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Wirgin

Wirgin was founded by the brothers Heinrich, Max and Josef Wirgin in 1920. based in the Hessian capital Wiesbaden and made a line of quite inexpensive 35mm SLRs from the 1950s to the 1970s, including the Edixa Reflex and Edixa-Mat Reflex. Wirgin was West Germany's main producer of SLRs with focal plane shutter.

Wirgin is still known for its brands Wirgin and Edixa, and for its camera types like the Edina, the Edinex or the Gewirette. It also produced some of the lenses for its cameras, among them several M42 screw mount lenses.

Wirgin introduced their first distinctive camera in 1927, the Edinex, which they produced also as Adrette for Adox. In 1934 the company surprised the market with a very small viewfinder camera for type 127 film, the Gewirette. From the mid-1930s it also made Edinex 35mm viewfinder cameras. These came equipped with Wirgin Gewironar lens and Compur shutter or Steinheil Culminar lens (alike Tessar) with Prontor shutter.

In 1938 Heinrich and Josef Wirgin were still in charge of their company in Wiesbaden. However, the Nazi persecution of the Jews compelled them to escape from Germany, with the help of one of their clerks. Max arrived in the US May 14, 1936, Max helped his brothers follow him to America. The Wirgin factory in Wiesbaden became incorporated into the Adox company.

After the war Heinrich Wirgin came back from America, now as Henry Wirgin, and refounded the Wirgin company in Wiesbaden. An administrative officer of the American occupied zone of Germany sent Heinz Waaske as promising aspirant to Wirgin. At that time Waaske had sold his prototype of a miniature camera to the Americans. In 1951 the talented mechanician Waaske became camera constructor. He constructed the company's first SLR, a model with focal plane shutter, the first camera like that in Western Germany. He also constructed a more elegant SLR prototype, and later a complicated electronically controlled SLR with Compur shutter, and a stereo rangefinder camera.

In 1962 Henry Wirgin bought Franka Kamerawerk. Several 35mm viewfinder cameras had been made in the Franka-Kamerawerk in Bayreuth/Oberfranken, for example the one visible in the picture at the right side of this page, an Edixa with builtin selenium meter and a lens with selectors for shutter speed, aperture and distance. Made in Bayreuth and Wiesbaden were the small Edixa cameras for 16mm film with removable coupled or uncoupled meter, all derived from an original model designed by Heinz Waaske in Wiesbaden and developed and produced in Wiesbaden and Bayreuth as Edixa 16, Franka 16, or, for the Karstadt warehouses, as Alka 16.

Waaske left Wirgin since Henry Wirgin had decided to give up camera production sooner or later. Wirgin granted the rights on a new 35mm viewfinder camera to Waaske. This camera was none less than the prototype of what became the famous Rollei 35. Waaske had constructed it at Wirgin company.

In 1967 the Franka-Werk was closed. In 1968 Henry Wirgin closed his original company and continued the production of some camera models in a new smaller plant. In 1971, shortly before its closing, the company introduced a quite modern but heavy SLR camera.

Henry Wirgin died in 1989, in the age of 90 years, in Wiesbaden. He had not only been one of the top entrepreneurs of the West German camera industry, he was also engaged in rewinning normal friendly relationships of non-Jewish Germans to Jewish citizens as chairman of the Society for German-Jewish co-operation.



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