Rihkaa prisoner-of-war camp and Soviet prisoners’ graveyard

A large prisoner-of-war camp operated in Alkkia during the Second World War. Deceased prisoners were buried in Rihkaa graveyard.

Prisoner-of-war camp is set up

Satakunta Civil Guard District received the order to establish Prisoner-of-war Camp no. 2 on 13 December 1939. During the Winter War, the POW camp was placed in the area of Alkkia temporary prison. In March 1940, there already were 1,068 prisoners of war, even if the temporary prison had announced that it was able to accommodate no more than 500.

This made POW Camp no. 2 the second largest camp of its kind in Finland during the Winter War. Despite the challenges the camp was managed well, however, as only one man died in it in 1940.

Photo: Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive

Prisoner-of-war camp during the Continuation War

As the Continuation War broke out, the camp was better prepared for receiving prisoners of war. The main camp during this period was located in Tuohisalo, while Rihkaa camp operated in Rihkaa village on Pikku-Rihkaa farm. The place name Linnanmäki (‘prison hill’) on the map is a reminder of this time.

The distance between Rihkaa and Tuohisalo, where the main camp was located, was several kilometres. Walking this distance on a daily basis would have been slow and tiring, and the establishment of Rihkaa camp made the daily routines of the prison easier.

Photo: Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive

 

The food was poor, and the prisoners of war worked hard. There was a shortage of all supplies, including food, in Finland during the war. For example, the prisoners dug holes in the ground to get through to the clay layer; the mineral soil thus obtained was used to improve the soil in peatlands cleared for farming purposes. The clay was transported in wagons which the men pushed on movable tracks.

During the Continuation War, the POW camp only operated for just over a year, or from autumn 1941 till autumn 1942. In October 1941, the camp already held almost 1,000 prisoners.

Photo: Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive

Prison graveyard in Rihkaa

Winter 1941−1942 was extremely cold. Many prisoners of war were already very ill when they arrived, and adequate treatment could not be offered in the harsh conditions. The poor conditions proved faithful for many.

The graveyard for deceased prisoners in Rihkaa contains the graves of 279 Soviet prisoners of war. The graveyard is today managed by the Russian Embassy.

Photo: Laura Koivumäki, a path to the Soviet prisoners’ graveyard

Text: Laura Puolamäki

Preparatory studies: landscape specialist Laura Puolamäki, ProAgria Southern Finland and Rural Women’s Advisory Organisation Southern Finland, university teacher Eeva Raike, Cultural Production and Landscape Studies, University of Turku and the students, spring 2020

Main photo: Laura Koivumäki, a field at Rihkaantie road

Last photo: Laura Koivumäki, Rihkaantie road

A large prisoner-of-war camp operated in Alkkia during the Second World War