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Bernhard Altmann Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25672

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes conversation among the family members, such as poems and congratulations for birthday celebrations as well as official papers, such as those used in migration, identification papers and certificates. Some members of the family, especially Karl Altmann and his son Bernhard Altmann, worked to document the family history, so part of the collection focuses on genealogy. A small collection of undated photos, most of them of family members, is also part of the collection.

Folder 1 contains material that was either produced by or written about Bernhard Altmann (1888-1960). The first document appearing in the collection is a looseleaf-notebook with notes taken by Bernhard Altmann about the years 1889-1927. Topics include, among others, his living situation, his school years, journeys and political events. This 45-page document is accompanied by a letter which was sent from Cecil Altmann, Bernhard Altmann's son, to his uncle Fritz Altmann in 1987 asking him to work on the incomplete memoirs of Bernhard Altmann.

Folder 1 also inncludes a text Bernhard Altmann wrote about the escape of "Fritz" (Fredrick, Friedrich) and Maria Altmann from Germany on the 21st and 22nd of October 1938 ("Die Geschichte der Flucht von Fritz und Maria aus Deutschland am 21. und 22. Oktober 1938"). Bernhard Altmann described his own escape from Vienna to Liverpool via Paris in spring 1938 and his efforts to support the Altmann family members such as his wife Nelly as well as his brother Max with his wife and child, his brother Julius and his brother Fritz and his wife Maria. In addition he supported Lieselotte and Clara Herlinger to leave Vienna in 1938.

Several obliging people took part in helping Fritz and Maria Altmann leave the country via Holland. Fritz was at first detained in the Dachau concentration camp before their escape but was freed through the enforced transfer of the BA textile factory. The couple, by that time married for 10 months, managed to leave Vienna supported by people from Germany and Holland, who accompanied them on their way across the border. The couple managed to take an airplane, chartered by Bernhard Altmann, from Holland to England.

Folder 1 moreover includes 5 glued obituaries from December 1960, commemorating the death of Bernhard Altmann in Zurich, among them articles from The New York Times and Herald Tribune.

The folder closes with a letter written by the noted Austrian poet Richard Beer-Hofmann to Bernhard Altmann in 1937, commemorating Bernhard's father Karl Chaskel Altmann. In this letter Richard Beer-Hofmann drew a warm and vivid picture of some weeks he spent with Karl Altmann on a journey to Palestine in 1936. He described Karl Altmann as a particularly affectionate and wise person and expressed his deep admiration for him. An unsigned introduction informs about the incidents that preceded the journey. It was initiated by Bernhard Altmann to distract his father who was heartbroken after the loss of his wife. Also included in the folder are a translation of the letter by Gerald Schaefer and a handwritten letter of appreciation for the translation from John Fitzgerald to the translator (dated in 1990).

Folder 2 contains private documents of Fritz (Fredrick/Friedrich) Altmann, among them a poem and the title page of a play produced by Fritz Altmann presenting some family members in varied roles. Moreover the folder includes a music score, which Fritz Altmann sent to Nelly (Altmann?) for her 90th birthday. The score includes the humorous poem, already mentioned in addition to some parts of a family theater play, again with different members of the family. The introduction to the score, written by Fritz Altmann, refers to the 19th of January as the date of Nelly's birthday and the wedding day of Karl Chaskel Altmann and Karoline Altmann.

Folder 3 includes official documents of Hans Carl Altmann, who was born July 14th 1915 in Vienna, the son of Bernhard and Nelly Altmann. The folder contains various records, among them a birth certificate and a marriage certificate from the beginning of 1938 with Johanna Margaretha Alice Saffir in Vienna. Furthermore it contains a driver's license and identification card from France (1938, 1942) a certificate of identity from 1946, a note on the naturalization papers of his wife Johanna and work-related contracts.

Folder 4 contains a report (2 transcripts in German, 1 in English) of Bernhard's father Karl Altmann "Diktat des Herrn Kommerzialrat Karl Altmann", dictated in 1935 or 1936, about the life and work of his father Moses Altmann, who was born in Jaroslau, Galizia. The family background of both parents, Moses Altmann and Clara Fleischer was orthodox and religious. Part of the report focuses on the description of the turpentine oil factory's working process; another part draws a picture of the life of the family, consisting of the parents, their daughters and their son Karl, who was born in 1864. In addition, the education the children received is described. After the marriage with Karoline Tischler in 1888 Karl moved to Przemysl, to live with Karoline and her family, who owned a knitwear business. Karl described life, work and the family of his wife. He struggled with several challenges in the knitwear business and in a wood company of a family member. After trying to enter the textile business in London, Karl went to New York, where he worked in several textile companies. He returned home in 1898, continuing his work in the knitwear business joined by his son Bernhard in the following years. His report ends in 1912.

The folder also includes a skit play in German, written in 1936 containing among others the role of Kommerzialrat Altmann.

Folder 5 contains 14 family photos and postcards of the Altmann family. Most of them show Hans and Fritz Altmann, the brothers of Bernhard Altmann. One photo of a group of four people has a handwritten letter of Hans Altmann to his mother on the reverse. The photos are undated; some of them name the respectively portrayed person, among them the abovementioned Hans and Fritz Altmann in addition to Trudi Altmann and Wolf Plecher. Two of the pictures show the grave of Karoline and Karl Altmann.


  • 1916-1987
  • Majority of material found within 1933-1966


Language of Materials

The collection is mainly in German and English. A small number of documents is in French.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Bernhard Altmann was born in Przemyśl, Galizia, Austria (today Przemyśl, Poland) on December 23, 1888 the son of Karl Chaskel Altmann and Karoline Keile Altmann. Karl Chaskel Altmann, who was born in Bachory (close to Oleszyce, Galizia) in 1864, was one among many members of the Altmann family engaged in the textile industry. Bernhard Altmann himself became a textile manufacturer in Vienna, where he and his family – his first wife Nelly Cornelia Altmann and several siblings – lived until 1938. He entered the Viennese textile business in 1915. In 1919 he established his first company, which expanded in Vienna itself as well as in other locations, among them Moscow, Paris and Liverpool. The company had grown to more than 1000 employees by the time it was "Aryanized" in 1938. Bernhard Altmann, who fled to Liverpool via Paris in 1938, supported several family members in escaping Vienna in 1938, among them his wife Nelly as well as his brothers Max with his wife and child, his brother Julius and his brother Fritz with his wife Maria.

After having fled Austria, Bernhard Altmann lived in several places. He left England for the United States in the late 1930s, where he started successful cashmere textile companies in Massachusetts, Texas and New York. Later he partly lived in Austria. Bernhard Altmann died in Zurich, Switzerland in 1960.

In 2015 the movie "Woman in Gold" directed by Simon Curtis, dealing with the story of the Altmann family was produced. It draws a picture of Maria Altmann, the wife of Bernhard's brother Fritz Altmann, and her efforts to get back several artworks by Klimt, stolen from the family during World War II.


0.25 Linear Feet


The collection holds papers, photographs, documents and correspondence pertaining to four generations of the Altmann family. Topics of the collection are, among others, the lives of the family members in Austria-Hungary, in pre-war Austria, in the emigration process and in the United States. Part of the material focuses on the family’s genealogy. The collection comprises correspondence, memoirs, personal and official papers, family photographs, postcards and some notes.


The collection is arranged in one series of five folders. Four pertain to family members and one to photos. The folders are arranged in alphabetical order. The contents of each folder are in chronological order ending with the latest date.

Related Material

The LBI library contains a book by Bernhard Altmann. Altmann, Bernhard: Drei Jahre Aufbauarbeit in Wien. New York n.p.1948 (HD 9999 K5 A4)

Processing Information

The collection was arranged by dividing the material into folders pertaining to four different family members and family photographs. Part of the material was previously arranged in this manner.

Guide to the Bernhard Altmann Family Collection 1916-1987 AR 25672
Processed by Sophia Stolf
© 2016
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from BernhardAltmannFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • November 2016:: dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States