Reflex-Korelle II 1939
This page showcases a camera. However, perhaps it would be better to focus on the man who was responsible for its creation. I believe that there is an as-yet untold story about a fascinating life.
Franz Isreal Kochmann, born 12 September 1872, was well known and respected in Dresden prior to WWI. Shortly after the Great War, he founded the Franz Kochmann Fabrik in 1921 where a number of fine cameras were produced for the professional and advanced amateur markets. Among the most notable are the Enolde and Korelle model series. Perhaps the finest were the Reflex-Korelle models first introduced in 1935 which proved to be one of the most important cameras of the 1930's.
Franz Kochmann and his family were driven to flee from the Nazis and the Holocaust. Soon after Kochmann fled Germany some time in 1938, his art collection, his company, his identity were taken from him. The Kochmann Fabrik was siezed and renamed Korellewerke KG in 1939. Precisely how the "re-organization" of Kochmann's company was accomplished is not clear. However, the Nazis did not like to nationalize companies, a practice that they believed to be communist. It is known that by late 1939, controlling interest in the KorelleWerke was secured through the German government by G.H. Brandtman & Co. and production of the high quality Reflex-Korelle went on. For a very brief time during 1939 immediately before the onset of WWII, the Reflex-Korelle II was marketed in the United States through an agreement between the "restructured" German company and Burke & James Inc. in Chicago who had previously marketed the Korelle cameras for Kochmann.
Here is an uncommon example of the last Reflex-Korelle cameras to be sold in the USA by Burke & James in 1939. It has a 40.5mm screw mounted Schneider Kreutznach Radionar 75mm f/2.9 triplet lens and has shutter speeds from 1/500 to 2 seconds.
Final notes: Historical comments that often appear on the Internet with regard to Franz Kochmann often include references simply to his having emmigrated from Dresden only to re-appear as the designer of the Vena cameras. Reality is a bit more disturbing. After having fled Germany and the Nazis some time in 1938, Franz Kochmann appeared in the records (die Rijksinspectie van de Bevolkkingsregisters) as having registered in Utrecht on 26 March 1942. Such registration was required of Jews who arrived in Holland at the time. It is not clear precisely when he finally departed the family home in Dresden though late 1938 would appear to be accurate. Kochmann's life during the war years is still obscure. However, I recently learned from a kind member of the Kochmann family that Franz Kochmann came to a tragic end on 25 June 1956 when he was struck by a car in Utrecht.
Franz Kochmann was keenly interested in art and he purchased paintings from artists who were then not well known nor widely recognized. However, by 1932 many of these artists became recognized by the art world. Unfortunately, they also came to the attention of the Nazis and the then Director of the Dresden Gallery, Herr Hans Posse. Posse was Hitler's choice to head a commission that was responsible for the theft of many pieces of art from throughout Europe. It became Posse's job to sieze art work from artists like Kokoschka who Hitler had deemed to be degenerate. The painting shown here to the right entitled Das Eckhaus was done by the young Ludwig Meidner in 1913 of the home of Franz Kochmann. Meidner was another artist whose work was targetted by the Nazis as polictically degenerate.
Sadly, one can still see the odd way museums revise history when uncomfortable historical facts get in the way of neat provenance. For example, the web site of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts mentions that their Double Portrait of Trudl by Oskar Kokoschka had been loaned by Kochmann to several galleries for exhibit in the late 1930's and early 1940's. The "loan" was "negotiated", according the the Boston Museum site, by Herr Hans Posse. Posse is merely described as the curator of the Dresden Gallery, the Venice Biennale, and an agent for several galleries located in Nazi-dominated countries. Actually, Hans Posse was a discredited Nazi criminal who clearly does not deserve to be represented as a respected historical figure of the art world.
The Double Portrait of Trudl was eventually returned to Kochmann some time after WWII. None the less, it is curious to read the sanitized version of terror filled years and experiences of Franz Isreal Kochmann. When I began to look at the history of the Refex-Korelle, it rapidly became clear to me that this was much more than just a story about a camera. It is a story of the terror of the Holocaust and the unnerving way we sanitize history whether you be a camera collector or a major museum.