One to get rid of

by | Jan 3, 2016 | Olympia | 37 comments


  1. Rob Bowker

    Well said Richard! Even though it is a machine I have admired from a distance (sans the lightening bolts) and without any hint of early 20th Century European Jewry in my genetics (as far as I know) I wouldn't want in my house either. Good luck with the sale, I hope it finds an appreciative owner.

  2. Ted

    There's one exactly like it on the Facebook group that someone's auctioning of for similar reasons. might check there for disappointed bidders. There was quite a bit of interest.

  3. Richard P

    That someone is me, using my mysterious Facebook pseudonym. :)

  4. Ted

    Aha! :D

  5. Bill M

    That is a very beautiful typewriter. I have been interested in a German keyboard machine for several years. The ss Nazi symbol is not really one I desire except for the historical background. When I first saw your post it did interest me, not because of the symbol, but that it had a German keyboard.

    Your posts states very well as to why not to have one of these machines. I have worked with many who came out of the death camps. I believe it best to seek my dream German keyboard Fraktur.

  6. Anonymous

    Hard to say where the typewriter was used. It was certainly not buried under rubble in a bombed out area. It could have been used in Germany, Italy, France, etc. Having examined captured German documents on microfilm, there was such a large distribution list for memos, etc., there had to be a ton of typists. I see lots of Nazi memorabilia in antique malls. As the veterans died off, the items came into the possession of antique dealers and there they sit staring at you as you walk down the rows of booths. Nice looking machine but given the SS, Gestapo and other outfits I wouldn't begin to speculate where this typewriter might have been in use. I'm sure there are other German typewriters without nefarious teutonic slugs and keycaps that you could acquire. I'm sure some folks would pay top dollar just for the machine having the SS slug.

  7. Erik

    Well said Richard. It's a striking machine, but it gives me chills.

  8. Matthew

    Very cool machine, and amazing that it made it out of Europe in that kind of condition, given the conditions under which it probably found itself when it was 2 years old. I don't know if I'd keep it myself, unless it was something family related (i.e. my grandfather stole it from an SS office in France or some such). I was at an antique store today, and one of the booths had a Nazi flag that was framed. Within the white field was written "Taken from somewhere in Germany" and it had a bunch of signatures from (I'd assume) the soldiers in the unit that defeated whatever corner of Germany this came from. While I don't ever see myself buying it, were I to find this in a foot-locker from my grandfather, I'm relatively certain that I wouldn't get rid of it either. In an instance like that, the signatures and inscription that deface the flag are more important and poignant than a mass-produced flag. This thing though? I'd probably get rid of it unless it were to have the same provenance as the hypothetical foot-locker flag of my grandfather.

  9. Anonymous

    I'd have no qualms in owning it as previously stated in relation to my Olympia Robust, but I fully understand how other people feel about it.

  10. rino breebaart

    The strange, ongoing power of those insignia/symbols… a very peculiar problem of our time. It's not just superstition, but something weirdly proximal or related to death.

    By devious and tangential readings I am reminded of an anecdote about William S. Burroughs, via William Gibson, in Iain Sinclair's book about Beat writers ('American Smoke', paraphrased):

    Gibson rifled through Burroughs’s kit in a Sylvia Hotel bathroom only to discover two black coins stamped with Nazi insignia in a rusty flip-flop Elastoplast tin. “Curiosity made Gibson take his chance, when Burroughs was out of the room, to ask one of the minders, the young men in tennis shoes, about the swastika coins. ‘Bill takes them everywhere. They’re going into his eyes when he passes over.’”

  11. Unknown

    An interesting dilemma, Richard. Whilst you give perfectly good reasons why you do not want it in your house, it makes me wonder what I would do if this would happen to me. I think my first reaction would be to keep it. Typewriters are part of history, and history interests me perhaps more than anything. And who knows what other typewriters have been used for…

    Most of all I would think: who's in charge here, me or this machine? Well, me of course. I wouldn't like to yield to the infamous emblem of a ghastly regime. Perhaps I would use it to write a piece about Anne Frank. But it is also a matter of proportion: the SS-sign is hidden; if there would be such an emblem on the hood of the machine it would be a definite no-no.

    But I can also imagine that, after a while, having used the machine, the presence of this slug would begin to bother me – like a dead fly on a piece of cake. You can eat around it, but still.

    I'm still looking for a DDR-machine with what I dubbed "Stasi-typeface" (techno typeface), especially because of its connotations with the Cold War and that whole world locked behind the Iron Curtain. The DDR (GDR) was not as evil as Nazi-Germany, but it was an appallingly repressive dictatorship, more totalitarian than the Nazi-regime (see, for instance, 'Stasiland' by Anna Fundner). I think it might even please me if I would find one that had been used in some unholy government office. Again also to use it in a better way.

    Are machines inanimate? Of course they are, but we are not.

    Thank you for sharing this, Richard.

  12. Richard P

    I'd like to have a Fraktur machine too someday. That typeface also has a political history, by the way. It was the standard for German printing until around 1900, but then started to give way to more Roman styles. Fraktur was initially adopted by Nazis and their sympathizers for its "German" look, but in 1941 the regime turned 180º and denounced Fraktur as "Jewish letters," presumably because it was an obstacle to communication in an empire. (Saith Wikipedia.)

  13. Richard P

    Wow, what a story. Burroughs was one sick guy …

    It is impossible to eliminate symbolic power. Without it, we're not human anymore.

  14. Robin Heilschild ????

    I am amazed indeed. This machine remembers me my own Olympia SG 3. The design is very similar, although the type style of my machine is more "techno"…xD

    Regarding the "S.S." symbol, I am astonished. Hitler had a fancy like indeed. Obviously, Third Reich's typewriters had to be according to his necessities and I suppose this is the why it has that symbol (A great symbol indeed, considering its meaning) among its typeslugs. I wish that symbol were among the typeslugs of my own Olympia…xD

    I wonder how snappy this machine is and how its touchiness is. My own Olympia seems a lemon (yes, it makes lots of noises), and I had to figure out how to set it (I set it in a chair, in front of a sofa) for avoiding misaligned printings, getting hurt my wrists and typing faster (I am one of the few people who can type over 130 words per minute without typos or another flaws). It's weird, but I type faster if I take the shell (housing) off…xD

    I also collect Nazi stuffs. I started reading "My Struggle", and getting some drawings and other pictures on the Internet. Despite what they represent according to biased people, they look awesome starting with this typewriter and finishing with their uniforms. Yes, you are right, Richard: It's like the helmet of Darth Vader (People think I am like Darth Vader because people think being secretive and aloof is the way of being for a villain)…xD

  15. Richard P

    The model 8 is not very snappy compared to postwar big Olympias. My Adler Standard from the same period is much, much nicer to use.

    It's no bias to say that Nazi symbols represent totalitarianism and mass murder; it's a fact. But yes, much of the imagery "looks awesome." It was supposed to create awe!

  16. Walter

    Knock the slug off the type bar and keep the writer. Reimagine it as a machine for good. My 2 cents.

  17. Richard P

    It also feels wrong to me to destroy history. I want the machine to survive as is, but I don't feel I'm the right custodian for it.

  18. Richard P

    Yes, the Adler is superior, absolutely. And I can say this from very recent memory, because this fall I was able to buy that particular Adler Standard! I should write a blog post with and about it soon.

    Nevertheless, the Olympia 8 is an interesting piece of engineering.

  19. Anonymous

    Haha, I just saw that you answered my question a couple of hours ago. Sorry!
    Seems you found an Adler Standard for yourself since then. That isn't up on the TWDB, is it?

  20. Anonymous

    I thought so.
    Anyway, my congratulations on getting that "transcendent" typewriter after such a long time of wait & search. I bet you were thrilled to get this particular one.

    On my hunt for the Adler Standard I came across quite a few Triumph Standard 12 which seem to be very much alike. I will probably buy one soon. It might be interesting to do a (virtual) side-to-side comparison based on detail-photos to find out if there are any major differences, what do you think? Or do you know if and where they differ?

  21. Richard P

    I haven't tried a Triumph 12, but to judge from photos they are the same machine with only cosmetic differences.

  22. ortbraker

    Hitler was a vegetarian and not for that reason we blame the asparagus.
    Typewriters that do not have the SS runes may have been used for the vilest of purposes. Moreover, this particular typewriter may have been manufactured by Olympia just in order to meet a production quota required by the Government , and never have been used by the infamous SS.
    We'll never know.
    Unfortunately this part of the history of mankind existed (and not because of any typewriter in particular, but of the human condition).
    As such, it is History, and it is more dangerous to forget the History that to keep it in mind.
    That is, at least, my humble opinion about this point.

  23. rn

    I admire your principled stance. I have a Model 8 from 1938 without the objectionable key. I wonder when it became standard issue.

    BTW — my 8 was damn snappy but then developed some problems with the mainspring — so I haven't used it in a while.

    Also, mine has an adjustable 4-number gauge on the left side above the ribbon reverse that seems to have absolutely no purpose. And it doesn't have the nifty 'model 8' decal on the right side. Mine also has a glass pane on the back.

  24. Anonymous

    The adjustable 4-number gauge on the left side is meant for setting the current date. The Olympia 8 was an office machine. It was meant to type many business-letters, bills and alike. If the secretary was to put the current date on the paper, she didn't have to remember it or ask somebody else. She just looked on the left front side of her typewriter – assuming she set the date correctly in the morning before starting to work. But that probably was a routine thing to do for many of the office workers back then.

  25. rn

    Ah! How great to know. If I can fix that darn main spring, I will endeavor to set it every day.

  26. Richard P

    I agree with all your points.

  27. Richard P

    Thanks for the explanation, schmasch.

    Rob, I wouldn't actually call my stance "principled." It's a personal preference, even though it's a strong one. For me, the whole typewriter endeavor, including my blog, my book, and my collection, is something I do out of love. And I don't love that symbol.

  28. michaeliany

    i see it's up to $350 on the fb classifieds group. Richard, did you reach out to the WW2 crowd? Or more even more specifically, the German history collectors demographic?

    if you did, i will surmise the winning bid is above $800
    If you didn't, i think under $500 wins it.

  29. Seanshah

    I took my father's Olympia SM-3 and Underwood 315 to StarTypewriters store in Los Angeles to restore, the owner is Mr. Schulze who know a lot about typewriters and has a huge collection of them. Their service fee is very reasonable and their time frame is very short, they done the job in 2 days.
    If you are in LA area this is their info: 310-475-0859 http://www.StarTypewriters.com

  30. Richard P

    Thank you. It was a pleasure to meet Mr. Schulze at the Last Bookstore event.

  31. David Lawrence

    Just exactly what is the asparagus blamed for?

  32. Richard P

    Yes. It ended up stuck forever in the customs office in Buenos Aires. Long story.

  33. Oliver Mark

    I have an Olympia Model 8 without the Rune and with the date-gauge. it has all glass panes. Somehow – I don´t know why but I have seen this a few times – someone painted the …"Erfurt"-string with black paint. I have a lot of machines and the 8 is by far the most snappy machine. I would never believed that. But I like this model even more than my SG 1 (f.e.). I am doing a Novel with this machine right now.


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