Fotofex Kameras – Fritz Kaftanski – HR A 73480

Due to limited resources the research project left the data of many companies unfinished in 2012. Over the years, we managed to fill many gaps. Yet, we still miss lots of information, especially about the companies that were deleted from the register in 1938.

Preparing a chapter on photographs from Berlin for my book on daily life in the Nazi capital, I found that the owner of the camera company, Felix Kaftanski, was Jewish on a fascinating – albeit outdated – website. When I looked the company up in the database, I found we only had the conformation the company was deleted from the register in October 1938 – published in the state gazette (Reichsanzeiger) on November 3rd, 1938.

Berliner Handelsregister (1931), p. 114

According to our standard procedure, the first step is to look up the company in the handbook of Berlin companies: Berliner Handelsregister. Published for the last time in 1931 by the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce, it lists the basic data of all the registered companies in Berlin. For Fotofex it gives the registration Number, the year of registration (1929), address and the name of the sole owner, Fritz Kaftanski.

As we went through all changes published, but did not register any entries for the company until 1938, we can assume that the structure of the company had not changed between 1931 and 1938. What had changed, however, was the name of the street. After his untimely death, the Königgrätzer was given the name of the liberal German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann in 1930 – and was renamed Saarland-Straße – after the Saar region had opted for Germany in 1935.

Advertisement for the Minifex taken from the Website Fritz-Bedrich-Fréderic Kaftanski. History of a Camera Manufactorer: http://kaftanski.free.fr/

Kaftanskis produced respectively assembled a wide range of cameras – from simple box cameras to a very special camera called Minifex. Introduced in 1932, the Minifex was advertised as the smallest camera in the world. Despite also being one of the most expensive camera in the world, it became a long-lasting commercial success. Among others it was known as a spy camera.

Photo of a Minifex with kind permission by Boris Jamchtchick, Zell am See 2024

Under the pressure of the Nazis, Kaftanski moved first to Prague and after the German invasion to France. As his biographer Wim Luijt states, he survived in France and continued producing cameras such as the Minifex well into the 1970s.

Further reading:

Fritz-Bedrich-Fréderic Kaftanski. History of a Camera Manufactorer: http://kaftanski.free.fr/

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