Before Landecker spun stacks of wax, his dad typed historic links of ink

The Olympia Simplex.

The Olympia Simplex.

The Remington.

The Remington.

Story and photos by Bob Wellinski

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Well, it wasn’t necessarily an “American Pickers” find. But it’s a find that I will treasure because of its history.

John Records Landecker (photo courtesy of JRL)

John Records Landecker (photo courtesy of JRL)

While covering the Long Beach Community Sale this spring, I spotted two older-model manual typewriters. As the event was nearing the end of the day, I decided to go back and take a second peek. In my mind, I saw those vintage machines flanked by two vintage cameras in a room at our home.

While I was looking at the typewriters, a familiar voice called from across the room: “Are you interested in those typewriters? Did anyone tell you the history of that German typewriter?”

I quickly learned from the source himself that the typewriters were owned by legendary Chicago disc jockey John Records Landecker, who now spends much of his time in LaPorte County and remains a radio host on WIMS, Michigan City.

As someone who grew up listening to him, I was already sold … but then came the history that further sealed the deal.

John spent part of his Sunday evening sharing the history of the typewriters, including information he pieced together on the 1930s German Olympia Simplex typewriter that his father used for a dissertation in Germany.

His dad, Werner Landecker, who was Jewish, grew up in Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party. He was preparing to work on his dissertation for his law degree at Berlin University in 1936. The Nazis had taken over the university and specifically shut down all access its libraries to anyone who was Jewish.

Werner Landecker wrote his dissertation on international law (“The Validity of International Law as a Societal Phenomenon”) and submitted it to a juried board, some of whom had Nazi ties.

“The upshot of it all was that due to the fact he was Jewish, it eventually was declined to be published. Although they had it, they didn’t publish it,” John said.

Werner Landecker was the last Jew to receive a law degree in pre-war Germany. Werner then left Germany to come to the United States.

John wasn’t sure if  his dad brought the Olympia typewriter with him or if John’s grandparents brought it at a later time. His grandparents left Germany for England before coming to the U.S.

Although the Nazis restricted travel for Jews, a loophole was found that allowed Werner Landecker to have a University of Michigan fraternity sponsor him. Once there, he switched from law and became a PhD professor of sociology at U of M. His work can be found online.

“The unique aspect of this is that — I believe it was 1990s — a colleague of my father’s decided that this original work (Werner Landecker’s dissertation) that was not published had enough importance to it that, even though it was decades later, it should finally be published. And he indeed got it published in Germany, in German, a couple of years before my father passed away,” John said.

The second typewriter, the Remington, was the one Werner used during his years at the University of Michigan. John remembers that after Werner eventually became blind, his mother used the Remington in the late 1940s.

Learn more about Werner Landecker by clicking on these links:

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