|image by Uwe Kulick (Image rights)|
Germany's history in the analog photography age of the 19th and 20th century is a bizarre one: Modern Germany's existence began very slowly in 1816 when the German principality Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach, home of the German author and scientist Goethe, launched the first Constitution of a country of the loose post-Napoleonean German Confederation. Through their constitutions the German principalities got elected parliaments, and their citizens got some rights. In 1835 the principalities were united economically in the German Customs Union. In 1848 the Germans established a real democracy with equal right for all citizens in their first national uprising since the German peasants' war 324 years earlier, but freedom lasted for just one year.
The following conservative restoration period was the one when some of the mightiest German optical companies got established: Zeiss and Leitz, and Voigtländer moved from Austrian Vienna to the German Braunschweig.
In 1871 the German Empire was revived, under a new, a protestant Prussian dynasty. Austria was excluded. New mighty photography companies emerged which were merged later into ICA.
The tradition of citizen rights was further developed so that the German parliaments got political parties which lasted even through the democratic period from 1919 to 1932 that followed the breakdown of the Empire in WWI. The democratic period brought a new big merger in photo-optical industry, Zeiss Ikon was formed, the name of the company showing that it was part of Zeiss's mighty photo-optical industry network. New political parties came up, dangerous antidemocratic parties, the communists and the Nazis ("national socialists"). They got their chance to be elected during the Great Depression in the U.S. of 1929 to 1933 which swashed to Germany soon. In 1933 the Nazis got to power for twelve years, enough to help establishing Franco's dictatorship over Spain, to apply inhuman anti-minority nazi ideology on Germany, to conquer large parts of Europe and little parts of North Africa for a few years, and to murder lots of innocent people in that temporary area of influence.
After the war the Allied forces governed Germany for four years. In 1949 the western occupation zones of France, Great Britain and the United States of America were united to form the Federal Republic of Germany which got a provisory real democratic Constitution which includes a catalogue of basic citizen rights including the right for everybody's dignity. This is still the constitution of Germany. The eastern zone of Germany was occupied by forces of the Soviet Union. Thus it became the German Democratic Republic which wasn't truly democratic. It was Stalinistic. An exception was the West of Berlin which was occupied by the western Allies. The most representative politicians of Germany were the West German economy minister and later Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard who established the concept of the social market economy in West Germany, and the East German communist party leader Walter Ulbricht who built the Berlin Wall which divided Berlin into East and West as Germany was divided by the "iron curtain" during the "cold war". Even Zeiss-Ikon was divided into its West German and East German partitions.
East Germany managed to reach the highest level of concentration of its photo-optical industry. Since sooner or later all namable companies in the socialist state became state-owned the whole bunch of East Germany's "own" camera makers were merged into the state's large "combinate" Pentacon. West Germany's photo-optical industry got new companies after the war. The success of the good companies rose until the 1960s. Then the decline began, especially because of the rising success of Japanese camera brands in Germany.
The East German state ended after 40 years when a nonviolent popular uprising led to free democratic elections there. Then the elected East German parliament decided that the East German federal states should become parts of the Federal Republic. Then the last really big German photo-optical company Pentacon became the first victim of the infamous German "Treuhand" office which had to operate the sale of state-owned companies of the former East German republic. Only Zeiss and its glass maker Schott, Schneider, Rollei and Leica are the small core that lasted from the heydays of German photo-optical industry.