952 children died in Finland war prison camps: historian

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Nearly 1,000 children died in prison camps after being held for suspected links with a Soviet-backed group during Finland's 1918 civil war, a war historian said Wednesday.

"At that time there was a lot of hatred and distrust in Finland and children were accused because of what their parents and relatives had done," Tuulikki Pekkalainen told AFP, revealing a little known aspect.

Pekkalainen said that while just over 500 children were killed during the war, 952 others -- including babies -- died in the prison camps after the end of the war due to horrific conditions.

The camps remained in existence after the war as prisoners were held pending trial.

"Children were also born in prison," the author said.

"There is the story of a prison where there was no warm water to wash a baby, so the women warmed the water in their mouths," she said.

The civil war pitted the social democratic "Reds", supported by Russia, and the conservative "Whites", supported by Germany, who fought for control and leadership after Finland's independence from Russia in 1917.

Researching the subject for a book to be published in 2013, Pekkalainen has focused on 350 children, from infants to teens up to the age of 15, whose records are available in Finland's National Archives.

Some were freed, but many of the children detained by the Whites, who held the conservative Senate, languished in the prison camps.

"The point is that they were treated as adults," Pekkalainen said, pointing out that "there was no childhood in those times."

She said there were originally more than 20 child prison camps, which were later concentrated into 13 larger camps.

"It is still not widely known what happened to many children at this time," she said.

© 2012 AFP

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