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||Niilo (Johannes) Lauttamus (1924-1977)|
Prolific Finnish writer, who published 21 novels, mostly focusing on the events of World War II in Finland, Russia, and Germany. Lauttamus's best-known book is Vieraan kypärän alla (1957, Under a Foreign Helmet), which tells of Finnish Waffen-SS volunteers fighting with Germans at the Russian front. During the post-war decades, Lauttamus gained a faithful and wide circle of readers, who had been at the front like the author himself.
" - Sota viitoittaa tiensä. Hyvien miesten kunniaksi malja pohjaan! Kaikki nousivat. - Krimler, Hela ja Poikolainen jäivät, että me saamme elää, sillä joidenkin oli sodan lain mukaisesti jäätävä. Kunnia heille... ja - hän murahti suomeksi: - Viiksikorpraali saa haistaa paskan. He tyhjensivät maljansa." (from Vieraan kypärän alla, 1957)
Niilo Lauttamus was born in Sakkola, the son of Jussi Lauttamus, a master sergenant, and Elvi Paakkeli. He was a member of the generation, which lost its best years in the two wars, which Finland and the Soviet Union had between the years 1939 and 1944. Lauttamus was too young for the Winter War (1939-40), but he served in the army during the Continuation War, two years in Germany, mostly at the front, and for a period in Lapland, fighting against the Germans. He then worked as a regular non-commisioned officer from 1948 to 1956. After divorcing his first wife, Laura Musakka, Lauttamus married Meeri Rämänen, a nurse.
Linna's Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier), which appeared in 1954, created a growing demand for books, which told about the war from the viewpoint of an enlisted man. Inspired by Linna's example, Lauttamus bought a typewriter on hire-purchase and produced with his two-finger system a 76-pages long manuscript. Although this first effort was rejected by the Gummerus publishing company, Lauttamus eventually made his debut as a novelist in 1957 with Vieraan kypärän alla, published by Gummerus. The book, which was partly based on his own experiences in the Waffen-SS, sold immediately 50,000 copies. For a newcomer it was a record.
protagonist is the seventeen-year-old Johannes Aihela, who
the international Viking division, which attacked Russia in 1941 as a
part of the Waffen-SS organization. The story follows Aihela from his
home in Carelia, eastern Finland, to the training camp in Gross-Born in
East-Pomerania, and to the battlefields in Ukraine. Lauttamus draws
sharp portraits of German and Finnish soldiers. They had a common enemy
but different reasons to fight against the Red Army. After two years
Aihela returns to Finland to continue his war at the Finnish front as
the author himself did. Lauttamus depicted also such real-life soldiers
as the battalion commander Hans Collani (in the book Collan), the
rivalry between different nations, not forgetting the sadistic
non-commissioned officers in delinquent company, and the friendship
between brothers-in-arms. Noteworthy, Lauttamus's books have not given
any evidence to link the author to possible war crimes committed by
members of the Viking Division.
Reviews: Vieraan kypärän alla (1957) "Tämän teoksen olennainen merkitys on mielestäni siinä, että se on ensimmäinen asiallisuuteen pyrkivä kuvaus suomalaisten nuorukaisten tiestä, jotka pääasiassa seikkailunhalusta liittyivät Hitlerin Saksan SS-joukkoihin." (Kauko Kula in Arvosteleva kirjaluettelo 8/1957) - Verikivi (1977) "Kirjailijan viimeiseksi jäänyt teos, jonka aihepiiri on entinen: tavallisen rivialiupseerin sota. Jos ajatellaan kirjailijaa teknisenä taitajana, ei tekstissä ole huomauttamista. Mielenkiintokin on tyydyttävä. Upseerien ja aliupseerien suhde saa muotojaan tavanomaisissa kliseissä: nuori vänrikki käskee mielettömiä, harkitseva aliupseeri uhmaa häntä terveen järjen nimissä ja hyvinhän siinä lopuksi käy." (Veikko Junnila in Arvosteleva kirjaluettelo 2/1978)
Following the success of his first novel, Lauttamus
devoted himself entirely to writing. As well as novels he published
short humorous pieces, which appeared
in the Seura magazine.
Hiljaiset sotilaat (1959) looked at the Winter War (1939-40) from both sides of the front, and tried to avoid idealization typical for Finnish novels dealing with this conflict. A bestseller in the genre of war novels, it sold 20,000 copies. The literary manager of Gummerus, Ville Repo, made Lauttamus to rewrite one of its chapters over ten times. "The first version was published," recalled Lauttamus. He never again tried to see the war from the Soviet point of view.
In the 1960s Lauttamus published 11 war novels, all straightforward stories, which he occasionally peppered with absurd humor. He never sought acceptance from the cultural elite, who considered his works unfashionably conservative and commercial. Sotapoliisit (1961) focused on military polices, and Saappaat edellä (1963) on medical orderlies. Despite earning considerable royalties from his books, Lauttamus had problems with his mortgage. Eventually Pekka Salojärvi from his publishing company helped the writer to work out a plan with the payments.
Lauttamus returned to the history of the Viking division
in Rautasaappaat (1965), Haavoittuneet leijonat (1968)
and Viikinkidivisioona (1970), in which appeared characters
familiar from Vieraan kypärän alla. In the 1970s he continued
with eight war novels, of which the last was Verikivi (1977),
set in the years of the Continuation War, from the beginning to the
Soviet breakthrough in the Carelian front in 1944. During this period
of his life, Lauttamus attempted suicide with a shotgun. His face was
damaged severely. It has been claimed that Lauttamus's final two novels
committed suicide in Muurame on May 8, 1977. Several of his novels have
been reprinted, the 14th edition of Vieraan kypärän alla came
out in 2009. From the beginning of his career, Lauttamus approached the war and military life with a sense of realism, but he didn't have any pacifist leanings at all.. Finnish soldiers were portrayed more or less in the
traditional vein of heroic epic, and like Väinö Linna he often used
humour in the
Lauttamus did not glorify war and wanted to give a picture of its
madness, his novels also were highly entertaining. He was a natural
story-teller whose style was
easy-going but brisk, like the rhythm of a long stroll. War veterans, Lauttamus's
most faithful readers, were drawn to his books because author had
personal first-hand knowledge of the frontline realities.
Along with the novelist Kalle Päätalo, who was also a war
veteran, Lauttamus was one of the best selling
writers of the Gummerus Publishing
Company. With the novel Kuolema junailee
(1961), published by Fennia, Lauttamus tried his hand as a mystery
writer. After this first and last attempt to change the genre he
returned to war stories. Lauttamus later revealed that he had written
the book in order to win a bet he had made with Marko Tapio.
When the New Wave film director Maunu Kurkvaara made a crime
film entitled of Kujanjuoksu
(1971), Lauttamus sued Elokuva Oy Maunu Kurkvaara ja
Väinän Filmi Oy for stealing the title of his 1960 war novel, Kujanjuoksu. Kurkvaara said that he
had never heard of the book. Lauttamus lost his case at the court, and
some money too in the process, but the film was retitled Maunu Kurkvaaran Kujanjuoksu. ('Noin yhden dekkarin ihmeitä: Onni Halla ja Niilo
Lauttamus' by Tapani Bagge, in Ruumiinkulttuuri,
Note: In the 1970s died also war novelists Esa Anttala and Yrjö Keinonen (later appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces), who like Lauttamus had been in the war. Other Finnish writers who have published war novels: Uula Aapa, Reino Lehväslaiho, Esa Anttila, Eino Pietola, Onni Palaste, Taisto Huuskonen, Pentti Pirhonen, Antti Tuuri, Pentti H. Tikkanen, Paavo Rintala, Joppe Karhunen, Jukka L. Mäkelä. The best known Finnish war novel is Väinö Linna's Unknown Soldier, (1954). Like Linna, Lauttamus depicted ordinary soldiers, who often became in conflict with orders and higher officers. Viking division: Hakaristin ritarit: suomalaiset SS-miehet, politiikka, uskonto ja sotarikokset by André Swanström (2018); '"Soldated wie andere auch": Finnish Waffen-SS Volunteers and Finland's Historical Imagination' by Antero Holmila, in Finland's Holocaust: Silences of History, edited by S. Muir and H. Worthen (2013); Suomalaisten Waffen-SS vapaaehtoisten matrikkeli 1941-1943 (1999); Panttipataljoona: Suomalaisen SS-pataljoonan historia by Mauno Jokipii (1969, Pawn battalion: The history of the Finnish SS-battalion), this book was commissioned by an organization representing veteran Waffen-SS soldiers.