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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Typewriters in the Führerbunker

Ingo Mersmann, owner and managing director of the German spy museum 'Top Secret' in Oberhausen in western Germany, sits at an Adler standard typewriter purported to have been used by Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge in the Berlin Führerbunker in the final weeks of the Third Reich. Mersmann is recreating parts of the massive bunker, and the exhibit is scheduled to open in September. I suspect the machine Mersmann is shown using in these publicity shots is actually a post-war Adler. The model comes up regularly for sale on German online auctions:
In the weeks leading to Anzac Day, SBS screened a series of classic war movies, including Apocalypse Now Redux, We Were Soldiersthe Oscar-nominated 2004 German-language film Der Untergang (Downfall) and Kokoda. It was the first time I had ever watched Downfall in full and naturally I was fascinated by the part of Traudl Junge (1920-2002), Hitler's secretary, played by Alexandra Maria Lara. The more so for Lara's adept use of  Continental standard and Remington portable typewriters.
Checking out just how accurate the portrayal had been, I was surprised to find Junge had at one time wanted to settle permanently in Australia. She lived in Sydney with her younger sister, Inge Kaye (born 1923), in 1975-76, spent a further 18 months there in 1982-83, and visited Melbourne in 1992 and 1995. Australian authorities rejected her application for permanent residency because of her role in the Third Reich. But Junge's mother, Hildegard Humps, who strongly disapproved of her daughter's work with the Nazis, did emigrate to Australia, arriving in June 1954 aboard the Fairsea. She stayed for only two years before returning to Munich, where she died in 1969.
This is said to be the "original" Junge typewriter. In the movie DownfallAlexandra Maria Lara, playing the part of Junge, is seen using a Continental:
Lo and behold, with Downfall still fresh in the memory banks, this morning I learned about the 'Top Secret" exhibits. Mersmann, born in Bielefeld in 1954, last year became owner and managing director of the Institute of Espionage GmbH in Oberhausen. He has been an art dealer since 1975 and also claims to have worked for the West German intelligence service. He is now a "recognised international expert on the subjects of espionage, counter-intelligence and terrorism".
Mersmann's recreated Führerbunker will comprise five exhibits, including Hitler's rooms, Junge's office, the radio room and the clinic of Hitler's doctor Theodor Morell.
In Downfall, Junge (Lara) is also seen using a Remington portable to type Hitler's will. Below is a Continental portable (serial number R348995, 1941?), later auctioned as one allegedly identified by Junge as the typewriter she used in the bunker. It has a "custom-made" 4mm (0.1575 inch) Antiqua font, apparently so Hitler could read the type for speeches without wearing his glasses. It came from the Collection Haucke in Wolfenbüttel with a detailed and signed 1970 letter from Junge identifying it as one of three models which accompanied her in the last two years of the war, between Hitler's "Wolf's Lair" (The Wolfsschanze in the Masurian woods about five miles from the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg, now Kętrzyn in Poland) and the bunker. With it was original blank Der Führer stationery and carbon paper.
Traudl Junge was born Gertraud Humps in Munich on March 16, 1920. She died in her home city, aged 81, on February 10, 2002. She was Hitler's last private secretary, from December 1942 to April 1945.
After typing Hitler’s will, she remained in the bunker until his death. In May, Junge got as far as the Elbe but was unable to reach the western Allied lines, so went back to Berlin, where she was arrested in July 1945, imprisoned and interrogated by both the Soviet and the American military. Later, in post-war West Germany, she worked in secretarial jobs and for many years was chief secretary of the editorial staff of the weekly illustrated magazine Quick.
At Hitler's encouragement, in June 1943, Junge married Waffen-SS officer Hans Hermann Junge, who died in combat in France in August 1944. In 1989 Junge's manuscript about her life throughout the war was published in the book Voices from the Bunker by Pierre Galante and Eugene Silianoff. Also that year she was interviewed for the BBC documentary The Fatal Attraction of Adolf Hitler. Her memoirs Until the Final Hour, co-written with author Melissa Müller, were released in 2002, when she was interviewed for the documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary. Parts of this interview were used at the start and end of Downfall.
Also in the Oberhausen exhibit is this Olympia Robust portable typewriter said to have been used by the Gestapo. It is identical in all aspects to the one in its original wooden box, bought in Australia a few years ago, which I once briefly owned:

4 comments: said...

Fascinating post and I'm now even more sorry I missed Downfall when it aired on SBS. Incidentally, an Olympia Robust featured in my recent typewriter exhibition (will be bloggng about it later) :)

shordzi said...

"So we packed two Silenta typewriters, two that typed nothing but capital letters, and one typewriter for speeches, with characters almost a centimetre high that made it easier for Hitler to read the manuscript of a speech aloud."

Taylor Harbin said...

Wow. That Olypmia has the SS thunderbolts on one of its keys, just like that Torpedo 6 standard I saw on eBay a while ago. If those machines could talk...

ZetiX said...

Thank you for the nudge - "Downfall" was on BBC4 last night and I quite enjoyed watching it. I also noticed a portable Erika - possibly model 5 - in one of the scenes.