While Germany was a divided country, Carl Zeiss led separate lives in both parts: One company operated in the eastern part of the country, another in the western part of the severed republic. After World War II, Thuringia was originally occupied by the American troops. When the U.S. Forces retreated into the territories they were designated to occupy, they simply took 84 executives and scientists with them into their occupied zone. In 1946, they founded a company called Optische Werke Oberkochen. The enterprise later changed its name to Carl Zeiss. After the nationalisation in 1948, the plant based in Jena in the east was given the name VEB Carl Zeiss Jena.
In their respective economies, the enterprises in both parts of Germany, i.e. in Oberkochen and in Jena, emerged as optical technology leaders over the course of just a few years. Initially, this trend was also driven by their productive collaboration. Jena supplied documents for older products, while Oberkochen offered drawings for new developments. In some countries, the companies even utilised joint sales channels, until the government of the GDR prohibited all cooperation in the spring of 1953.
Just 20 years ago, the political change rang in the reunification of the two companies as Germany became one again. As early as 1990, the separated Zeiss managers made their intentions known that they wanted to reunify under the auspices of a Carl-Zeiss-Foundation. With the establishment of Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH, Carl Zeiss took over the fine mechanics and optical core business. Despite huge challenges, the reunification process could be brought to a successful end. Since then, Carl and Zeiss have finally become one Carl Zeiss again and have presences not only in Germany, but all around the globe.