Hitler salute photo shame of Finland's new opposition leader: Old image emerges of Social Democratic Party chief posing with friends who made Nazi gesture

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  • Reading time:6 min(s) read

  • Antti Lindtman is the new leader of the Finnish Social Democratic party (SDP)
  • But his election has been overshadowed by the two-decade old photos 

A photo has emerged showing the leader of Finland’s new largest opposition party posing with friends who are doing Nazi salutes.

Antti Lindtman, the new leader of the Finnish Social Democratic party (SDP), is seen in the photograph with four friends at a Christmas party.

While Lindtman is seen in the photo wielding a fake handgun and wearing a balaclava, he himself is not giving the Nazi salute.

Nevertheless, the emergence of the photo – taken more than who decades ago – has overshadowed Lindtman’s election as the new party leader, replacing the party’s previous leader and Finland’s former Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

The image first started circulating online a few weeks ago, and it has come back to haunt him after Lindtman won the SPD leadership.

A photo has emerged showing the leader of Finland 's new largest opposition party Antti Lindtman (second-left) posing with friends who are doing Nazi salutes. While Lindtman is seen in the photo wielding a fake handgun and wearing a balaclava, he is not giving the salute

A photo has emerged showing the leader of Finland ‘s new largest opposition party Antti Lindtman (second-left) posing with friends who are doing Nazi salutes. While Lindtman is seen in the photo wielding a fake handgun and wearing a balaclava, he is not giving the salute

It also caused a stir as the Nordic country’s finance minister, Vilhelm Junnila, was forced to step down over references he made to Nazi terminology – as well as the number 88, a numeric code used for ‘Heil Hitler’.

Announcing his resignation, Mr Junnila said: ‘For the continuation of the government and the reputation of Finland, I see that it is impossible for me to continue as a minister in a satisfactory way,’ 

For his part, Lindtman has admitted the photo is genuine while trying to distance himself from it, insisting that he is and never has been a Nazi sympathiser.

‘Even though the pictures are from my youth, I’m not hugely proud of them,’ he told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat in an interview this summer.

‘It seems the guys went a bit too far with their poses … I was not and am not a Nazi sympathiser. Not back then and not now. 

‘Quite the contrary: I don’t think the neo-Nazis liked my views even then,’ he said. 

He also addressed issues relating to social media.

The image first started circulating online a few weeks ago, and it has come back to haunt Lindtman (right with Sanna Marin, left) after he won the SPD leadership

The image first started circulating online a few weeks ago, and it has come back to haunt Lindtman (right with Sanna Marin, left) after he won the SPD leadership

Lindtman has admitted the photo is genuine while trying to distance himself from it, insisting that he is and never has been a Nazi sympathiser

Lindtman has admitted the photo is genuine while trying to distance himself from it, insisting that he is and never has been a Nazi sympathiser

‘If someone imagines that by spreading and manipulating more than 20-year-old photos, I would give up opposing extremism, they are mistaken,’ he said.

‘Let’s defend Finnish democracy together and fight extremism together.’

The SDP was at the centre of another controversy when it selected 33-year-old Mikkel Näkkäläjärvi – who has a history of animal cruelty – as party secretary.

In 2006, when he was a teenager, Näkkäläjärvi beat a neighbour’s cat to death with a shovel while he was at a summer cottage with friends.

Speaking after his election, Näkkäläjärvi said: ‘I want Finland to be a country where anyone can become anything. A country where everyone can succeed, but also fail and try again.’

Lindtman succeeded Marin who stepped down as leader and chairman of the SPD after she lost her relection bid in April to the conservative National Coalition Party, led by Finland’s current prime minister Petteri Orpo.

A popular figure abroad, Marin herself was not a stranger to controversy at home.

Marin, who announced her intention to quit soon after the election loss, was the world’s youngest prime minister when she took the post in 2019 aged 34, attracting attention around the globe and helping lift Finland’s profile.

Finland's Social Democrats Party Chair, former Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin waves from the stage before her resignation speech at the Party Congress of the Socialdemocrats of Finland in Jyvaskyla, central Finland, Friday, Sept. 1, 2023

Finland’s Social Democrats Party Chair, former Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin waves from the stage before her resignation speech at the Party Congress of the Socialdemocrats of Finland in Jyvaskyla, central Finland, Friday, Sept. 1, 2023

After leading the country through Covid-19 lockdowns and the ensuing economic turmoil, Marin became a vocal supporter of Ukraine after 2022 Russia’s invasion and successfully pushed to end Finland’s military non-alignment in favour of NATO membership.

She chaired her party’s conference for the last time on Friday and in a brief speech, she reiterated her criticism of Finland’s eastern neighbour.

‘Russia and its representatives must be held accountable for the illegal crime of aggression, war crimes and the consequences of war,’ Marin said.

‘In addition to Finland’s steadfast support for Ukraine and the Ukrainians, we must also send a strong message of hope for the reconstruction of the country, for a European future.’

Marin, now 37, has appeared on the covers of Vogue and Time Magazine, has a million followers on Instagram and is considered by fans around the world as a millennial role model for progressive leaders.

But at home, voters concerned with issues like immigration and a growing public deficit in April handed Marin a narrow defeat to the right wing National Coalition and the far-right Finns party, triggering the government’s fall.

She weathered several publicity storms while in office, including over her nightclubbing during the pandemic, hosting private parties at her official residence and voluntarily taking a drug test after a party video was leaked to the media.

The drug test was negative, Marin announced, and she apologised to Finns when a picture from a party at the prime minister’s seaside residence showed two well-known female influencers covering their bare breasts with a ‘Finland’ sign.

Sanna Marin receives a hug from Social democrats parliamentary group chairman Antti Lindtman, 2019

Sanna Marin receives a hug from Social democrats parliamentary group chairman Antti Lindtman, 2019

After her election loss, Marin said she looked forward to a quieter life and later also announced a divorce from her husband.

Entering the stage on Friday to the beat of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’, Marin thanked her party for its support.

She was due to formally hand over the reins later on Friday after the Social Democrats elect a new leader.

Marin remains a member of parliament and has also enlisted as a public speaker with a U.S. agency and founded a consultancy with her former assistant.




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