Askania AG (Friedenau and Dessau) was created in 1921 by the merger of Centralwerkstatt für Gasgeräte GmbH, Dessau, with Carl Bamberg-Werk, Friedenau, Berlin (workshops for precision mechanics and optics). The company manufactured optical instruments for use in geodesy and astronomy. In the twenties and thirties of the last century cameras were produced: in 1923 the 35mm Askania Universal camera was delivered, in 1926 the Askanino projector was added. The Askania Z (1931) was after the war (1956) equipped with Leitz lenses and supplied as \”Askania Z Kamera Leitz\”. The Askania Bi-Pack was presented in 1932 as a colour camera, which recorded two colour separations based on the TechniColor pattern; however, it soon became meaningless due to Agfa\’s almost simultaneous development of colour film. The company became best known for the Askania shoulder camera, the world\’s first shoulder camera, which was introduced in 1935 and because of its weight and robustness became the most important German war correspondent camera of the Second World War. As a high speed camera capable of recording up to 600 B/S (with cassettes containing 60 m of film material), the Askania AG 35 still attracted attention (approx. 1955). The Askania AP X, XII projector (about 1960) was probably the last cinematographic device of the company that ceased its activities in 1969.

Askania 35mm cine camera

Of the many arrangements that would go too far to explain here, there were also those that placed the entire transport between the two cassettes and provided the lens changing mechanism and the front or rear shutter.

This gave rise to the type that can be described as symmetrical. A channel for viewing the magnifying glass can be placed between the cassettes so that the image can be viewed on the film during the recording.

The symmetrical arrangement offers a whole range of other advantages, and it is understandable that this type of construction is chosen at the start of the production of the cinema camera.

Taking into account all the practical experience of the cameramen and using high quality materials and the finest mechanics, the Askania movements have succeeded in creating a device that is not only of the highest level in terms of construction, but also in terms of mechanical design.

The camera has not only proven itself in practice, but has also achieved successes that show that all requirements set for such a camera are fully met.

We find this cine camera not only widespread in professional circles, but especially in those cases where (in which) most constructions have failed, it was a great success.

The camera has never failed on several expeditions to Japan, India and the African jungle. Colin Roß used them on his world tour, Schomburgk brought the most beautiful films from the African jungle, and this camera type was the first and only one in the R.Z.III (that was the airship of Hindenburg) to find its way to America.

Second World War

German “kriegsberichter” (war correspondent). Filming with the Askania cine camera.

The Askania company was not spared during the Second World War. There were also forced labourers here. The SJB group resisted in several companies in Germany. This is also the case with Askania. The purpose of this resistance group was to provide information orally or via flyers, leaflets, etc. Information about the actual course of the war and about daily political events. Solidarity and, where appropriate, cooperation with forced labourers was an important part of the company’s resistance work in the 1940s.

Albert (Bert) Haanstra (Espelo, 31 May 1916 – Hilversum, 23 October 1997) was a Dutch film director, ethologist and photographer who participated in the Dutch resistance in the Second World War. He witnessed what history has gone down as “the shooting on Dam Square in Amsterdam” on May 7, 1945. He described that an Askania 35mm camera was also used there, which at the time was part of the standard equipment of a self-respecting filmmaker.

Bert Haanstra

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