25 de noviembre de 2013

Typewriters in the House of History Bonn

I took the occasion of my stay in Bonn, former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, to visit the "Haus der Geschichte", i.e. "House of the History of the FRG". The project of a museum dedicated to German history after 1945 had been in the pipeline since the 1980s, and was opened - already after the unification - in 1994. As a trained historian, I was curious how the Germans would go ahead with the task of displaying and reflecting their history. I must say, I was more than pleasantly surprised. The permanent exhibition follows a chronological trail stuffed, but not overburdened, with facts, but especially artifacts, historical and daily life objects which make history "begreifbar", visible and comprehensible.

Wouldn't there be any typewriters on display??

*** SPOILER ALERT: YES THERE WERE! ***

"Salonwagen 10 205", the special (State) train, originally constructed for Hermann Göring in Nazi-Germany in 1937 (then numbered Sal 4ü-37), used after WWII by the Western Germany's top ranking officials, namely chancellors Konrad Adenauer, Ludwig Erhard, Kurt Georg Kiesinger and Willy Brandt.

Here we see the typewriter displayed in the compartment of the Sonderzug 10 205. It is a Triumph standard machine. I couldn't give it some closer inspection, unfortunately, but according to me, this is a Triumph Matura, in its "Super" variant provided with a special paper inserting lever (cf. Dingwerth, Lexikon, p. 572)

The Triumph Matura models were produced between 1950 and 1960. 

Moving closer into the permanent exhibition, we are now in the period immediately after 1945. This Seidel & Naumann IDEAL typewriter is displayed in the context of efforts to organize life in the close to chaotic circumstances following 1945, with hundreds of thousands of Germans fleeing from the East, needing shelter, and hundreds of thousands of people looking for their family members which were lost in the turmoils of war and the immediate post-war. The German Red Cross for example established a search service, filling file after file, and often on typewriters, when available.

Here we look at the Eastern zone of Germany, the Soviet-occupied territory which would become the German Democratic Republic in 1949.  Many companies located in the Eastern zone are nationalized after 1945, they become "the people's property" (VEB = Volkseigener Betrieb).  This is also the case of many well-known typewriter companies, as the majority had their seats and plants in the East. Here we see the example of a Wanderer Continental typewriter, now "VEB Büromaschinenwerk Wanderer-Continental".


The Erika line of typewriters goes back to 1910. At the time of production of this Erika No. 8, the company, now state-owned, was called "Mechanik vorm. Seidel & Naumann VEB Dresden". Model 8 was produced from 1949 to 1952. I do have a model 9 in my collection. The picture recalls and raises our consciousness as to the political circumstances of the production period: here we see comrade Stalin being congratulated and honoured on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1949. You see how aptly the House of History puts together objects, with immediate effect of awareness-rising.


Stalin, Erika


Here is the machine of Theodor Heuss (1884 - 1963), first President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1959. It is aptly described as "indispensable tool of a successful writer and publicist". Heuss had been a writer in his own right and had worked as a political journalist. This Groma Model N was labelled as produced in 1941.

Another prominent typewriter on display is this Klein-Adler 2 having belonged to the renowned physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker (1912 - 2007).  On Nov. 19th, 1956, he and 17 other leading nuclear researchers wrote a letter (on this very machine) addressed to the secretary of defense of the FRG, strongly opposing the government's plan to arm the Bundeswehr with tactical nuclear weapons. This initiative became known as the "Göttingen manifesto".




We are in the Wirtschaftswunder times, and German exports are growing. Amongst them, calculating machines and typewriters. Here we see an Olympia SG1 in its crate, and ready for shipping.



One nice Adler poster to conclude our visit.
To be continued after my next visit to the museum - it was so large that I only made it into the 1950s.

5 comentarios:

  1. I'd have enjoyed having you as a tour guide if I could ever have gotten there. Excellent post!

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  2. These look like excellent displays, thanks for sharing.

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  3. Very enjoyable post, thanks.

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