier. It’s me who would get into trouble.’
John Simon, chronicler of the stories of Finnish Jewish soldiers in the Second World War
Captain Salomon Klass, Finnish Jewish company commander in the Winter War, Continuation War, and Second World War. Awarded the Iron Cross Second Class by the Germans for gallantry, Klass declined it.
Klass tells a story of being invited to a meeting of high-ranking Finnish and German officers by his CO, General Hjalmar Siilasvuo. Siilasvuo introduced him as “one of my best company commanders”. Klass writes: “General Siilasvuo knew full well who I was and what segment of the population I belonged to”. The Germans remained silent.
Another anecdote is told of Klass. After heavy fighting in the Uhtua region, a German colonel known as Pilgrim came to congratulate the captain on a job well done. Hearing Klass’s accented German, the colonel asked if he was from Baltia. Klass replied that he was Jewish, his mother tongue was Yiddish, and it was possible that the Yiddish accent could be heard through the German. A long silence followed, after which Pilgrim stood up, shook his hand, and said “I have nothing against you personally as a Jew. Thank you, Captain.”
While this photo is undated, it was presumably taken during the early war, as Klass would go on to lose an eye fighting the Soviets during the Winter War.
so what do they look for during room inspections? and what's the punishment for having something you're not supposed to have?
This one really depends on where you’re stationed and how much trouble your platoon has been in recently. But my sergeant looks for:
-no junk lying around
If you’re in training command (the place where you go right after boot camp to learn your job) or basically anywhere in an infantry battalion, everything is going to be a LOT stricter. Like, checking-for-dust-in-the-vents strict.
Generally you’re allowed to have two mistakes before your room is failed, but again, this depends on the person inspecting and what their opinion of you is. If the room is failed, sometimes you’ll have to clean it right away and they’ll come back in an hour or so to re-inspect; other times you’ll have it re-inspected on your next day off, usually at an ungodly hour of the morning and you’ll have to be in uniform for it.
If you have something you’re not supposed to have, then it depends on what it is. Sex toys in a female’s room generally horrify the inspecting sergeant so much that they’ll just leave and never come back. Sex toys in a male’s room generally get confiscated. Blades over 3" long will be confiscated and stored until you detach from the duty station, at which time they’ll be returned, although at the time of confiscation you usually have the option to send them to your home of record. Nobody really cares if you have pornography or appliances with an exposed heating element, although technically it’s against the rules to have them. Firearms, drugs, and explosives are an immediate ticket to an NJP, and possibly a court-martial. Strippers and sex workers will be taken in for questioning and the Marine whose room they were in will be NJP’d. Other unauthorized people in the room will generally just be sent on their way and the Marine probably won’t have anything happen to them. Animals will be re-homed or given to the shelter and the Marine might be NJP’d. Tattoo equipment will merit an NJP. Hateful materials are generally confiscated and the Marine will probably get a counselling. Stored bodily fluids will lead to a counselling and therapy.
I can’t think of any others examples, but if you have a question about something in particular feel free to ask!