In 1942 on June 4, Adolf Hitler visited Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
The secretly recorded Hitler-Mannerheim tape is part of the Finnish War Museum archives and photos of the event were released in 2013. The audio provides an insightful first-hand account of Hitler and his thinking at this stage of the war.
Photographs and story:
Hitler to Finland
On June 4, 1942, the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor four-engine passenger plane carrying Adolf Hitler took off from Wilhelmsdorff Airport, located near Hitler's headquarters, 20 minutes late because the plane's left landing gear wheel had failed. In his book Mannerheim and Hitler , Jukka Partanen tells how Hitler had admired the Finnish forest and the large number of lakes during the trip. "Wie schön das alles ist!", Hitler had said to General Paavo Talvela , who was a passenger on the plane .
The plane landed at Immola airport Ruokolahti at 12:25. At that time, Immola still belonged to Ruokolahti municipality. Today, Immola is part of Imatra.
According to a persistent rumor, when the plane carrying Hitler arrived in Ruokolahti, it almost collided with the 126-meter-high chimney of the Kaukopää factory. However, this is not true. According to Jukka Partanen's report, the plane carrying Hitler arrived at the current Immola airport in an east-west direction, and the distance to the barrel was about two kilometers. Instead, the plane's pilot-captain Hans Baur flew near the barrel later in the day. He made a test flight with the plane after repairing the brake problem.
When the plane had landed, Adolf Hitler stepped out of the plane and was the first to greet the president of the republic, Risto Ryti . After inspecting the company of honor, the leader couple continued their journey in an armored Mercedes 770 Offener Tourenwagen - a car that Hitler had given Mannerheim as a gift the previous year. Car driver Kauko Ranta has said that Hitler had been talking non-stop during the whole few kilometers of the car journey.
Marshal Mannerheim and Hitler met near Vuoksenniska in the yard of the Kaukopää factory, where two trains had transported both Mannerheim and President Ryti. The trains were next to each other, but two pairs of tracks had been removed between them to make it easier for the guests to move. Hitler got out of the car and walked together with President Ryti and the rest of the party towards the train carriages. After congratulations and greetings, Hitler moved to the restaurant car together with President Ryti.
In the restaurant car, Hitler talked for a long time with the members of the Finnish government who were there. Hitler moved to the marshal's saloon car, from which Marshal Mannerheim and Hitler walked out towards a nearby forest road. There, Finnish and German officers were waiting for them in a line, ready to be introduced. Jukka Partasen says in his work about Hitler's visit that the last Finn in line was Sergeant Aarne Voutilainen . He later recalled the meeting: "For a long time, I doubted who the only one with only an edgeband was. Marski explained it in German. It looked piercingly."
Mannerheim and Hitler returned back to the railway yard. There, Hitler entered the saloon car, where he had a one-on-one conversation with the President of the Republic, Risto Ryt. Hitler told Ryti how it bothered him that Germany could not help Finland in the winter war. Instead, Hitler promised Ryti that Finns would no longer have to suffer from hunger. The few funds of the Germans can be reduced to the extent that they are enough for the Finns as well.
After their conversation, Hitler and Ryti got off the train and walked to Marshal Mannerheim's train. There, a celebratory lunch was waiting for them in honor of the marshal's birthday. It started more than half an hour behind the original schedule just before 2 p.m. The guests were in two different restaurant cars. In the second carriage, it was possible to listen to party speeches through loud speakers.
Adolf Hitler did not drink alcohol and was also a vegetarian. That's why he was offered egg, rice and cabbage pies and asparagus soup as an appetizer. The main dish was vegetable pudding. Hitler did not touch the fruit salad for dessert, because alcohol had been used to prepare it. Hitler had tea and mineral water as food. The rest of the party got salmon soup and stuffed goose for lunch, as well as wine and champagne as food drinks.
At lunch, the President of the Republic, Risto Ryti, gave a speech. In his speech, he told, among other things, about the life of Marshal Mannerheim. Hitler, on the other hand, discussed the dangers of communism and the warm relations between Finland and Germany in his speech. Birthday hero Mannerheim, who spoke last, thanked Hitler and the party crowd as they grace the occasion with their presence. The speech can be listened to in its entirety in Yle's Living Archive .
After lunch, Hitler, Mannerheim, Ryti and the German marshal Wilhelm Keitel moved four of them to the next saloon car. There is a secretly recorded recording of the conversation that took place there, on which 11 minutes of the conversation were recorded. In total, the conversation lasted an hour. The preserved recording is probably the only recording of Hitler's private speech preserved for posterity. You can listen to the recording in Yle Eläväs archive .
After the meeting, Hitler moved with the German guests to the last carriage of the marshal's train. Very little is known about the conversation that took place there. At least Hitler has brought up Mannerheim's concern there that Finland has not received the promised troops. According to Jukka Partanen's work, Hitler had ordered his subordinates to follow the agreement made with Mannerheim.
On his way home to the airport, Hitler left in the same car as President Ryti. Marshal Mannerheim, on the other hand, traveled together with Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in another car. At the airport, Hitler shook hands with the entire party. His plane took off from Immola airport at 18:30. The departure took place an hour and a half later than originally planned.
You can see more pictures of Adolf Hitler's visit to Finland on the Finnish Defense Forces SA-kuva website. Enter Hitler's AND visit in the site's search field, and you will see all nearly 300 pictures related to the visit.
For more information see http://sa-kuva.fi/ and search for 'hitlerin 06'
For several years, I had a persisting thought to come to Finland --
and moreover, when possible, completely in cognito, and not only for getting to know the country, --
but above all to take part in the Olympic Games, which I thought would be organized in Helsinski (sic) [in 1940].
I had for several years before been admiring the Finnish warriors in Berlin, --
and was moreover aware of their freedom fight at time of the Great War, the result of it, and the name of their Marshall.
I myself could not even have dreamed that Fate would guide me to Finland under these present conditions.
The war, in which we now go together, was not foreseen by Germany -- and I can calmly say -- neither was Germany prepared for it.
Had we thought that this war were possible, then the preparations would have been more profound, better, more practical, and more appropriate.
We perhaps believed in a possibility of negotiations in Europe --
if in some states the perpetuity of the Treaty of Versailles should have been waived.
But I had a strong hope that there would be a success, simply by the power of reason and by realizing --
that with the impossible conditions, it may also become impossible to apply any friendly revisions.
I had instated a very considerable social programme.
I have .. myself within my own people... ascended from being a common German with an austere background, --
and I had not other goal in life but to carry through a very considerable social programme, --
and also a large supplementary cultural programme.
These are the tasks I have dedicated myself to.
The ones for which I must say Providence has now dictated differently, --
and after it became necessary for my own people to take up arms, --
for their freedom, I was glad that Providence had made me .. to take this step.
The development of the political situation has only made it possible since June 1940 --
to see the lingering threat through the German eyes,
and in line with this to make decisions, and in reality, binding decisions.
Each step followed from this decision.
To have taken the steps, not only have I no regret for, but having taken the steps, I am today glad for.
Because only the struggle that is now behind us, and which also lies before us, has revealed us the size of the danger
that was hovering not only before us, but before the whole of Europe.
Maybe, if I had had an intimation beforehand of the extent of the preparations of Bolshevism against Europe, --
the decision would have been a harder one for me to make.
It's quite sure that I would have made it, because I am one of those men that are unwilling to avoid the risk, --
or the present inevitables, or the future inevitables,
and are also themselves from the outset accepting each danger and each concern, --
and especially, would not to pass on to the next generations something that once MUST be done.
Today, knowing how unengingly great this danger was, I am therefore still glad --
that Providence let me gain the strength and the insight to make this decision.
This decision has now for the second time in our history, brought together the German and the Finnish nations -- in a battle against the common opponent
Already in our first joint battle for the first time our celebrant of today employed his great personality for the Finnish people.
Already this first battle had created a bond that has persisted.
The second battle – on this I am confident -- will strengthen these ties permanently.
For we have an insight which will not sway - there will always be a victory,
and there can be given no peace without victory, --
there will be a victory no matter what it will look like.
The danger in the East naturally still remains, lurking somewhere and I therefore believe --
that regarding the farthest future of a fair number of European nations, they have a common interest --
in that the danger must always be observed with an watchful eye, --
and when necessary, they must also confront it with a keen sense.
Now I am by fate, by the circumstances and by Providence designated as the leader, not only for the German people, --
but I have also been .. appointed the supreme commander of the German Wehrmacht.
I am now happy to be able in this capacity, upon the Marshal of Finland, convey my congratulations today
On behalf of not only myself, but on behalf of all German soldiers, --
who regard with a real admiration their Finnish comrades.
It is so easy for us to talk of a friendship towards the Finnish Armed Forces,
when you have such brave allies, knowing such a brave people on one's side.
Additionally, I will speak in the name of the entire German people, --
because today we have a national army and the German Reich is a people’s state.
The Army, the Wehrmacht and the People are together as one.
The whole German people at this moment in their thoughts share what I speak.
The people admired the Finnish soldiers .. it admired the Finnish people .. and it ... also admired the military leadership.
For your 75th birthday I can therefore wholeheartedly convey not only the best wishes of the whole German people, but also those of the Wermacht, and those of my own.
I also thank for the hospitality that myself and my companions have been enjoying here.
And lastly, Mr Marshall, I shall express my own wish --
that your native country .. its people .. and ... for us .. our common cause
shall remain for many many years more, Sir Marshal!
(People leaving the tables and the carriage)
(A smaller group moves to Mannerheim's car, and the rest of the recording is from there. This has the "secret" part.)
I so greatly regret that -- we could not help the Finnish people in their first freedom fight two years ago [Winter War 1939-40]
but it was not possible, we were bound to the west --
and a two-front war was not attainable.
Therefore I am very happy that we now for the second time, --
and I hope for this time permanently, --
fighting against an opponent when, --
should it win,
there would ... not be a victory of any earlier kind, --
but an annihilation of our two nations and I believe that of Europe as well.
I know what Finland had to do in this whole fight
and how hard the sacrifices were which it brought on the Finnish people.
and .. I can assure you no matter what may happen, --
the German people will absolutely, reliably and unfailingly stand behind the Finnish people --
and the peace objectives the Finnish people -
-- and they are to me the only conceivable ones --
they will also be fought for.
I also know () situations in life () () ()
because it cannot be that in 15 or 20 years, a new war begins for a Nation.
And the adjectives of existing and non-existing would come into use.
That you, Mr Marshal, at your high age are the leader of the Finnish people, and that
they are lucky to possess such brave leader We admire that, and that ().
(Probably the sound of cinema film being reeled)
The Lord Chancellor and the supreme commander of the German Armed Forces!
For the most amiable congratulations, --
I would like to be allowed to express my most respectful thanks.
These wishes are for me and the Finnish Armed Forces one of the greatest honours, --
which my heart and my .. thoughts .. fully appreciate.
I thank you in any case heartfelt for the beautiful congratulatory presents which are intended for me personally.
These gifts ... will be my lasting memory of today's fierce battle --
for the highest values of spiritual and material culture.
A battle, which we are allowed to carry out alongside the glorious and powerful German Wehrmacht.
The importance and the value of the honour bestowed upon me today by your presence, --
Mr Lord Chancellor, will be here among us highly regarded.
That it was the supreme commander of the German Wehrmacht himself who conveyed these congratulations and gifts --
would not only be the greatest joy to me and everyone here, --
but it is also an honour that is deeply felt by us.
Particularly highly I think of the fact that you, Mr. Chancellor, found the opportunity --
to take this journey, especially in the days --
when the massive and brilliant beats of the hearts of German leadership and of the German men, and German weapons, --
are bringing us closer in the hope of a far-reaching decision.
So I will conclude with the expression of my respectful gratitude with the hope that --
the good weapons be granted in the course of this year, for the just cause --
to render the pest herds of Bolshevik barbarism harmless.
May the fighters united in the brotherhood-of-arms bring their respective peoples peace, and rescue --
the whole Europe from danger, which has threatened us --
over two decades like a nightmare on our eastern borders.
(Probably noise from a cinema film being reeled)
Yes, take a good look.
A major threat, perhaps the worst one --
which we naturally only now can fully evaluate at all.
We ourselves had no precise idea --
how monstrously this state had been equipped with.
Mannerheim: That we could not have guessed in the Winter war [1939-40].
We could not have guessed it in the Winter war [1939-40].
Naturally we were under the impression they were well equipped, -- but what there was in reality.
And now, there is no longer any doubt on what they were up to. --
That‘s apparent. So it went.
They have the most extensive armament that could ever be conceived by Man,
so .. had someone told me .. that a state .. mit
had someone told me that a state can send 35,000 tanks to the battle,
then I would have said: "you are out of your mind“.
(H.:) 35,000 Tanks -- (Ryti): Tanks.
At the moment we have annihilated 34,000 tanks.
If one of my Generals had told me that here a state could possess 35,000 tanks, then I would have said
"You, my dear sir, you are seeing everything double, or ten-fold. It is madness, you are seeing apparitions."
We had not thought it possible.
I have already told you that we have discovered factories, the one in Klamarovskaya for instance (actually Kramatorskaja) , --
was just two years ago only a farming village – we had no idea.
Today, the site has a tank factory, which was to employ 30,000 workers in its first phase and when fully completed, 60,000 workers.
One single tank factory! We have taken it over. One gigantic factory!
The masses of workers, however, would be living like animals .. so.. (..) (Ryti): In the Donetsk area? (H.): In the Donetsk area.
Mannerheim: When you think that they have had been given the freedom for 20 years, over 20 years, nearly 25 years to prepare themselves --
[Hitler speaking on top of Mannerheim..]
and everything for the arms. Only the arms!
aah, that you said. I previously told that to your President [Ryti] --
I had no previous idea.
It would have been even worse for my heart, had I foreseen it.
But the decision I surely would have taken, because there was really no other possibility.
And .. for myself .. it was clear already in the winter 1939-40 that a confrontation must arise.
Myself had a nightmare about the west, --
a war on two fronts, that would have been impossible.
Because we were exhausted.
Today we see it better than we perhaps were to acknowledge.
We were exhausted then.
Our whole .. I essentially wanted already in the autumn of ´39 … I wanted to undertake a western campaign.
Only this darned miserable weather, that we had, that had kept us from commencing that.
Our whole armament was .. yes .. it is an armament for the good weather
It is very capable, it is fine, yet it is unfortunately an armament for the good weather, emphatically.
We do have witnessed it right here in the war. Our whole armament had naturally been tailored for the west. --
and previously, we all had the belief, uhmm.. --
that was just our opinion since the times immemorial, that in wintertime one cannot wage war.
And we have also the German tanks, the German tanks, --
and they were not evaluated for a preparation for winter warfare.
But trials had been done in order to become convinced that you will NOT be able to wage any wars in winter!
That is another point of departure.
We were facing constantly the same question in Autumn 1939.
I wanted to attack under any circumstances, and I was convinced that I would be making the French capitulate in six weeks.
But it was a question of our mobility. And that darned rainy weather, I myself know --
that French area quite well ---
And I could not block the view of many of my Generals, that we probably would not be gaining that momentum, --
that we would be unable .. to employ our tank force. There was also the fact that we would not be able to employ the Luftwaffe --
at the provisional airfields, owing to the rain. (I know Northern France myself, having been a soldier stationed there during the Great War for 4 years.)
And so these delays came. Had I been done with France in the year 1939, then the history of the world would have taken another course.
So I had to wait until the year 1940 and that unfortunately was not happening until May.
The 10th of May was the first fair day, and on the 10th I immediately attacked.
On the 8th of May I gave the orders for the attack on the 10th of May.
And then we had to undertake these () enormous reorganisations of our divisions from the western to the eastern front, --
not until the occupation. We had this mission in Norway, and suddenly, at the same time ..
– I can calmly say it today – we were met by a great disaster.
namely the weakening .. that was emerging in Italy .. firstly through the situation in North Africa,
and secondly though the situation in Albania and Greece .. a very great misfortune.
We had to help at once.
That for us at a single blow first of all again resulted in a tearing apart of our Luftwaffe, a tearing apart of our tank units --
just as we were making the tanks ready for the eastern front.
We now had to submit at one blow two divisions, two complete divisions, and additionally replace a third one, it having endured continuous heavy losses.
There were such bloody battles during the desert fighting.
That all we have naturally then later felt in the east.
There was no other thinkable way, as the decision was inevitable.
I then had a discussion ..with Molotov.
And it was quite clear .. that Molotov would go on with the decision to begin a war --
and when possible I would prevent him, and make him free of his war () () ()
Because the demands that man placed were quite evidently meant for ultimately dominating Europe! () --
(((())) politische (()) ganze (()) dass gewesen ()
Already in the autumn of 1940 we were facing an unrelenting question: should we allow a breakup to happen?
I had then given the Finnish government advice to always negotiate --
and to win time, and to drag their feet in any discussions.
And I always had one fear: that Russia would suddenly overtake Romania in the late autumn --
and gain the possession of the oil wells.
And we were not fully prepared in late autumn of 1940.
If Russia had occupied the Romanian oil wells, then Germany would have lost the war.
And it could be done with with with 60 Russian divisions.
Furthermore, we then had no troops in Romania.
The Romanian government was late to turn to us, and the force we had then would have been laughable.
You only need to conquer the oil fields.
In September or October, with our weapons, I was in no position to start a war, it was impossible.
Naturally, we also had not in any way prepared our deployment in the east.
The units would first have to be consolidated in the west, and get their armament in order.
Ultimately, we too have also made sacrifices in our western campaign.
It would have been impossible to get involved before the spring of 1940.
And had the Russians in autumn 1940 taken over Romania, and gained the possession of its oil wells, --
then we would have been helpless in the year 1941 .. without the petroleum.
We do have a large German production, but what the Luftwaffe alone consumes, what our tank units consume, that is one monstrous figure.
That is .. a usage beyond any imaginable amount.
And without a supplement of at least 4 to 5 million metric tonnes of Romanian oil the war could not be conducted any longer. (rastlos?) (())
And therefore I had one big worry.
Therefore it was my desire at that time to manage the situation by negotiations until such time when we would be strong enough --
to counter this blackmailing.
When the negotiations were simply pure extortion. That was extortion, the Russians knew that --
we were unable to help ourselves while we were tied to the west, they could blackmail us all the way.
And first on the visit by Molotov, I told him curtly that we would not accept these claims. ()
So the negotiations came to an end totally and abruptly. () was ((())))
There were four points. One point concerning Finland, was their right to protect their freedom from the threat represented by Finland. I said: "I’m not convinced that Finland would be threat to you“.
They said that Finland () would be against the friends of the Soviet Union, their coalition, that coalition would be persecuted.
"And a major power would not allow its existence to be threatened by any small state."
I said: "Your existence is surely not being compromised by Finland". (Mannerheim: "hmph!") (Mannerheim: "tosh") You really can’t say to me that your existence is being threatened by Finland."
"Yes, there would also be a moral threat to the existence of a major state and what Finland was doing was threatening the moral existence.“
I told him then: "In another war in the Baltic area we would no longer be remaining as a passive bystander.“
Then he asked me what our position regarding Romania was. We had given the guarantees.
Would the guarantees be directed against Russia?
I said: "I don’t think they are against you, because surely you are not intending to occupy Romania".
You see... "we have never heard anything of your intention to overtake Romania."
You have always said thet Bessarabia belongs to you, but you have not declared that you would like to occupy Romania.
Yes, he said: "I’d like to know precisely, if these guaran—" (END OF RECORDING)