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Commemorative speech by Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces at the 105th Anniversary of the Jaeger Training in Germany

Defence Command 1.3.2020 9.00
Press release

Commemorative speech by Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces at the 105th Anniversary of the Jaeger Training in Germany

Sehr geehrter Herr Minister des Innern Hans-Joachim Grote, Herr Bürgermeister Wolfgang Wein, ich begrüße Sie, wie auch Herr Brigadegeneral Michael Matz sowie die finnische Botschafterin Anne Sipiläinen, und Sie alle, meine sehr verehrten Damen und Herren als Gäste des heutigen Finnentages.

Exactly 80 years ago, Finland was fighting for her independence against a superior enemy. The Soviet Union attacked Finland along the length of the long land border.  In the cold winter of 1940, Finland was living through its fateful days.

To everyone’s surprise, Finland was able to repel the Soviet Union’s invasion and retained her independence. How was that possible?

The miracle workers were Finnish soldiers and their leaders.  At the time, the key leaders of the Finnish Defence Forces were jaegers who had been trained here in Germany. All of the commanders of the Armies, Corps Commanders and Division Commanders were jaegers. Almost all of the regiment commanders and a large part of the battalion commanders were jaegers as well. Their role was central in theatre command and command in combat. 

Already before, the jaegers had distinguished themselves.  They were the pioneers of Finnish independence, and had faith in the future during a time when Finland wasn’t independent yet, and the fate of the nation seemed dark. 

The first Finnish young men began their military training here, in Lockstedter Lager, 105 years ago. All in all, almost 2,000 jaegers were trained under the command of German officers and non-commissioned officers.

Over the years, Jaeger Battalion 27 became a strong and skilful combat unit. In addition to infantry companies, the battalion included branch units, and the jaegers’ experience in combined arms cooperation was vital for the future development of the Finnish Defence Forces.

Three years later, in February 1918, the jaegers returned to Finland. They had a demanding but honourable task waiting for them. The jaegers, well-trained and having combat experience, were immediately put to the task as combat leaders during the Finnish Civil War. Their discipline, bravery and experience were an example to other soldiers.

The jaegers meaningful work for the country continued as developers of the organization and the combat doctrine of the Defence Forces, as well as in important command duties during World War II.

The jaegers led their troops from the front. Exemplary leadership gave results, but many of the jaegers also gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in combat. During the wars, a total of 286 jaegers were killed in action, which is about 15% of the total.

Furthermore, in terms of military careers, the achievements of those men were exceptional. Out of the original Jaeger Battalion, 49 became generals, and another 89 were promoted to colonel. Even after the Second World War, 3 original jaegers served in the post of the Chief of Defence until 1959.

Their legacy still lives on. In Finland, the most important infantry troops awarded the title of jaeger, jääkäri. Another example of safeguarding their legacy is the Jaeger Colour or flag, in front of us. It has a special status among the colours of the Finnish Defence Forces. The Jaeger Colour always deserves the place of honour, and it’s the first colour after the national flag in our Independence Day and Defence Forces Anniversary parades.

Dear Guests, 

Defence cooperation is increasingly more important for European security. As the defence cooperation of the European Union deepens, Finland and Germany are cooperating in many fields.  Thus, the cooperation that started 105 years ago continues today. Here, I would like to thank the Bundeswehr for good and successful cooperation, reaching back decades.

Ladies and Gentlemen 

For Finns, it is a great honour that the memory of the Finnish jaegers is honoured and fostered here in Hohenlockstedt, in Schleswig-Holstein. Additionally, we greatly value the commitment of the representatives of the German Infantry Association and of the Hohenlockstedt Cultural and Historical society. Organising the events and remembering the jaegers is not done only because they're told to, but because it comes from the heart. That is why honouring traditions has value. 

On behalf of the Finnish Defence Forces, I wish to thank everyone who has participated in organising this Finnentag. This occasion, organised in honour of the jaegers, reminds us in a special way, of the meaning and importance of shared history and international cooperation today.

Sehr geehrtes Festpublikum

Die Jäger haben mit ihrer Tätigkeit gezeigt, wie ein einzelner Mensch nach seiner Überzeugung entscheidende Taten ausführen kann, die die Unabhängigkeit und das Wohlbefinden einer Nation fördern. Die Werte, die hinter der Tätigkeit der Jäger liegen, haben nicht ihre Aktualität in hundert Jahren verloren. Lasst uns zusammen das Beispiel, das die Jäger uns gezeigt haben, pflegen und lasst uns unser Bestes tun für eine noch bessere Zukunft.