Bermann, Wilhelm

Wilhelm Bermann

Frauenfigur in mittelalterlichem Kostüm, kolorierte Zeichnung mit Rahmen und Beschriftung

15 November 1874 Temeschburg / Temesvár, Hungary (now Timișoara, Romania) – deported to Litzmannstadt on 15 October 1941, died before 8 May 1945

Around 1900, Wilhelm Bermann moved with his wife Sidonie, née Silbermann, from Temesvár to Vienna. They lived with their four children at Kasernengasse 4 in the 6th district. From 1930, Wilhelm Bermann was sole proprietor of Werkstätte für dekorative Kunst KG, which specialized in theatre accoutrements. After the annexation of Austria to the Nazi German Reich, the business no longer received orders because Bermann was regarded as Jewish under the Nuremberg laws. In order to raise funds, he offered model sketches for theatre costumes, known as figurines, for sale to the National Library (NB) theatre collection. In 1938 and 1939, the NB purchased 1,604 drawings and prints from Bermann. The company's assets, including 20,000 model drawings and 2,400 photos, were valued on the basis of the asset declaration submitted in July 1938 at around 31,000 Reichsmarks, as against liabilities amounting to 29,800 Reichsmarks. In September 1938, Theaterkunst GmbH from Berlin aryanized Bermann's company, with its inventory and several thousand model drawings for 21,500 Reichsmarks, but did not assume the liabilities. Werkstätte für dekorative Kunst was deleted from the commercial register in November 1938. The proceeds of sale were probably transferred directly to the frozen account of the Vermögensverkehrsstelle (Property Transaction Office) and used to pay off the outstanding debts and for discriminatory levies by the Nazi state, such as the Judenvermögensabgabe (Jewish Asset Levy). In 1941 Wilhelm and Sidonie Bermann and their daughter Johanna were forced to move to a collective apartment at Judengasse 5 in the 1st district. Their eldest son Friedrich survived in exile in Algeria, and nothing is known about son Alfred. Daughter Margarethe had already died in 1924. Just before their deportation on 15 October 1941 to Litzmannstadt ghetto, the Bermanns signed a "special authorization" for the transfer of their remaining assets (two beds and two crates) to the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration). Their whereabouts are unknown.

In 1948 Friedrich Bermann had his parents and sister Johanna declared dead by the Landgericht (provincial court) in Vienna, which stated that they were not alive after 8 May 1945. That same year, he applied for restitution of the company, which ended in 1951 in a settlement before the Restitution Commission at the Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen (provincial court for civil law matters). Theaterkunst GmbH undertook to pay 15,000 schillings, and Friedrich Bermann waived any further claims in return. After Theaterkunst GmbH became insolvent in 1953, Wiener Theaterkunst-Werkstätte Karl Lambert Hofer took over the bankruptcy assets. In 1959 and 1961 the Theatre Collection of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (ÖNB) (Austrian National Library) purchased 16,000 figurines, costumes and costume components that had belonged to Bermann's company. These objects are now in the Österreichisches Theatermuseum (Austrian Theatre Museum), which houses the former ÖNB theatre collection. As Friedrich Bermann had waived all claims in 1951 to the assets of Theaterkunst GmbH, the subsequent acquisition of the collection was not an expropriation in the meaning of the Art Restitution Act. Following the provenance research at the Theatre Museum under the 1998 Art Restitution Act, it was decided in 2008 that 1,553 drawings purchased directly from Bermann's company in 1938/39 should be returned to his heirs. In autumn 2020, the Art Restitution Advisory Board recommended the return of a further fifty-one figurines found during the preparations for restitution.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Beiratsbeschluss Wilhelm und Sidonie Bermann, 21.11.2008, URL: (28.1.2021).

Beiratsbeschluss Wilhelm Bermann, 20.9.2020, URL: (28.1.2021).



ÖNB-Archiv, Allgemeine Verwaltungs- und Korrespondenzakten, K 6, Zl. 1.156/1938.

OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, K. 575, St. 469.
OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, FLD, K. 560, Zl. 14.131
OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, Gewerbe, K. 193, Zl. 1.128
OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, VA 4.666, Wilhelm Bermann.

ÖTM-Archiv, Akzessionsbücher 1938-1939.

WStLA, Handelsgericht Wien, A 43A Registerakten A 67/5a, Werkstätte für dekorative Kunst.
WStLA, Handelsgericht Wien, A 47A Registerakten 14.874, Wiener Theaterkunst-Werkstätte Karl Lambert Hofer.
WStLA, Handelsgericht Wien, A 48B Registerakten 4.416, Werkstätten für dekorative Kunst.
WStLA, Handelsgericht Wien, Firmenbuch, C20/223, A 67/5a, Werkstätte für dekorative Kunst.
WStLA, Historische Wiener Meldeunterlagen, Meldeauskunft Wilhelm Bermann.
WStLA, LG für Zivilrechtssachen, 48 T 6.796/1947, 6.794/1947, Erkenntnis über den Beweis des Todes.
WStLA, M.Abt. 119, A41, VEAV 1.620, 6. Bezirk, Wilhelm Bermann.