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Ken Rockwell's shocking comments

Started Sep 14, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Ken Rockwell's shocking comments
Sep 14, 2009

I opened up Rockwell's review of the Leica M9 and read this: (fair use):

"...As an historical note, Leica has been making 35mm cameras and lenses since the 1920s. Nikon never made cameras until the late 1940s, or after after World War II. Prior to and during WWII, Nikon instead specialized in making instruments for mass destruction: long-range rangefinders for artillery, military binoculars, especially large ones used on ships, and aircraft bombsights. Nikon's instruments were instrumental in Japan's terrorist attacks against America at Pearl Harbor (there was no declaration of war, and the Japanese invented suicide bombing using airplanes: kamikazes).

Nikon's warmongering divisions were disbanded after WWII, and the few guys left at Nikon sat around and wondered what to do next (ref: Rotoloni). In the late 1940s, Nikon cranked out their first rangefinder camera, intended to compete with Leica and using the same lens mount as Contax. By 1956 Nikon's best rangefinder camera was Nikon's new SP, which had some more features than the new LEICA M3, but less overall quality. In the 1950's Nikon was second or third fiddle, behind Contax and Leica. In 1959, Nikon leap-frogged everyone with their first SLR, the Nikon F. As we all know, the Nikon F was an incredible hit, and SLRs have pretty much put Leica out of business ever since. The Nikon F was simply the older Nikon SP rangefinder camera, with a prism welded on."

Factual or not, the tone and implication is nothing short of implying that TODAY'S Nikon is somehow implicit in war crimes. If we took a tour of Rockwell's kitchen I am sure it is full of German appliances that were in business during the war. Should we judge TODAY'S Ford motors, or IBM, or other American companies for doing business with Germany or statements made by executives generations ago? Rockwell's words leaves himself a convenient "out", but it is clear that he is trying to guilt trip people from buying Nikon products. Should he apply some standard to Leica's as well? In 2007 the Anti-Defamation League, presented Ernst II's granddaughter, Cornelia Kuhn-Leitz, with the Courage to Care Award, in recognition of Leitz's role in helping at least 41 Jews to flee Germany during the Nazi persecution of the 1930s. The following is an excerpt from the London Financial Times: (fair use):

"Was it really credible, wondered Smith, that at the same time as Leitz was supplying parts to the Nazis, he was rescuing Wetzlar's Jews? And if so, how did he and his executives keep their activities hidden from the Gestapo? Then there was the question of motive. Although Leitz had been a prominent member of the German Democratic Party before the war, in 1942 he joined the Nazis. Was Leitz, like Schindler, whose Krakow enamelware factory depended on Jewish slave labour and who many historians of the Holocaust argue was initially motivated by self-interest, a bit of an opportunist? Or was his Nazi-party membership a tactic, a way of allaying the Gestapo's suspicions so that he could continue protecting his employees?"

Unless I missed it, I don't know Rockwell's authority to arrive at these broad conclusions to tar Nikion's reputation. I suggest Rockwell best leave these sorts of comments to historians and those who are a better position to make them.

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