Flora Fränkel was born on 20 May 1868 as the third of ten children of Emil Fränkel and Mathilde, née Levi-Sulzer, in Hohenems, Vorarlberg. In 1892 she married the knitwear manufacturer Eugen Wilhelm in Hohenems, where her children Henriette and Karl were born. Around 1900 Flora's family followed her parents to Vienna. Eugen Wilhelm emigrated in 1907 on his own to New York City, USA, where he died nine years later. In 1914 his daughter Henriette followed him, giving birth to her own daughter Frieda that year. Karl, an employee of the Zionistisches Landeskomitee, states that he was registered in Vienna from 1900 to 1934. After several acts of violence by the Nazis, he fled in 1934 to Budapest. Flora Wilhelm remained in Vienna, separated from her family.
After the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, she was subject to persecution as a Jew by the Nazis and was forced to move to a collective apartment at Seegasse 9 in the 9th district, from where she was deported to Theresienstadt in June 1942 and three months later to Treblinka, where she was murdered. In 1939 Flora Wilhelm had loaned ninety-three ethnographic objects from various parts of the world to the Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum of Ethnology) in Vienna. Provenance research has been unable to establish why and when the figures, jugs, bowls, containers, ceramics, chains, baskets, vases, fabrics, blankets, leather goods, bridles, shoes, weapons and musical instruments were collected by her. From 1971 to 1974, Alfred Janata, curator at the Völkerkundemuseum attempted to locate Flora Wilhelm's heirs with the aid of Sammelstelle A (an institution for asserting claims and disposing of property expropriated under the Nazi regime). In spite of correspondence with the son Karl Wilhelm in Budapest – he had been forced to work for several months in 1944 in the copper mines in Bor, Serbia, and survived the war in hiding – the objects remained in the Museum für Völkerkunde. It is not clear why they were not restituted. It was not until 1999, during the reorganization of the museum, that objects of various provenances were discovered again, identified from lists as having been loaned by Flora Wilhelm, photographed and packed in specially marked boxes. As the Art Restitution Advisory Board determined in 2004 that the loans did not come under the provisions of the Art Restitution Act, the objects owned by Flora Wilhelm have not yet been restituted and are still in the museum.