About the History of a German Enterprise

Author & Director:
Juergen Ast | Martin Huebner

Commissioning Editor:
Manfred Schmidt



Zeiss - a name that traveled the world. Craftsmanship made in Germany. An enterprise with a 150 years long, eventful history. It started as a manufactory and became a global player enterprise. Microscopes, Telescopes, Cameras - optical instruments manufactured with absolute precision for science and industry, medicine and the military.

Rarely, the fate of a company was so very much connected with the historic changes of the country as it was in the case of Carl Zeiss Jena. The year 1945 marked the crucial break in the company's history. Already prior to the end of the Second World War, the Allies were very much interested in the know-how of the German scientists. The first that served themselves, were the Americans. When eight weeks later, the Soviets arrived in Jena, important documents and equipment was already gone. America's probably most important spoils of victory: 84 managers and specialists. With the resettlement of the Zeiss elite to the American sector, a new chapter in the history of the steeped in tradition company had begun. Soon after two Zeiss enterprises were to become tough competitors on a global market they had to share, "Carl-Zeiss East" and "Carl-Zeiss West".

Former colleagues became competitors, and later competitors became enemies. The time of the Cold War, the time of head-hunting, sabotage and espionage. Zeiss vs. Zeiss - free trade vs. socialistic planned economy. Zeiss Jena advanced to the role enterprise of the ambitious GDR leadership. It was the politbureau's pride and joy. Then, 1990, the German reunification. Free trade came back to Thuringia, but all hopes for a new, reunited Zeiss enterprise turned out to be difficult. Carl Zeiss Oberkochen is granted the permission to continue with the tradition of Carl Zeiss. The former nationally owned enterprise in Jena, the Jenoptic Ltd., pins one's hopes on billions from the "Treuhand" and on Lothar Spaeth ... "The Zeiss Story" - the story of a German enterprise, just an example out of many but matchless at the same time.