German grain deliveries to Finland 1940-1944
In the summer of 1941, when Operation Barbarossa was started, the Continuation War began. Before that, Finland had been at peace with the Soviet Union for a little over a year. After the interim peace was signed, well over 400 000 people had to be relocated to new homes. In addition to this crash course in re-housing an entire population of a lost province, many families had lost their sole breadwinner, the father of the family, in the Winter War. Many families had made the ultimate sacrifice in losing both father and eldest sons to the horrors of war. Such families ran by single widowed mothers were indeed in dire economic situation.
Nazi Germany had invaded Norway and Denmark in 1940. The United Kingdom and Soviet Union then embargoed the North Sea, and the Baltic, respectively. This made sea-based trade impossible in Finland. Only the small and ill-equipped port of Liinahamari, located in Petsamo, far north between Norway and Soviet Union, was unaffected, and there was no route for foodstuffs and imports from the United States, Canada, Brazil or other far off lands to reach Finland. Sweden, while suffering from similar fate, had more indigenous food production capability. However, the Swedish were unwilling to share what little food they had, in fear of a prolonged isolation or possible invasion. As war returned to Finland, food shortage was made acute by the call up of younger men to the armed forces. As an agrarian economy, the effect of losing many men to the armed forces during the harvest season was considerable. Luckily, women, the elderly and children rushed to the rescue, and replaced most of the men on the farms. The transition period however saw wild fluctuations in food supplies. By 1942 the food situation was very dire. Many of the poorest of the poor, institutionalized people, and prisoners suffered from hunger in Finland, and some people perished. The summer of 1941 was also the hottest in record since the 1840s, which caused crop failures on many areas in Finland. Even potatoes, the only basic foodstuff free of rationing, ran out from all stores in 1942.
Hearing about the situation, Nazi German military command pressured Finland to attack Leningrad, in exchange of free cereals and potatoes. However, the Finnish government did not like the idea. As a punishment, Germany stopped all food exports in September 1941. Marshal Mannerheim himself informed the Finnish President Risto Ryti and Nazi Germany, that the armed forces would only go as far as the old border of Finland. Finland sent a diplomatic envoy to Nazi Germany on the 25th of November of 1941. Eventually they received an agreement from Hermann Goring in person, that the food deliveries would continue and be increased. After Goring’s promise the deliveries did indeed continue. By 1942 Finland received 228 million kilograms of grain. The deliveries also were made continuous, not sporadic, by 1942. Later on, Nazi Germany also delivered war materiel to Finland. Previously Nazi Germany had mainly sold captured weapons to Finland, including airplanes from the French and Norwegian air force stocks, or rifles and ammunition captured from the retreating Soviet armies. The decision to sell cutting edge military technology to Finland is perhaps more known in general war history, than the food aid sold and given for free by Nazi Germany. The authentic Nazi German grain sack displayed here is from the personal collection of late Mr. Heikki Talvela (d. 2016). It was delivered to Finland during 1941. On Mr. Talvelas passing, his collections were donated to the Anti-Aircraft Museum.
Sources: https://www.jyrkinen.fi/historia/elintarviketilanne-1941-1942.html (accessed on 3.6.2020),
Peltonen Matti et. al. Suomen maatalouden historia osa 2, SKS Helsinki 2003
Leskinen Jari, Juutilainen Antti Jatkosodan Pikkujättiläinen, WSOY Helsinki 2007
Kallioniemi Jouni Kotirintama – sotavuosien Suomi naisten ja lasten silmin