A Prayer Tent in a Snowy Forest

The Story of the Jews of Finland

Opening: September 09, 2009

Exhibition Curator: Dr. Simo Muir

Exhibition Designer: Simo Muir and Hennu Kjisik


The Jewish community of Finland is a relatively young and small minority in the country. The community is characterised by its history and the origins of its core: Jews descended from the Jewish soldiers and Cantonists of the Russian army, and small urban communities with an active cultural life. The history of the Finnish Jews during the Second World War is unique – Jews fought in the Finnish army alongside Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. Despite the deportation of Jewish refugees and the extradition of Soviet Jewish prisoners of war, the Finnish Jewish community itself remained intact during the war.

This exhibition tells four stories about the history of Finnish Jews: “Serving the Tsar” pertains to the period Finland was under Russian rule; “We Jews of Finland” tells about the period when Finland gained independence in 1917; “At War” relates to events during the Second World War; and “With Israel” reflects the contacts and cultural exchange between Finland and Israel. The time span covered starts in the 1830s and continues until the 1970s.


Field synagogue in Karelia, Eastern Finland, during the Second World War

About the Exhibition

The exhibition “A Prayer Tent in a Snowy Forest – The story of the Jews of Finland” is a production of the National Archives of Finland, Helsinki. It was exhibited at the National Archives of Finland in 2006, when the Synagogue of Helsinki celebrated its 100 years anniversary.

Most of the material for the exhibition has been obtained from the Finnish Jewish Archives at the National Archives of Finland, Helsinki and from the Jewish Community of Helsinki. Material has also been received from the Jewish Community of Turku; the Jabotinsky Institute, Tel Aviv; Hessisches Staatsarchiv, Darmstadt; Bundesarchive, Berlin; the Helsinki City Museum; the Crime Museum, Vantaa; the Photo Archives of the Finnish Defence Forces, Helsinki; the Research Institute for Languages of Finland, Helsinki; and private archives and collections.

All artefacts included in the exhibition are from the collections of the Finnish Jewish Archives at the National Archives of Finland, Helsinki; the Jewish Community of Helsinki; and from private collection in Paris.

The Film, “David – Stories of Honour and Shame”, is being screened as part of the exhibition. Director & Script: Taru Mäkelä; Producer: Lasse Saarinen; Production: For Real Production, Finland, 1977.

Adjacent to the exhibition there is a collection of 12 photos by Raoul Grünstein, Helsinki. The photos of Jews living in Finland were taken during 2006–2009.

The visitors have a possibility to see Meliza Amity’s family on-line. The family tree contains most Jewish families in Finland.

The current version is a co-production between the National Archives of Finland, Helsinki and Beit Hatfutsot, the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of: the National Archives of Finland; the Jewish Community of Helsinki; the Jewish Community of Turku; the Finnish Jewish Cultural Heritage Foundation; the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland; the Embassy of Finland, Tel Aviv; the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem the Finnish Branch; Mr. Poju Zabludowicz; Dave and Leo-Dan Bensky, Finland; Molok Israel Ltd.; Bazan-Oil Refineries Ltd., Haifa-Israel.


Curator: Simo Muir, The National Archives of Finland, Helsinki

Coordinator: Christina Forssell, The National Archives of Finland, Helsinki

Exhibition design: Simo Muir and Hennu Kjisik, Harris – Kjisik Architects, Helsinki

Graphic design: Timo Tervoja, Both Design Collective, Helsinki

English translation: Sheryl Hinkkanen, AS-English Specialists Oy, Espoo


Curator in charge: Geula Goldberg, Beit Hatfutsot

Director, Development and External Relations, Israel & Europe Desks: Enia Zeevi Kupfer, Beit Hatfutsot

Hebrew translation: Ruth Spira

Initiated bringing the exhibition to Israel and fundraising: Shulamit Shapira

Further reading:

Four Jewish-Finnish Space-Times Unfolded in Beit Hatfutsot, by Osnat Rosen-Kremer

Speech by Abner Zewi (1914-2008) in the Svir Prayer Tent, Rosh Hashana 5703, Saturday, September 12, 1942 (in Yiddish, followed by an English translation)