Tarred With The Same Brush?
Posted on May 9, 2015
The “Olympia Robust” German Army (Wehrmacht) Field Typewriter was produced in limited edition as a variant of the “Olympia Progress” portable typewriter.
Painted appropriately in a gunmetal blue/grey, its distinguishing features are a helmet-like ribbon cover (to protect it from flying shrapnel) and (sometimes but not always) a type-slug and key with the infamous Schutz-Staffel (SS) rune on it.
On this typewriter, the SS rune is located in primary position on the left-most top-row key – the key you’d normally press to type the number “1”. You have to look closely to see the rune though, because it’s been blacked out …
The rune on the type slug itself has also been filed away, leaving only a semi-colon intact.
Doubtless, its new owner did not wish to be reminded of the atrocities perpetrated by the SS.
The display card (shown in the above picture) came with the typewriter that was once part of Daphne Sheppard’s Collection.
All I could find out about the typewriter’s history, was that Daphne bought it many years ago from a woman in Melbourne who’d been allowed to take one item from the prison office when the war ended.
Despite the handwritten note, I’m not sure the axiom “used by the German SS” is necessarily true.
Of course, the presence of an SS rune means that many of these typewriters were intended for use, and undoubtedly were used, by the SS, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t also used by “regular” units of the Wehrmacht.
A clerk who used this typewriter, in the admin office of that POW camp in Holland, say, may have had nothing to do with the SS, or had little knowledge of the atrocities that were being perpetrated. On the other hand, he or she may have known what was going on, but had little choice but to acquiesce.
I prefer to give this typewriter, and whoever used it in that prison in Holland, the benefit of the doubt. One way or another the typewriter, and its new owner, escaped the hands of the SS and that’s something we can be thankful for.
Richard Polt makes a similar point writing about a 1940 Everest Mod 90 and has reservations about owning a typewriter with the SS rune. So too does Robert Messenger in his 2013 blog post: Olympia Robust: Typewriter with a dark, secret past.
I certainly feel happier about the fact that the rune on the type-slug of this Robust has been erased. But I’m also glad the censored/blackened rune is still visible on the keytop. After-all, it’s part of the typewriter’s history – and a reminder that good triumphed over evil.
Other Olympia Robust entries on the TWDB: