Saunas and Swastikas: Finland’s Summertime neo-Nazi Meet-Up

In June 2023, a group of Finland’s most notorious neo-Nazis and a few of their international friends ventured to a lakeside cabin resort set against picturesque woodlands some 120 kilometres north of Helsinki.

They called the gathering ‘White Boy Summer Fest’ after an internet meme co-opted by far-right extremists.  Bellingcat first investigated the phenomenon in 2021. Run by a far-right cultural collective and combat sports group, the event was first held last year, and organisers have indicated plans to make White Boy Summer Fest (WBS) an annual affair.

Over two days, attendees watched far-right bands perform, participated in combat sports, and mingled with other hate group members in hot tubs. Observers warn that neo-Nazi networks — including international ones like the Hammerskins, whose members attended WBS — use events like these to network, radicalise each other, recruit new members and raise money. 

Organisers have successfully kept the locations of the 2022 and 2023 WBS events hidden from the public — until now. Thanks to Bellingcat’s Global Authentication Project (GAP) and burgeoning Discord community, we geolocated both events to rural accommodations belonging to Evo Nature Ltd, a hospitality company in southern Finland. According to its website, Evo has properties in 15 locations between Helsinki and Tampere and received approximately 30,000 customers in 2019.

When asked about the booking, Evo owner Kaj Järvinen told Bellingcat he had no knowledge of the events held by WBS and emphasised that his properties receive a large number of bookings each year.

“I have no clue whatsoever about these type of events. We have around 20 large rental properties. We receive more than 5,000 offer requests and around 1,000 group bookings on a yearly basis, and we do not ‘screen’ our customers if there are no obvious reasons visible.”

There is no suggestion that Evo broke any laws in renting out the property. Neo-Nazi groups in Finland have previously rented for-hire venues without the owner’s knowledge: for example a concert earlier this year was organised by the Jyväskylä branch of far-right network Blood and Honor at a leftist social club near the centre of the city.

In-person venues are nevertheless crucial to the neo-Nazi scene and related subcultures: Europol, the European Union (EU) law enforcement agency, noted they “place high value on physical meetings and group activities” in a report earlier this year.

Flyers promoting the 2022 and 2023 ‘White Boy Summer Fest’ events (Bellingcat has obscured contact information and most performer details on the 2023 flyer to avoid amplification)

The 2023 edition of WBS kicked off the evening of Friday, June 16. As photos posted by organisers on social media make clear, the spectacle was anything but subtle. Four Finnish neo-Nazi bands performed sets on a stage in a log cabin while flanked by two swastika banners. Some band members sported Nazi patches and symbols on their clothes and instruments. 

A photo of a band performing at WBS 2023, posted on one of the organiser’s Telegram channel (Bellingcat has blurred the swastikas on the banners and the band’s name to avoid amplification)

In a video taken inside the cabin and posted by organisers, a flag of the international neo-Nazi network Blood & Honour hangs on a wall by the stage. As Bellingcat discussed in our investigation of European Fight Night in Hungary, Blood and Honour is banned in several European countries, including Germany and Spain. They were also listed as a terrorist organisation by the Canadian government in 2019.

Meanwhile, members of the domestic neo-Nazi group Crew 38 Finland attended WBS, according to their Telegram channel. 

Self-described “delegates” of Crew 38 Finland at WBS 2023, posted on their Telegram channel on July 5, 2023. The faces were obscured by Crew 38. The photo was taken a short walk from the log cabin.

According to a report earlier this year by Finland’s public broadcaster, police documents suggest five men arrested in 2021 over suspicion of planning terrorist attacks were significantly influenced by Crew 38 Finland, and met frequently with some of its members. 

Crew 38 Finland are also an affiliate of the international Hammerskins network. Founded in the late 1980s in Dallas, Texas, the Hammerskins are described as “the most violent and best-organised neo-Nazi skinhead group in the United States,” by the US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Nicolas Potter, a researcher at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a German NGO which works to combat racism and far-right extremism, warned EU policymakers in an address to the Council of Europe earlier this year that “classic neo-Nazi networks from the Hammerskins to Blood & Honour continue to forge international alliances,” adding “far-right rock festivals and Mixed Martial Arts tournaments serve as spaces of radicalisation, recruitment and fundraising.”

The weekend of events was about more than just music; participants could sit in the sauna, get a tattoo and buy clothes from extremist brands (some of which feature in our 2022 investigation of far-right fashion).

They could also watch a series of combat sports fights put on by Veren Laki (‘Law of Blood’), one of the event’s co-organisers. According to Tommi Kotonen, an expert on far-right extremism in Finland, Veren Laki is linked to the Finnish branch of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (Finnish acronym PVL). The country’s highest court issued a temporary ban against the group in 2019 due to its spreading of hate speech and use of violence.

A photo from WBS posted on Veren Laki’s Telegram channel on June 21, 2023 (faces were blurred in the original photo).

Veren Laki is linked to other similar groups internationally that focus on combat sports and training for physical confrontation. According to the organisation’s Telegram channel, a fighter from Veren Laki fought at the far-right combat sports event European Fight Night in Hungary in May 2023. At WBS 2023, photos show several fighters wearing equipment from Pride France, a brand run by French neo-Nazi Tomasz Szkatulski. Currently based in Sofia, Bulgaria, Szkatulski posted on his Telegram channel that he was banned from entering Germany for ten years in July 2023.

The fights outside were followed by another indoor concert. Four bands, including two from Italy, took to the now swastika-free stage to play. Green Arrows, an Italian band popular across Europe’s far-right extremist music scenes, headlined. Green Arrows has publicly declared their support for Italy’s neo-fascist CasaPound movement — the movement’s flag adorned the stage during their set.

A photo of Italian band Green Arrows playing during WBS 2023, posted on Telegram the flag of the Italian neo-fascist CasaPound movement is visible on the left of the photo.

But where exactly did all of this take place? Upon seeing photos and video of the event, one of Bellingcat’s volunteers who is based in Finland thought the location looked familiar and began to investigate.

Suspecting it was one of a series of rentable rural cottages in the southern Finnish Lakeland, he soon found a possible venue location on Google Maps.

Open source techniques confirmed his suspicion. He later realised he had been to the location as part of a routine work retreat.

A comparison of photos and a video shared by WBS organisers with images of the property posted on Evo’s website confirmed the location of WBS 2023 — a log cabin in the Hämeenlinna region described as an “atmospheric event space” with a small stage and room for 100 people. The barn is part of a seven-acre rental complex with villa apartments, three hot tubs and a lakeside sauna. The site, which is advertised for corporate retreats and family holidays, is approximately a two-hour drive from Finland’s capital, Helsinki, and 90 minutes from Tampere, Finland’s second-largest urban area.

Photos of the venue from the owner’s website showed a room whose wooden beams match those seen in photos of a musical performance during WBS 2023.

A photo of a band performing at WBS 2023 on June 16, 2023, posted on Telegram channel (above). Bellingcat has obscured the swastika banners at the back of the stage and highlighted with green circles lighting and markings on the wood. The lighting and markings are visible in a photo of the venue from the owner’s website (below).

Furthermore, the pattern observed on a wooden beam as well as the gaps in the wood of the log cabin matches photos of the cabin on the accommodation website with those in a photo posted by WBS participants.

Left, a cropped version of a photo of the cabin on the owner’s website. Right, a cropped version of a photo posted by WBS participant on Telegram on June 21, 2023, showing similar cracks in the logs.

But what about the previous year’s “festivities” at WBS 2022?

One of the organisers’  Telegram channels outlined to attendees that the 2023 location wasn’t the same as in 2022, but “about a 15-minute drive from last year’s location.” 

A screenshot of a June 6, 2023 Finnish-language post on one of the organisers’ Telegram channels, as well as an English translation from the Telegram app’s auto-translation tool.

Searching for similar rentable rural venues in the vicinity of the 2023 event, Bellingcat found the location of the 2022 event — a small villa of red-sided cabins owned by the same hospitality company.

While WBS organisers have announced plans for a 2024 edition, it is unclear if a venue has been chosen. One thing is clear: the value of gatherings like these to the far-right organisations.

Not only do they provide groups a chance to share and promote their ideology, the Financial Action Task Force, the Paris-based global money-laundering watchdog, said in a 2021 report that “most of the funding for extreme right-wing groups appears to come from licit sources” including concert organising and merchandise sales.

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