In 2007 researcher Simo Muir published an article on Israel-Jakob Schur (1879–1949), a Finnish Jew, whose doctoral thesis Wesen und Motive der Beschneidung im Licht der alttestamentlichen Quellen und der Völkerkunde was rejected at the University of Helsinki in 1937. This article caught the attention of both the academic and general public in Finland. It suggested that contributing factors to the rejection of Schur’s academic research were, among other things, the Finnish antisemitism as well as the involvement of some professors of Theology, who informally influenced the evaluation process. The University of Helsinki founded a committee in order to examine if Schur’s academic reputation should be restored and if the doctoral dissertation was rejected for antisemitic motives. The result of this investigation, published in 2008, was, rather surprisingly, that this was not the case.
The committee of 2008 totally ignored the radical content of Schur’s thesis, the political context of the time as well as the long history of Finnish antisemitism. In a sense this is understandable since the history of Finnish religious antisemitism is yet to be written. This article is an introduction into a religiously motivated Finnish antisemitism. Despite what has been previously stated, the antisemitic ideas were present within the Finnish society already in the 19th century.
The 19th-century religiously motivated Finnish antisemitism has not yet received a thorough study in Finland. It seems to have been a kind of under current sometimes touched by later Finnish historians and a theme uninteresting to Finnish theologians. Nevertheless, the religious antisemitism, in the context of Lutheran creed and country, was there, even if no-one in the 19th century seemed willing to openly declare himself as a religiously motivated anti-Semite. The Finnish religious antisemitism took the form of presenting “facts,” either on contemporary states of affaires or Bible interpretations, in order to legitimize its claims. Thus it represented itself like an argumentation not based on attitudes or prejudices even when claiming that there was a global Jewish conspiracy aiming at world domination.
Finnish historians have studied the difficult position of the Jews in Finland at the end of the 19th century. The Jews, their rights as well as their deportations from the country, were constantly on the official agenda. A decree by Alexander II had stated that former soldiers of the Russian army had after their military service a right to settle in the areas where they had been in service. Thus those Jews, the former soldiers and their families, who had been serving in Russian troops in Finland, could settle in even though they did not have any formally or legally defined position in the Finnish society. Finland was an autonomous grand duchy governed by Finnish laws, which did not allow Jewish immigration or recognize Jews as citizens, but an imperial decree over-ruled this and thus the Jewish problem was created. In 1890 there were about 1.000 Jews in Finland and after the deportations some 700 in 1893.1
In 1872, in connection with the fact that there lived Jews in Finland and according to some foreign examples,2 the Finnish Diet discussed the proposal of giving the citizenship to those Jews. The Diet was a rather peculiar legislative body that began its work in 1863. In its day it was considered a remarkable parliamentary reform, since for more than 50 years there had been nothing like this, and in the context of Russian empire this no doubt was the case. The form of this representative body dates centuries back and to time prior to 1809 when Finland was a part of Sweden. Prior to 1809 the Finns as Swedish citizens participated in the meetings of the Swedish Diet. The Finnish Diet consisted of four estates, the nobility, Lutheran clergy, land owning farmers and the middle class, the bourgeoisie. These different social groups or classes elected their representatives to the Diet deal with the internal matters like finances and discuss the laws of the Finnish Grand Duchy. The Diet had no legislative power; its role was preparatory and the suggestions for laws were subjected to approval of the autocrat emperor.
In dealing with the Jewish question, concerning the rights of the Jews that had settled in Finland, the discussions at the Diet, recorded by stenographers, provides source material on the Finnish antisemitism starting from the year 1872. That year the estate of the Lutheran clergy discussed for the first time whether it was appropriate to civil rights to the Jews that lived in Finland. As has been noted before, the attitudes of the Lutheran pastors, of those thirty that were representing the clergy, were rather antisemitic.3
This however is not the whole picture. The discussion on Jews was actually the first one concerning the immigration into Finland. The representatives of the clergy painted sinister pictures of the millions of the eastern Jews ready to immigrate into Finland if the civil rights were given also to the Jews. A motivating factor in this discussion was nationalism; large-scale immigration into a country with a population of only about two million was considered a threat. If citizenship would be awarded to those Jews already present in Finland, it was feared that the Eastern European uneducated and poor Jews, especially from Poland and Lithuania, would flock to the country in millions. The eastern Jews, the possible immigrants, were considered a threat themselves. As a people without a nation they would have no loyalties toward Finland, they were poor, uneducated, religiously conservative and thus hostile toward Christianity and a morally inferior stock of people.4
Even when these arguments were stated in 1872 most of Lutheran pastors thinking like this wanted to stress that they were not anti-Jewish. In their opinion they just stated the facts. In denying the civil rights of the Jews they thought they protected their country against influences alien to the Finnish society and against a possible mass-immigration. One representative of the Luther clergy stressed the criminal nature of the Jews to an extreme by referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan. He interpreted the whole suggestion of giving civil rights to Jews as an effort of the good Samaritans, the Finns, not helping the injured man, but his muggers. Many of the pastors who opposed the rights for Jews wanted to emphasize that they themselves were not antisemitics. They had, however, quite a clear opinion what these Eastern European Jews actually were like. As one representative put it “the vanguard is already here [in Finland].” It was maintained that Jews already living in Finland caused problems, broke the law, sold stolen goods, sold alcohol illegally, were devious, practiced money lending and led conspicuous lives. They were poor, uneducated and morally inferior as well as traditional in their beliefs and hated Christianity. They would not assimilate or become a part of Finland.5
Not all were of the same opinion concerning the Jews, Carl Gustaf von Essen (1815–1895), a professor of practical theology at the University of Helsinki, was of the opinion that nobody could be denied of civil rights because of their religion. He also added that the Jewish faith should be the religion “we” have the most sympathy for. Could not the descendants of Solomon be wise or those of the Maccabees be patriots, von Essen asked. With respect he referred also to Jewish scientists in general and to the prominent Christian theologians like August Neander, who came from Jewish background, and Franz Delitzsch.”6
Discussions on the position of the Jews continued at the Diet on the following decades, the Jews and the Jewish question were broadly discussed in newspapers, but a new kind of antisemitism reached Finland at the end of the 19th century. As an example of this the Finnish theological journal published an article on the Jews in Germany.
An article “Observations concerning the Jews in Germany” was published in Finnish in 1897. Its point of departure was that Christian culture was under attack and being undermined in many ways. According to the article, the most noteworthy and most peculiar of the destructive forces were the modern Jews, dangerous to the whole fabric of Christian culture. The modern aggressive Jews – unlike the Orthodox Talmud Jews – had abandoned the faith of their fathers and were committed to “national” goals. Their faith, so to say, was this: “cosmopolitan principles of the French revolution of human rights and ideals concerning culture and progress.” By realizing these ideals these aggressive modern Jews imagined they would create an earthly paradise in order to become its leaders while other nations would be given a position of being lieges under to rule of the Jews.7
The article pointed out the Jews as master minds behind this conspiracy and described how they already exercised power.
“It is well known how much the Jews have already done, since among them are the financial princes of the world. Their influence in various parliaments must be evaluated to be great and they usually support liberalism, which is not favorable towards Christianity. In many countries the biggest and most read newspapers are under their leash and in this way they [the Jews] largely control the public opinion.”8
In Germany, the political rights were given to Jews in 1871, and the article was convinced that as a result of this an antisemitic movement was born – as if there was no antisemitism prior to 1871. The writer enlightened his readers that even though one would not approve of this movement’s views and methods, one should “from a Christian viewpoint” acknowledge its justification to a degree, especially when educational matters were being discussed.9
In order to prove the point the article stated that of the Prussian population 86 % were Evangelical, 8,5 % Catholics and 5,5 % Jewish in 1890. However, in some schools in Berlin the religious background of students was as follows.
Percentages concerning the religious background of the students in some schools in Berlin according to the article.
|School||Evangelical students (%)||Catholic students (%)||Jewish students (%)|
The Finnish readers learnt that a similar situation, the over-representation of Jews, was also at the universities. During the years 1886–1891 71,96 % of the university students were Evangelical, 18,73 % Catholic and 8,98 % Jewish. The article also reminded that if one omits the theological faculties, which did not have Jewish students, the proportionate number of Jewish university students was even higher, 11,95 % during the period of 1886–1891.10 According to the article, there were too few Protestants and too many Jews at the universities.
A part of Jewish conspiracy was that there were also too many Jewish school girls in Berlin.
The number of Jewish and non-Jewish students in some girl schools in Berlin on Feb 1st, 1896 according to article.11
|Schools for girls||total number of students |
(of them Jews)
The article pointed out that the number of the Jewish students was so large in some schools that schools had to be closed on Jewish holidays since so many students were then absent. The writer of the article also told about his visit to a Jewish school in Halle, which brought about yet another worry. “It seems that the Jewish creed tries to push Christianity out of schools or allows only some type of deistic religious teaching - miserable would be Christianity if children were taught mere morality.”12
The statistics presented in the article were not totally coherent and the sources of these numbers were not identified. Also statistics not commented at all were those concerning the Catholics: in proportion to the overall population the Catholic children were under-represented in schools. The numbers showed that of all Catholics getting married in Prussia in 1893 31,3 % of the men and 49,7 % of the women were illiterate. This did not seem to concern the writer; point was to prove that there were just too many Jewish students in schools and universities. Concerning writer’s own intentions the article stated that it just wanted to give the readers of the Finnish journal of theology, i.e. the Finnish Lutheran pastors, something to think about.13
The threat was no longer the uneducated lower-class Jews of the east, like the representatives of the Lutheran clergy has previously thought, but the modern and educated Jews of the west. Interestingly, the problem was the modern society with its financial system and the developments toward the rule of democracy like parliaments, general human rights, newspapers and the public opinion, which all were interpreted as means for attaining a Jewish hegemony over the world.
It is important to recognize that from the point of view of the Russian imperial rule all this was politically correct in a situation where the Slavophils gained power and influence over the Westerners. The Western developments, modernization, shifting power from kings and emperors to parliaments, free press and civil liberties were not only undesirable, but also a part of the Jewish plot and directed against Christianity. To believe all this was to believe what the Slavophils wanted people to believe. As generally known, this ideology later materialized in The Protocols of Elders of Zion published in the beginning of the 20th century. In Finland the book was published in Swedish in 1919 and in Finnish in 1920. It is still quite unclear how long these revelations were considered genuine and what kind of reception they received among the Finnish Lutheran clergy.14
Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge that the ideas concerning the global Jewish conspiracy, presented as a threat to Christianity and Christian culture in general, were present in Finland already in the 19th century.
The writer of the article was Johan Samuel Pajula (1856–1918), Doctor of Theology in his 40s, a teacher and Lutheran pastor. He was one example of the social upward mobility of his time; a Finnish-speaking son of a saddle maker, who became a pastor and a doctor in his field of study. After finishing his Master’s in the Faculty of Philosophy he took up the study of theology. Due to the fundamentalist theology called Beckianism and other contributing factors the level of scholarship and the research activity within the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki was quite low in the 1890s. In this situation and as a researcher Pajula was of the new generation.
When Pajula published his doctoral thesis in 1891 he was the first to publish a thesis on church history for 20 years. His work was based on archival study and as an academic thesis a sign of the new research activity within the faculty. Pajula’s book was also the first thesis ever published in Finnish, the previous vernacular language, at the Faculty of Theology. He was one of the Finnish-speaking researchers challenging the Swedish-speaking elite of his time at the University of Helsinki. At the end of the 19th century Pajula was the first Finnish-speaking researcher with a lower-class background trying to obtain a chair at the Faculty of Theology where teachers originated from the gentleman class and had Swedish as their mother tongue.
Pajula’s personal life and fate was full of tragic. His university career was murdered by two religious fundamentalists, who later became Lutheran bishops and were no historians themselves.15 This rejection had nothing to do with his views on Jews. Within the Russian empire and in the eyes of the Russian officials of the time anti-Jewish attitudes were no dismerit. Pajula was unsuitable in order to become a professor because his religious convictions were not those of the leading Finnish fundamentalists and because of his social background. Pajula was also one of the ten Lutheran pastors murdered by the reds during the Finnish civil in 1918.16 A part of his life tragedy was that in addition to other things he also was an antisemitic bigot. In many ways Pajula was a contradictory figure. He was an early animal rights activist in Finland, interested in developing the Finnish folk education and in his written studies also a propagator of religious tolerance and freedom. However, this “religious tolerance” is to be understood as tolerance in the context Christianity and within the Protestant creed.
Pajula was born and raised in a small town of Jyväskylä in Central Finland. It is unlikely that he had picked up these anti-Jewish attitudes in his childhood. There were obviously no Jews in his home town. In fact, the Jews were a small minority in Finland, some 700 individuals in 1893, allowed to settle in cities of Turku, Viipuri and Helsinki.17 Pajula’s antisemitism seems to be even more irrational when we look at his personal career. The elites that destroyed Pajula’s university career in Helsinki and humiliated him publicly in the eyes of the contemporaries were naturally not the Jews, but other Finns.
Pajula became rejected by many Finnish elites of his time. These included the Faculty of Theology at Helsinki, the academic senate of the university, but also the Lutheran diocese of Savonlinna and finally the Senate, as the Finnish government was then called in the Finnish Grand Duchy. Pajula, politically a Finnish constitutionalist, was elected as vicar for a large parish by a overwhelming majority of votes in 1902, during the period of intense russification of the Finnish society. The diocese and the government, in accordance with the official pro-Russian and anti-constitutionalist policy, rejected this vote.18 One might expect that Pajula did not harbor warm feelings towards the Finnish elites of his time. In this situation his choice for an object of resentment, the modern Jews, was rather surprising.
Studying abroad was an important part of raising the general level of the Finnish academics in the 19th century. It was also an important means of keeping in contact with developments in European science, culture and research during the time when Finland was a part of the Russian Empire 1809–1917. In general, it has been considered a merit that a doctor or a graduate student travels abroad in order to do research or to write a thesis.19
However, within the 19th century Finnish theology, the academic study of religion at the University of Helsinki, the study trips abroad seem to have been like a double-edged sword. Studying in Germany in the 1830s contributed to the fact that a new field of study and teaching, that of church history, was introduced into Finland.20 Nevertheless, within the field of theology and theologians all influences adopted from Germany were not intellectually or morally sound or beneficial from the point of furthering the scientific study of religion or the academic education of the Lutheran clergy. Some theological study trips to Germany had most undesirable consequences in the 19th century.
So called Beckian theology, the Finnish school adhering to the ideas of professor Johann Tobias Beck (1804–1878) from Tübingen might be considered just a historical curiosity had he and his “school” not practiced such a powerful negative influence on the study of religion in Finland. This fundamentalist understanding of Christianity, “studying theology directly from the Bible,” came to Finland through students studying theology in Germany. It was a conservative religious reaction against a rapidly modernizing Finnish society and became the dominant religious and theological school in the latter haft of the 19th century within the Lutheran church and at the faculty of theology at the University of Helsinki.21 Another anti-rational ideology, which was transferred into Finland through studying abroad, was the antisemitism of Adolf Stoecker (1835–1909).
Stoecker was a founder of the Christlich-Soziale Arbeiterpartei [Christian-social labour party] in 1878. Within the party his influence was great. Stoecker was a Lutheran, politically conservative pastor with a background in a religious revival movement. He championed against secularization, socialism and Jews. It has been stated that his long term plan was establishing a genuine German-Christian state. One target of his antisemitism were the modern Jews. Concerning their social background Pajula and Stoecker, these two Doctors of Theology, resembled each other, but more importantly so did their antisemitic message.22
Stoecker thought that the devious Jews tried to control and monopolize the newspapers, and financial and political institutions. This was, as we have seen, the message of Pajula as well. The main target of Stoecker’s antisemitic propaganda, in addition to the Jewish capitalists in their stock market temples, was in the field of education. According to Stoecker, the number of Jewish teachers should be reduced in Germany and quotas should be placed on Jews in schools and universities. He was quite concerned about the proportionate over-representation of Jewish children and youth within the educational system.23 These were all themes Pajula repeated in his Finnish article in 1897.
It is not clear exactly when Pajula stayed in Berlin. Nevertheless he did do research in Germany and German archives during the period of 1893–1897, and we know that during that period he stayed also in Berlin. It has been stated that Stoecker’s attempt to fight against the social democratic movement was a failure, but that his ideas had an effect on the students of theology and on the future class of the educated in Germany.24 When we remember what restrictions were placed on the education of the Jews since the National Socialist party took the power, Stoecker’s ideas seem to have borne fruit. Jewish teachers started to become expelled from the universities from the beginning of 1933, quotas were placed on Jewish students and finally from 1938 it was forbidden for Jewish children to go to regular German schools. However, Stoecker’s ideas concerning the education of Jews seem to have been transferred into Finland by Pajula.
Pajula and Stoecker had a similar kind social background and both experienced a social rise through education. Both were Lutheran pastors, conservative and had their religious background in revivalist movements. Pajula has not commented his antisemitic views, and we can only speculate why he adopted these and saw it fit to declare them in Finnish in his home country. One general reason for adopting extreme political views in Finland seems to have been a social dissonance between one’s low social background and the high status achieved by education.
A study on the Finnish students of Theology between the years of 1853 and 1917 suggests that this dissonance has been one breeding ground for extreme religious and conservative right-wing attitudes.25 Whatever the case, in Pajula’s case this social dissonance and being not related to the elites or adhering to their religious or political views seriously hampered his career. Evil Jewish prices of finance could have been also a scapegoat for his personal resentment. Is seems that in his antisemitic views Pajula was not alone among the Lutheran clergy, but his article seems to have been the most extreme one published by a Lutheran pastor in the 19th century.
Counter-Enlightenment is a term and a phenomenon made know by Isaiah Berlin.26 It is most helpful in describing, explaining and understanding not only religious or philosophical, but also social and political developments and the making of the modern in the 19th-century Europe. Multi-faced Counter-Enlightenment was, e.g., a reaction against reason and rationality and against the ideals of freedom, brotherhood and equality presented by the French Revolution. In a general level the counter-Enlightenment consisted of many reactionary developments within European politics, religion, art and concerning the field of scientific study in the 19th century.27 The notion of counter-Enlightenment is also important in understanding various 19th-century Finnish phenomena, including antisemitism.
In Finland this counter movement was present from the early decades of the century. A contributing factor, as noted before, was the political reality. As a result of the Napoleonic wars, Finland was conquered by Russia and became a part of the Russian empire in 1809. From the imperial point of view, especially during the reign of Nicolai I, the Enlightenment as well as any liberal European ideas were dangerous and misguided.28 In the Finnish context the Enlightenment ideas and ideals were not only politically incorrect. The whole notion of Enlightenment’s dangerousness gained support among the conservative members of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki and among the Lutheran clergy as the religious fundamentalism gained more ground.
It seems that Pajula revealed the Jewish educational conspiracy to the Finnish audience. In his views of the Jews and in addition to Stoecker he was perhaps influenced by domestic sources also. Zacharias Topelius (1818–1898) was a writer, novelist and professor of history. Like Pajula, Topelius was somewhat of a contradiction: deeply religious, pro animal rights activist, defender of women’s rights to university education and a writer of touching fairy tales for children. However, as Nils-Erik Forsgård has pointed out, antisemitism was an integral part of his mystical-eschatological world-view based on religious conservatism, literal Bible interpretations, visions on the end of the world and on his opposition to rationalism and cosmopolitanism. The global economic rule of the Jews and the economic exploitation of Finland were threats Topelius wrote about in his published fiction.29
According to Topelius, the Jews had eternal characteristics like deviousness, envy and treacherousness. The serious flaws of the Jews were, among other things, their lacking nationalism, open materialism and the denial of Christianity. A part of his mystical-eschatological world-view was that in his opinion the anti-Christ was already borne.30 Pajula could have been informed about Topelius’ views on Jews, most extreme of which he did not publish, simply through family connection; he married Topelius’ granddaughter in 1892.
Pajula’s antisemitism in the 1890s was a part of the Finnish Counter-Enlightenment in which he, following a German example and in accordance with the policy of the Russian empire, interpreted the legacy of the Enlightenment as well as the reforms identifiable to it to be a Jewish plot aimed at world dominion and against Christianity. The short chapters on the history of Finnish religiously motivated antisemitism seem to suggest, that the demonization of the Jews was well under way long before rise of the Third Reich.
We don’t know if Pajula followed the Jewish question in France or was familiar with antisemitic ideas of Constantin Franz (1817–1891) or H. S. Chamberlain’s (1855–1827) later book Die Grundlagen des 19. Jahrhunderts (1899).31 In order to prepare his qualifying thesis for a chair in church history Pajula went to do research in Germany. As a by-product of his visit to German archives and studies on the history of pietistic movements he seems to have been influenced by the German antisemitic propaganda of Adolf Stoecker, as Pajula’s article published in the Finnish journal of theology in 1897 clearly demonstrates. On its part and in addition to the previous discussions on Jews by the Finnish pastors, the article gives an affirmative answer to question if there was religiously motivated antisemitism in Finland.32