Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Eric Fleisher
FLEISHER: A very difficult language. But for a political officer it was absolutely necessary. If you were going to meet the labor people, the Agrarians (Center Party) or any of the left wing politicians, not to mention the Communists, Finnish was the only language they spoke. Our friends the Conservatives and business people spoke English, but, although influential, they were not among those where the political power lay.
Q: Well, they speak Swedish, some of them, too.
FLEISHER: Oh, yes. That's fine. I spoke Swedish fluently. But treach the labor people, people who really were the core...
Q: They were running the country, I guess.
FLEISHER: Well, they were partly running the country. They had considerable influence although the Center Party with President Kekkonnen was in control of domestic affairs and unquestionably so of foreign policy. But we knew that the Social Democrats were the wave of the future. The labor movement and the communists... The labor movement was split into communist and non-communist (social democratic) factions. If you were going to communicate with these people, which was vital, you had to know Finnish. I knew it enough to talk business with them. I didn't use Finnish when I went to the foreign office. There I used English or Swedish. But when I was talking to labor leaders, it was Finnish. No matter how bad it was, I could get my ideas across and understand what they said.
Q: Could you read the Finnish language newspapers?
Q: That's important, too.
How many were in your section in Helsinki?
FLEISHER: That was sort of the same arrangement as in the politicasection in Copenhagen. My deputy was the Labor attache.
Q: And presumably some very good local employees, too.
FLEISHER: We had some good local employees. In fact, two of them hired.