I first met Knut Kühn-Leitz back in the mid-80’s during a Leica dealer Akademie training trip to the old factory in Wetzlar. Knut joined our group for lunch one day in the old, round administration building across from the factory. Our buffet lunch was in the board room, which was quite an intimidating place for someone aware of the history of Leica. Portraits of Knut’s illustrious relatives, as well as those of Oskar Barnack, Max Berek and Lihotsky looked down at us sternly from the walls. Knut him- self was very much at ease and quite pleasant with our group, engaging us in conversations about the company and family.
Fast forward about twenty years, and a call comes up on my phone from Germany. Who could this be calling me on a Sunday, from Germany? As Ed related in his piece on Knut, it was Knut himself on the line, introducing himself in his booming voice and asking if I would be interested in reviewing his most recent book for Viewfinder. Needless to say, I was floored and flattered at the same time. Of course, I would be happy to review his book! Business out of the way, a pleasant conversation ensued.
Fast forward again to last May. Knut had agreed to host my tour group in a visit to his childhood home, Haus Friedwart. We also visited the first Leitz Administration building next to the factory which was also the original home of the Leitz family under Ernst Leitz himself. Knut was in his element sharing stories of his mother, grandfather, uncles and others well known to us from the Leitz Pantheon. It was quite a treat for myself and my group. One thing that really struck me, aside from Knut’s enthusiasm sharing his stories, was how spry and nimble he was climbing up and down staircases, the grounds of Haus Friedwart and the climb up to the house itself from the old city gate (Kalsmunt Tor) next to the Admin building where he met us. He did much better than a few of us decades younger than himself! It was the experience of a lifetime, and I will never forget how gracious he was to us.
I will miss Knut and his congeniality on future visits to Wetzlar. I will miss his stories of his family and what it was like to live in such a famous house. We have all lost this last link with the famous family Leitz!