With scarcely an audible sigh, mesmerized Finland sank into the arms of Nazi Germany. The Germans took over with only a few companies of second-rate occupation troops to back up the fast and foamy talk of Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The Nazis' proposition was simple: Germany would send six divisions if the Finns would keep up the fight and agree not to sign a separate peace.
Through three daylight summer nights Ribbentrop played on President Risto Ryti's fear of Red Russians while spineless Henrik Ramsay, Finland's Foreign Minister, and indecisive Premier Edwin Linkomies sat by bemused. Then Ryti took the offer to the full Cabinet. He encountered unexpected opposition from Russian-hating Finance Minister Väinö Tanner, strong man of Finnish politics and long the leader of Finland's fight-to-the-finish school. The battle in the Cabinet was so close that Ryti decided against submitting the proposal to the Finnish Diet. Instead he used his wartime power never invoked beforeto send a binding letter to Adolf Hitler.
For a day or two it looked as though Tanner's Social Democrats (85 out of 200 Diet seats) would revolt. But the effective time had passed. Germans were arriving every day, parading the streets of Helsinki and singing mechanically. The citizens glared. Ribbentrop flew home to tell his master that Finland would tie up some 20 Russian divisions, prevent a Russian breakthrough to Norway and possible juncture with the Western Allies. Down by the harbor a stolid crowd watched flustered Germans dredge for 15 tanks, sent to the bottom the day before when a small and poorly loaded German freighter turned over near the quay.
Technique of Befuddlement. German propaganda, playing skillfully on rooted Finnish fears, had persuaded the people that they must fight or let the Russians cut their throats and ravage their country. Cabled TIME Correspondent John Scott from Helsinki:
"I took lunch today with Finnish friends, a sergeant who is leaving this afternoon for the front, and his wife. I asked how long he thought the Finns would fight. He said: 'As long as there is one of us left. Now we either die or we make peace and all men able to work will be sent to Siberia to dig canals while our wives are herded into collective farms.' His wife was expecting a child. She remonstrated: 'You are talking nonsense from the German radio. We must make peace. The Russians can't be as bad as all that.' But the sergeant was sure. Before the end of the luncheon they were almost at each other's throats. Then he was sorry and she wept and he went to his train.
"The Finns will probably continue to fight at least for several weeks, until the Russians have achieved a costly military victory which will likely lead to civil war and ultimate devastation. If the opposition leaders had political sense they would go to Stockholm, form a government in exile and prepare the way for peace and a membership in the United Nations. Instead, they will almost certainly stay here to stew and get shot off like clay pigeons if they become dangerous."