Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar and Helping the Persecuted

Scope of the Research and Some Reflections

in European Judaism
Frank Dabba Smith Leo Baeck College and University College London, UK

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As a study of corporate and individual behaviour in the context of Nazi Germany, my research concerning Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar – the manufacturer of the Leica camera – is situated and seeks to build on the insights of scholars writing histories of businesses during this period. Leitz's highly unusual activities to help approximately eighty Jews and non-Jews, throughout the duration of the Nazi regime, involved training, employment, financial aid, and assistance both to leave Germany and when abroad. Where necessary, Leitz also intervened to help employees subjected to criminal prosecution. Ambivalence is present when discussing Leitz's increasingly conformist public face and producing sophisticated armaments, designed and built by in-house experts. Leitz also relied on forced labourers brought from Ukraine. These ambivalent activities, along with maintaining an extensive range of critical relationships with those holding authority, crucially enabled Ernst Leitz to survive and retain ownership of his firm.

Contributor Notes

Rabbi Dr Frank Dabba Smith has worked as a photographer and teacher, serving later as a liberal rabbi until retiring in 2019. He is a Lecturer at Leo Baeck College, Honorary Research Fellow at University College London and Co-Chair of the International Advisory Committee of EcoPeace-Middle East.

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European Judaism

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