Heinrich Hoffman’s Leica

Leica IIIa “Heinrich Hoffmann, Berlin”, 1935 Leitz, Wetzlar. No. 178859. This Leica IIIa with engraving “Presse-Hoffmann, Berlin Nr. 6” is the camera of notorious NAZI press photographer and journalist Heinrich Hoffmann, Munich, later Berlin.This Leica IIIa with serial number 178859 was sold on November 8, 1935 to “Monsieur Hoffmann de Munich”. With Hektor 2,5/5 cm as originally equipped.

Heinrich Hoffmann (12 September 1885 – 15 December 1957) was a Nazi politician and publisher, a member of Hitler’s intimate circle and Hitler’s official photographer. Hoffmann received royalties from the use of Hitler’s image, even on postage stamps, which made him a millionaire during Hitler’s years in power. After the Second World War he was tried and sentenced to four years in prison for war profiteering. He was classified by the Allies’ Art Looting Investigators to be a “major offender” in the plundering of Jewish art, as both art dealer and collector. Hoffman’s art collection, which contained many artworks looted from Jews, was ordered confiscated by the Allies. He recovered the art in 1956 by order of the Bavarian State.

Letter from Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH to French owner of the camera confirming its authenticity

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Benito Mussolini greeting German ldr. Adolf Hitler, whose right arm is in a sling after he was injured during an assassination attempt planned by his own military officers. (Photo by Hoffman)
Hitler admires a model of the Volkswagen car and is amused to find the engine in the boot. He is with the designer Ferdinand Porsche (left), and to the right Korpsfuhrer Huehnlein, Dr Ley, Schmeer, and Werlin. (Photo by Hoffmann/Getty Images)

6 thoughts on “Heinrich Hoffman’s Leica

  1. Slow Joe Crow

    I have mixed feelings about this camera, it has a lot of history , most of it bad. How does one redeem an artifact of evil? Can emblazoning it with a Star of David and repurposing it for Jewish liberation cleanse it as the Israelis did with thousands of German weapons in 1948? To profit from it or destroy it seem equally wrong.

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  2. JamesP

    A remarkable artifact of a terrible era. It is an inanimate object, but I can’t help thinking of all, and whom, it has “seen.” Those who have looked through the back of it and into the front of it are long gone, but there it sits.

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  3. Rob Campbell

    JamesP gets it right.

    User morality aside – where it should remain in any sane conversation about objects – the two pictures illustrate the beautiful industrial design ethic that went into making those cameras.

    I believe that that was the very first aspect of photography that got me interested: the shapes of the things it embraced as shown in the ads in the glossy magazines that I saw as a kid. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the very same concept of interesting industrial design lies behind the fascination that guns can provoke in some of those who, perhaps unconsciously, enjoy design for its own sake. Hot cars are another manifestation of the same emotional response.

    Just be glad that the talent existed when it did. We were gifted an era. Today, we have cameras that look like the aftermath of a train wreck, or of the contents of a burning chocolate factory.

    Rob

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  4. Fresto

    I very much doubt that this is a personal camera used by Heinrich Hoffmann. As such a totally uninteresting issue because why should a camera owned by a Nazi take better pictures or be more desirable from a collector’s point of view.
    The engravings indicate that this camera is a company camera (Nr. 6) located in (or assigned to) Berlin at the Hoffmann Studio’s.
    Heinrich Hoffmann, party number 59 and employing Eva Braun as an assistant, had studio’s in Munich, Berlin and Düsseldorf, later also in Vienna, Prague, The Hague, Strasbourg, Paris and Riga, with an annual turnover in 1933 of 0.7 Million RM, growing to 6.6 Million RM in 1940 up to 15.3 Million RM in 1943.
    Therefore it may be considered as a photo “facility” of importance, employing many photographers and assistants. In the Berlin studio 4 photographers and 62 assistants were employed, indicating that this was more a propaganda producing “facility” and not having the focus on taking pictures as the most important activity.
    Hoffmann’s camera? Very doubtful! A camera bought by the Hoffmann company? Most probably, yes!
    An interesting question might be why it was bought with the “old” 2.5/5cm Hektor, instead of the “new” Summar 2.0/5cm, which was also available at that time and was considered as state of the art.

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  5. Eric de montigny

    So for all we know, it may have been used by Leni Riefenstahl. Would It’s significance be different, i doubt.

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