Exploring the Fascinating History of German Binoculars During WWII

  • By: Sean Keogh


Binoculars (or Fernglaser as they are referred to in Germany) have long been a crucial tool for militaries around the world, allowing soldiers to see long distances with increased clarity and precision.

During World War II, German binocular manufacturers were at the forefront of producing high-quality and precision binoculars for the German military. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the history of German binoculars during WWII, from the pre-war years to the various models produced and used during Nazi Germany.

The Evolution of German Binoculars: Pre-War Years

The history of German binoculars can be traced back to the late 19th century, when Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe, and Otto Schott formed a partnership to establish a new company called Carl Zeiss Jena.

Carl Zeiss was founded in Jena, Germany in 1846 by optician Carl Zeiss, who had trained at the University of Jena and worked for the maker of the optical instrument, Simon Plössner. He opened a small workshop to make scientific instruments, microscopes in particular. In 1866, Zeiss was joined by physicist Ernst Abbe, who developed the achromatic objective lens, which allowed Zeiss to produce even higher quality microscopes. Abbe also established the firm’s scientific research laboratory, which conducted optical research and developed new products.This company quickly established itself as one of the leading manufacturers of binoculars in the world, and its binoculars were used by the German military during World War I.

However, after the end of World War I, German binocular manufacturers were forced to limit their production capabilities under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. This meant that their production capacity was greatly reduced, and they were no longer able to produce binoculars at the same scale as before the war.

The Rise of German Binocular Production during WWII

As Hitler and the Nazi party came to power in Germany, the restrictions on German binocular manufacturers were lifted, and they were once again able to ramp up production. The biggest manufacturing of German WWII binoculars took place in the city of Oberkochen, Germany.

This led to a surge in the production of military binoculars during WWII, and German manufacturers such as Carl Zeiss, Hensoldt, and Ernst Leitz produced a wide variety of binoculars for use by the German military. All three companies continue to exist today and have flourished in the optics world.

One of the most famous models of German binoculars produced during World War II was the Carl Zeiss Jena 7×40 binocular. This model was designed for use by the German navy and was known for its high-quality optics and rugged construction. It was also used by the German army and became one of the most common models used during the war. Other models used were the Hensoldt Dialytan 6×30 and the Kriegsmarine 6 x30.0.

In fact, one of Adolf Hitler’s Carl Zeiss binoculars were auctioned in 1999 in Chicago – although it is disputed whether he ever owned a pair.

Carl Zeiss Jena 7x50 North Sea Kriegsmarine Binoculars
Carl Zeiss Jena – Courtesy Emedals.com

Carl Zeiss was impacted significantly following the end of the war. After the Second World War, the Carl Zeiss company was split into two separate companies. The eastern portion, based in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was known as Carl Zeiss Jena, and the western portion, based in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), was known as Carl Zeiss Oberkochen. The two companies remained completely separate until reunification in 1990, when they were merged back together into the current Carl Zeiss AG.

Also Read: Why are Zeiss Binoculars so expensive?

We have seen a number of lovely restorations of some Dienstglas binoculars (6 X 30) online which make for fascinating viewing.

Specialized Binoculars for Specific Roles

In addition to the standard binoculars, German manufacturers also produced specialized binoculars for use in specific roles. For example, the Hensoldt Wetzlar company produced a rangefinder binoculars that were used by the German soldiers to accurately range in on targets.

These specialized binoculars were designed to meet the specific needs of different branches of the military, such as providing better visibility in low light conditions and weather or to withstanding extreme temperature.

Read Also: Best German Binocular Brands

Can I buy any German WWII Binoculars?

There are many binocular collectors and historians specialising in German WWII. Some notable collectors include Mark Stacey, David Hefner, and Jon Guttman.

A variety of online retailers sell German WWII binoculars, including eBay, Collectors Weekly, and Militaria-net. Antique and vintage stores, military surplus stores, and militaria shows may also sell such items.

The cost of a pair of German WWII binoculars can vary greatly depending on the model, condition, and other factors. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

We have seen Carl Zeiss 6 x 30 available for as low as $100 depending on the condition. When buying antique binoculars, there are a few key points to consider.

First, look for the quality of the optics. Examine the lenses for scratches, chips, or other signs of damage. Second, make sure the binoculars are in good working order. Check for any loose parts or damage to the mechanisms. Third, inspect the body of the binoculars for any signs of corrosion or wear. Finally, consider the condition of the leather or other material that covers the binoculars. Make sure it is in good condition and hasn’t been damaged over time.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you purchase a high-quality pair of antique binoculars that will last for years to come.

Are Old Binoculars worth buying?

While old binoculars might not be the newest or most technologically advanced option on the market, there is something to be said for their quality. Many models from years gone by were built to last, and if you can find a pair in good condition, they can be a worthwhile investment.

Of course, part of the appeal of buying old binoculars is the history that comes with them. If you’re interested in collecting vintage optics, German binoculars from World War II are particularly fascinating. Although they were created for practical purposes, many of these binoculars were beautifully designed and engineered, with some even featuring engraved insignia and metalwork.

So, if you’re looking for a unique piece of history or just a high-quality pair of binoculars, don’t discount the older models – they could be well worth your investment.

Conclusion: The Legacy of German Binoculars in WWII

In conclusion, German binoculars played a significant role in the success of the German army during World War II. The binoculars produced by German manufacturers such as Carl Zeiss, Hensoldt, and Ernst Leitz were known for their high-quality optics and precision, and were widely used by German military forces throughout the war. Even today, these binoculars are still highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts due to their historical significance and the quality of the optics. The impact of German binoculars in WWII helped set the standard for other military nations to follow and set the bar for future generations of binoculars.

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