All this may well be explained in Eberhard Lippmann’s 2008 Die historische Entw icklung des Betriebes Optima Erfurt, in which he points out that the West German company Olympia Hamburg-Wilhelmshaven won a 1951 court decision over what had become known in 1946 as Olympia Büromaschinenwerk Sowjetische [Soviet] AG für Feinmechanik Erfurt, a part of a Soviet joint-stock company incorporated into the Totschmasch group. This case gave Olympia Hamburg-Wilhelmshaven exclusive use of the Olympia trade name. Lippmann says that in 1950 the Erfurt plant became known as VEB Olympia Büromaschinenwerk Erfurt and in 1951 as Optima Büromaschinenwerk VEB Erfurt.
What emerges from the serial numbers is clear evidence that the Erfurt plant kept making Planas under the name Olympia right up until the time Olympia Büromaschinenwerk Erfurt lost the court case to Olympia Hamburg-Wilhelmshaven in 1951. What also becomes apparent, from articles published in United States newspapers in 1951-52, is that there may have been a Soviet economic imperative for doing this. That is, to continue to trade under Olympia’s good name. Given this, it’s possible serial numbers on the Olympia Planas played a part in the subterfuge, to give dealers in North America the false impression the machines were from 1949 being made in West Germany (Macy’s was among the stores fooled). Lippmann concedes that in 1951 at least a small number of Planas, perhaps as few as 150, were exported to the West, but were they labelled Olympias or Optimas? Olympia Planas were advertised in Western Australia at the end of 1949 and in August 1951 in Canada. The Canadian ads said the machines were imported direct from the “British Zone of Germany”. (Olympia portables advertised in Australia from 1950-52 were made in Wilhelmshaven.)
In January 1951 American political journalist Theodore Harold White (1915- 1986), filing from Paris for the Overseas News Agency (ONA), wrote a widely-syndicated column describing the Western distribution of the Soviet-made Olympia Plana. The one White had was stamped “Made in Germany” and had the serial number 206405. White said the Russian Government was offering the portable for sale at $25, “half the cost of a typewriter anywhere in Europe”, and claimed they were shipped out of Leningrad. White and US typewriter dealers wondered whether the Soviets were selling the machines at a loss.
“Or another thesis,” added White. “Are the Russians so desperately short of dollars to purchase essential materials that they will offer a valuable typewriter like this at bargain prices just to earn dollars to buy the raw materials we control?” He went on, “Were these typewriters wrung out of the Germans as reparations … Do the Russians get these typewriters from the Germans by one of their tough trade treaties … How can Eastern Germany have reserve capacity to make such typewriters when it is so short of steel?” White would have been astonished to learn that in April 1952 Erfurt signed a deal with the Chinese Government to build typewriters with three keyboards of 2500 characters.
White concluded, “The typewriter is one of the objects that illuminate our dark times. Never has the world been sealed into such air-tight halves, one half so completely ignorant of the life of the other half. We have no idea what else the Russian industrial empire can make, at what cost, under what circumstances, under what pressure and motives.”