Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld27

The Counselor of the Finnish Legation, Mr. Urho Toivola, called at my residence last night and discussed the news of the latest Soviet offensive on the Finnish front.28

Mr. Toivola expressed the view that if and when the Russians reach the main Finnish defense line they would require very large masses of troops to break it, perhaps as many as fifty divisions. The marshes and lakes make this line especially defensible in summer. Mr. Toivola was in doubt as to the purpose of the Russian offensive in these circumstances. He suggested that, in view of the effect on other sectors of the Russian–German front of any such large diversion of Russian troops, it might not be the intention of the Russian High Command to force these operations through the main Finnish defense line but rather to bring about a situation of such potential pressure on the Finnish Government that a settlement would become possible without a final military decision.

He thought, however, that the action was susceptible of still another interpretation, assuming that the present offensive on the Finnish lines was intended to be final. This interpretation is that the Russians desire to establish control over all the areas on their western border formerly in Russian territory in advance of their final all-out assault on the Germans, this on the theory that by resuming possession of all such territory they could present their western Allies with a fait accompli in respect of these territories and so minimize dissension between the Soviet Union and the western Allies as to the small states in this area.

Mr. Toivola expressed the view that the occupation of eastern European territory by Russian forces after the victory over Germany [Page 600] would create a very different state of affairs in territory so occupied from that which would prevail in those European areas which would be occupied by the western Allies following the defeat of Germany; and he had no doubt that all the eastern satellites of Germany would already be out of the war if they were not aware of this difference in their future status as compared with the condition of those European countries which will be occupied by the western Allies.

Mr. Toivola also expressed the opinion that, following Finland’s rejection of the latest unacceptable Russian peace terms, public feeling in Finland had again hardened into a determination to resist the Soviet Union at any cost. It was now hoped, however, that Finland could hold out on its main defense line until the defeat of Germany, whereafter the western Allies, believed by the Finns to be disposed to maintain Finnish independence, might make such views prevail over Russian plans for the absorption of Finland.

Mr. Toivola, speculating on the effects of a possible Russian breakthrough at the main line of Finnish defense, thought that Swedish preparations to receive 1,000,000 Finnish refugees, as recently reported from Stockholm, were quite warranted. A mass exodus from Finland to Sweden in the event indicated would certainly take place, provided the Russians did not cut off the sea route over the gulf of Bothnia or the land route around the head of that Gulf. He thought Finnish strategy in this eventuality would involve the defense of a bridgehead on the Gulf of Bothnia of sufficient size to facilitate such an exodus.

Mr. Toivola alluded to the Department’s recent statement,29 following the reported suppression of a newspaper in Helsinki, to the effect that the present Finnish Government is pro-German, and inquired whether this unprecedented statement was the prelude to a rupture in Finnish-American relations. I answered that I had no such information but expressed the personal opinion that a rupture of relations remained a possibility.

H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld
  1. Mr. Schoenfeld, Minister to Finland, had left Finland in December 1942, and did not return, being assigned to the Department of State in Washington.
  2. Finnish military headquarters announced that on June 9, Soviet forces on the Karelian Isthmus had begun “a general offensive supported by very strong artillery action and by strong air formations.” (740.0011 European War 1939/34594)
  3. On June 11 the Department issued a statement assailing the ban by the Finnish Government of the newspaper Svenska Pressen as a pro-German act; see the New York Times, June 11, 1944, p. 20. In telegram 448, June 6, 1944, the Chargé in Finland reported that the Finnish Government had “decided to forbid until further notice publication of the paper Svenska Pressen.” (860d.911/34)