Ernst Leitz II

The German camera company, Leica, got its name from its founder, Ernest Leitz II who used the first three letters of his last name and combined them with the first two letters of the word “camera.”

Ernst Leitz II was the second son of Ernst Leitz I and the second
head of the optics company founded by his father. Now known as Leica Camera he became the sole shareholder of the company after his father’s death in 1920. Although initially focusing on developing binocular microscopes that could be used for high magnifications, collaborating with Oskar Barnack and using interchangeable lenses developed by Max Berek the small lightweight 35mm Leica camera began being distributed around the world in 1925. Using rolls of film capable of 36 shots, the world of live photography available to the masses began!

Leitz inherited his father’s social conscience and established an employee support and pension fund and a company health insurance fund. The company introduced an 8-hour workday as early as 1906, twelve years before it was required by law and while Jews were becoming economically and socially ostracized by the Nazi regime in Germany in the mid-1930s, Leitz offered training programs and apprenticeships to Jewish people in his factory. He also organized the Leica Freedom Train to allow people to escape Germany during Nazi regime.