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Monday, 18 April 2011

Typewriter Book Written in US POW Camp

Some years ago I acquired what could perhaps be best described as the neatly bound manuscript for a typewriter repair manual. It was written by a man called Fritz Schröter, between 1945-46, in the Santa Ana Air Base Prisoner of War Camp in California.
It contains 115 pages of English-language text, written on lined, exercise book paper - tight, and very well typewritten (though understandably, the type fades in places, when the typewriter ribbon starts to lose ink). There are another 67 pages of finely-drawn pencil diagrams on thin, tissue-like paper. I have scanned here just 10 of the pages.
I cannot even begin to imagine how exceedingly difficult this book must have been to produce in the circumstances of a POW camp. That it is as well written and illustrated as it is says much about its author.
In July 1945, 563 German prisoners-of-war from the Garden Grove Camp were assigned to the Santa Ana Air Base (the air base is pictured above). I believe 1100 German POWs had been held on a 15-acre lot in Garden Grove, California (this was, apparently, located on the corner of Garden Grove Boulevard and Palm Avenue near Harbor Boulevard).
I have tried to find out what I can about the Fritz Schröter who wrote this book. Two names keep cropping up. The first is of a German World War II fighter pilot, a much-decorated air ace. But there is no reference to this Fritz Schröter ever having been captured or made a POW. Indeed, his record apparently shows that from January 4, 1945, to the end of the war he was a commander in Schlesien and Böhmen. This Fritz Schröter, I believe, was born on July 20, 1916, and died on December 14, 2007.
The other, perhaps a more likely candidate, is the Fritz Schröter (born December 28,1886, in Berlin; died October 11,1973, in Ulm ) who was a German physicist and television pioneer.
German Wikipedia says that until 1930, he worked in the laboratory of the Telefunken company for wireless telegraphy and developed a scanning method for image transmission. "In 1928 he called for the use of the Braun tube for television and invented [a means of] reducing the image flickering ... which he in 1930 ... patented [as a]'method for sampling of television images'."  From 1931 to 1945 he was an honorary professor at the Technical University of Berlin. From 1947-50 he worked in Paris and then for five years as a professor in Madrid.
There is in this career record a missing period - 1945-46. Is it possible this Fritz Schröter was in the US? Is it possible he may have have had some (extensive) typewriter technical background before becoming involved in TV development? He certainly wouldn't have been allowed to while away his time in a US POW Camp working on anything related to physics or TV.
Or am I just letting my imagination carry me away? No doubt there was another  Fritz Schröter altogether.
Ah well, I'd love to know the truth. If there is anyone out there who can help me, please let me know. In the meantime, enjoy Fritz Schröter's incredible work:


shordzi said...

Incredible indeed. Hopefully someone of his family will read this post.

Tom Furrier said...

WOW- What a amazing feat. I think his illustrations are better that the manufacturers.
Thanks for bring this to light.

Ted said...

That's an amazing bit of work! Very steady hand there (:

MTCoalhopper said...

It makes perfect sense, though. That is exactly the kind of person you do not want sitting around with nothing to do. Better to let him occupy his time with something intricate and technical... and also something his guards could understand.

Don't you know, though, that the typewriters in that camp must have been in perfect condition?

Richard P said...

Very interesting, but I believe this was copied from an Ames technical manual of the time. I have one from the late '40s or so, and recognize the style of the illustrations. Since you say they are on "tissue-like paper," I feel sure they were traced. I suspect the text was copied, too. I'll check when I have time.

Why did Schröter do this? Probably as an exercise in killing time and self-education.