East German portable typewriters (and a few more West German portables too)

All of the typewriter manufacturers in Germany suffered to some extent from the devastation of the Second World War.  Most had been converted, in part or in total, to armaments production, and had been targeted during the conflict.  All re-tooled and started producing typewriters again as soon as possible.

When Germany was split following the war, West Germany was in posession of Olympia, Adler and Triumph; East Germany was in posession of part of Olympia (which was renamed Optima Buromaschinenwerke in 1950), Groma, the Rheinmetall plant, and the former Seidel & Naumann plant which had made Erika machines prewar, and others.  The East, like the West, immediately made plans to restore its manufacturing base to get cash flowing, and typewriters were naturally included as it was well known that there was an extreme shortage of these machines everywhere.  Some, like the Klein-Urania, only reappeared briefly; below are some that stayed around.
In 1950, the Optima machines came out for the first time with this brand name, in both standard and portable models.  The latter are represented by this Optima Elite.  The nature of centralized, Communist USSR control would mean that, over time, those items which were expensive to produce, or did not sell well, would be eliminated -- and eventually, by 1969, all typewriter production in the whole USSR-influenced Continent would be centralized under Zentronik Robotron.  The Optima portables were dropped quite early, perhaps in the 1950's, but the standards continued for another 20 years.  After production of the Optima Elite ended, some Erika 10 machines were manufactured carrying the Optima brand; these are rare.
The Erika line restarted after the war as well, under the auspices of "VEB Schreibmaschinenwerk Dresden," and was also restyled for 1950.  This Erika 10 is an example of the new body style.  These machines would prove to be the longest-lived design of East German portable, being redesigned in plastic bodies in 1963, and lasting in production through 1989.
At right, the Erika 14/15 restyle of ca 1963.  This example is an AZTEC 14; this name was applied to various Erika and Rheinmetall machines occasionally when batches were exported to the USA for sale.  Known other Aztec machines are either like the Erika seen above and at left, or else are Rheinmetall KsT machines, seen below.
Buromaschinenwerke Sommerda was the company which took over the former Rheinmetall office machine manufacturing, and launched the Rheinmetall KsT portable in 1950.  My 1958 example is seen here.  These were made through 1962 when, like the Optima Elite, they were dropped in favor of the cheaper Erika design.  The Rheinmetall portables are all descended from the Stoewer portables, made 1926-1931 and then sold to Rheinmetall.
One note must be made here concerning the various makes of East German machines.  It can safely be said that all are of slightly lower quality than West German machines -- although with each, some are better than others.  Still, though, it's also safe to say that if there were any East German machine that could be compared to a West German Alpina or Voss in quality and use, it would have to be the Rheinmetall.  The Erika machines are decent enough, but somewhat sloppy (rattley) in action, and the Optima machines are very plain (if pleasant.)  The Rheinmetall, in quality of use and complexity, is definitely the top East German machine.
The Groma machines restarted as well; the new firm was VEB Groma Buromaschinen, Markersdorf, and in about 1950 the tiny Gromina appeared -- it's often seen labeled as the Groma Kolibri, which we see here.  This machine, like the Erika (and the US-made Smith-Corona) has parallel key action.  It is also among the very flattest machines ever made, right in league with the Rooy.  The Groma machines are about the hardest to find of the East German portables, and it's hard also to find one of these smaller machines in really good shape.  But they're collector favorites everywhere!

Production of all Groma-pattern portables, both large and small, ended by 1960. 
Click here to see the unusual Groma Combina.
Part Two:  other German Portables
Keller & Knappich of Augsburg West Germany began production of typewriters in 1948.  This concern only made portables, and the line used the brand name PRINCESS.  The design was totally new, and built upon the concept of flat, travel typewriters by using more substantial construction.  These machines are properly between true travelling typewriters and desk models.  Eventually, a desk model, the 500, was added before production was sold to Bulgaria.  Seen here is the top model in the flat line, the Princess 300.
Koch's Adlernahmaschinenwerke AG of Bielefeld, West Germany, introduced the small ABC portable in 1955.  Production of this machine was sold to Messa Maquinas de Escrever in Portugal in March 1967, along with full rights to the ABC brand name.  Before this, though, the machine had been introduced in the United States as the COLE-STEEL.  One example is known bearing the brand name of a well known maker of pencil sharpeners, APSCO.  This machine sold better overall not only in the US but in Europe than did the Princess. 

You can read much more about this line by
clicking here.
ALPINA machines, made in West Germany for an all too brief period following the Second World War, have been covered fully on my website for many years.  You can read more about them by clicking here.
At left, overall plan view of the Princess 300.  Above, the rocker-type tab stop set and clear button, and the lever on the carriage which clears all tab stops.  On the right, an illustration of the touch regulator located under the top cover.
Several models were offered in this same flat body, which is sometimes referred to as a "medium" typewriter.  The Princess Standard was the least expensive, followed by the Princess 100, 200 and 300.  The 300 had the pushutton ribbon color selector, key-set tabs and ribbon selector, and a top of the line case.  The 200 deleted the key-set tabs, while the 100 and Standard had no tabs at all.  The 200 had the pushbutton ribbon selector, but the others did not; the Standard had a "cheap" case. Eventually, production of this machine was licensed to Bulgaria, and later German production ceased.
Text and pictures by Will Davis; data supplied by Norbert Schwarz and Will Davis
Touch regulator under machine; easy carriage removal