The Family of Bernhard Bermann

Bernhard Bermann, a merchant, was born on 03.06.1849 in Markt Berolzheim, the son of Nehemia and Karolina Bermann. He was married to Johanna Neuburger from Thalmässing. She was the daughter of the merchant Josef Veis Neuburger and his wife Maria Mina, née Süß, from Regensburg.

Bernhard und Johanna had eight children:

1. David, born on 02.07.1879 in Gunzenhausen, was murdered in Viechtach on 18.11.1902.

2. Viktor, born on 25.04.1881 in Gunzenhausen, died as a soldier in the First World War on August 16, 1916 in Maurepas (France).

3. Sigmund, born on 29.07.1882 in Gunzenhausen, stayed here as shoe dealer and in 1920 he married Lina Lemle, born on 12.01.1894 in Fischach. Both disappeared in the Piaski concentration camp and were declared dead in 1945.

4. Sophia, born on January 14, 1884 in Gunzenhausen, married the cattle dealer Leopold Firnbacher in Regensburg in 1906. The couple had three children: Max was born in April 1907, daughter Irma in 1909 and Fritz, the youngest son, in April 1924. Leopold Firnbacher died of natural causes in 1937 and is buried in Regensburg. Sophia was still living in Regensburg in 1939. According to her grandson Leigh Firn, she was transported from Regensburg to the Piaski camp in Poland on April 3, 1942. Her last message came from there on April 13, 1942. There are no documents about her subsequent fate, but several thousand Jews were murdered in what was then the Jewish cemetery in Piaski. It is therefore assumed that she also died there.

  • Their son Max was able to leave the country in time. He emigrated to Palestine in 1938 and later to New Zealand where he settled with his family.
  • Daughter Irma, who had married the doctor Erich Wiesen in 1932, lived far away from Regensburg in Eisenach, where their son Peter was born in 1934. In 1944 the Wiesen family was deported to Auschwitz. Thirty-five-year-old Irma and ten-year-old Peter were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Erich Wiesen survived Auschwitz, left Germany and spent the rest of his life in New York.
  • The 15 year old Fritz was able to emigrate to Palestine in 1939 and later he went to New Zealand to his brother Max. We received the tragic family history of the Firnbachers from his grandson Dylan Firn in this form. It can be read here.

5. Lina, born on 19.03.1885 in Gunzenhausen, married the merchant Heinrich Flink from Altenmuhr in 1909. She, together with her husband Heinrich and their son Max fled Germany in the 1930s and settled in Atlanta Georgia. Lina died in 1968. Their son Max born 3 Sept 1911, died 3 Jan 2000. He in turn had a son Barry born 6 October 1951. Barry and his family live in the Atlanta area.

6. Ida, born on August 31, 1888 in Gunzenhausen, married Siegfried Luchs. The couple lived in Buttenwiesen around 1939. Both were murdered in Piaski at the beginning of April 1942 together with Ida's sister Sophia. They had two children: Brunhilda was born on April 9, 1915. She was murdered in Auschwitz, probably in 1943, together with her husband Herbert Ackermann.
Son Jack, born May 25, 1921, fled to New York, USA in the 1930s, was unmarried, worked as a furrier and died January 15, 2010.

7. Josef, born on 16.06.1890 in Gunzenhausen, died there on 24.12.1890.

8. Klara, born on 29.09.1893 in Gunzenhausen. On 25.04.1921 she married the merchant Anton Spitz, born on 01.07.1885 in Weiden. Around 1946 she was living in Atlanta/Georgia USA and later moved to Miami/Florida to be nearer to her daughter. She had two children, Babette known as Babs, and Hans known as John.  Both were without children. John died 7 Nov 2014 and Babs 23 June 2016.

When Bernhard Bermann moved from Markt Berolzheim to Gunzenhausen in the 1870s, he initially rented accommodation at Burgstallstraße 4 from the Jewish Eisen family. In 1878 he registered his first business, a fabrics store. During this time he married Johanna and initially lived with his young family on Burgstallstrasse, where they traded in cloth, cut goods, wool and cotton yarn.

At around the same time, Bernhard's parents moved from Markt Berolzheim to Gunzenhausen, probably because their only son lives here with his family. Nehemia (d. 1898) and Karolina (d. 1904) live at Luitpoldstrasse 5, where they also run the fabric trade as cloth makers.

In 1881 he bought a vacant piece of land at Auergasse 3, on which the city's old synagogue had stood until 1880. After its demolition, he was able to build a residential and commercial building on this site. In 1883 he registered a new trade, trading in leather and shoemakers' supplies.
In 1888, Max Neuburger, his wife Johanna's brother, married Fanny Rosenfelder from Gunzenhausen. He ran the leather trade together with his brother-in-law Bernhard.
It was not until 1902 that the Bermanns decided to also sell ready-made shoes and rented a shop at Marktplatz 22 for this purpose.

In 1913 the two sons Sigmund and Viktor bought the property at Gerberstrasse 8, which they converted and opened the Bermann shoe shop.

As Viktor was killed in 1916 in the first World War, his share passed to his parents, however as of 1919 Sigmund became sole owner of the property.

The parents continued to live at Auergasse 3, but the mother Johanna died in 1920 and the house was sold in 1922.  Father Bernhard moved to his daughter Lina in Altenmuhr and he died there in 1930.

On 25.09.1935 Sigmund Bermann and his wife Lina sold the house and shoe shop at Gerberstrasse 8 for 26.000 RM to Gustav Hertlein. They left the town and moved to Regensburg, probably to his sister Sophia Firnbacher.

But from there they were deported to the Piaski concentration camp, where they must have been killed as they were declared dead on 08.04.1945.

Autoren: Serdar Ceylan and Alexander Mederer

Descendants of the Bermann Family

In 2012 a descendant of the Bermann family contacted us, John Spitz from South Carolina.

He wrote

I have some information for you regarding the family history of the Bermanns, as I am the son of Klara Bermann, born in 1893.  My older sister Babette Wilmers is living in California. I live in South Carolina.  We were born in Weiden/Oberpfalz in 1922 and 1926.

I recall visiting Gunzenhausen, at age 5 or 6, several times, and remember my grandfather.

I recall the house and the exterior of the shop. My recollection of Gerberstrasse is more of a square (Platz) than a street.

We visited the Flink family in Altenmuhr, my mother's sister.

My father, together with bis brother and sister, owned and operated:
a retail store selling men's, women's, children's shoes
a wholesale store selling leather, tools, supplies to cobblers (Schuster) in the surrounding villages and towns
a storage facility (Lager) for cow - and calf - hides, which were treated and then shipped to shoe-factories
a movie-theatre

We emigrated, more accurately, escaped three times:
from Weiden to Marienbad, in January 1934
from Marienbad to Prag, in September 1938, 24 hours ahead of the German army
from Prag to New York, via Amsterdam, London, Southampton, in March 1939, 12 days ahead of the German army.

In Atlanta, Georgia
The first year, my father worked as a nightwatchman, and my mother and sister as seamstresses in a textile factory.
Then, my father was able to secure a loan, and we bought and operated a grocery (Lebensmittel) and meat market (Metzgerei) for 10 years, when my parents were able to retire, in 1950.
In the store we all worked - my sister until she married and moved to Miami in 1942. The store was open from 7 AM until 7 PM, from Monday to Friday, and from 7 AM to 10 PM on Saturday.
There was a full-time employee, the butcher (Metzger) and two part-time helpers on Saturday.

My sister had no further schooling in the USA.
I attended Duke University and received the BA degree in 1948 in Political Science.
I worked 3 years for the government, 1949-1952, in Germany (Heidelberg), was in the military, US Army, in 1954 and 1955, in Germany (Huenfeld), and worked in department-store merchandising and buying from 1956 to 1961 in the US..
Returned to school in 1962, at the University of Tennessee, where I received the PhD in Economics in 1967.

Afterwards I worked at Roanoke College.

Our mother died in 1982 in Miami…. Neither my wife and I, nor my sister have children…. My wife and I visited Gunzenhausen in 1992 and were received at the Town Hall.

In May 2013 John Spitz sent us this photo of the Bermann family (taken around 1900).  From left to right :

Photo of the Bermann family (taken around 1900)

Ida, perished in Piaski
Mother Johanna, died 1920
David, robbed and murdered 1912
Viktor, killed in battle 1916
Father Bernhard, died 1930
Sigmund, perished in Piaski
Klara, died Miami 1982 (mother of John Spitz)
Lina, died around 1962, Atlanta
Sophia, perished in Piaski (grandmother of Leigh Firn).

Dr. Leigh Firn was the first descendant of the Bermann family who visited the homeland of his ancestors who lived here at Auergasse 3 and Gerberstraße 8.

Here the couple is standing in front of the house Auergasse 3 that was built by their ancestors on the site of the old synagogue about 1880.

Leigh came from Boston with his wife Karen, who works as a pediatrician in Boston. He is the grandson of Sophia Bermann from Auergasse 3, who married Leopold Firnbacher from Regensburg and went missing in the Piaski concentration camp in 1943.

Their son Max Firnbacher emigrated to Palestine because of the Hitler regime, there he met his wife and they both moved to New Zealand six months later. They had looked for the country on the globe that was furthest away from Germany.

Leigh Firn was born, grew up, went to school and studied law in the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. He travelled to various countries in the diplomatic service.

When he was in the USA, he began studying medicine, became an internist and worked at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His area of ​​responsibility was to check whether the process of medical experiments on test subjects was structured in an ethically correct manner.

He is now retired and still lives in Boston. The couple have three grown children and spend the winter every year in New Zealand, where they own a house, as Leigh's parents lived there until their death.

Leigh has been researching the history of his ancestors and family relationships worldwide for almost 50 years.

What was new to us was that he is related to Richard Hellmann, whose wife Betty, née Löwensteiner from Markt Berolzheim, had a maternal uncle who lived in Regensburg. This was Leopold Firnbacher, who married Sophia Bermann - grandparents of Leigh Firn.

He is in good contact with Betty's son, Stanley Hellmann from Baltimore, his second cousin.

Betty’s brother also emigrated to the USA where his son Steven M. Lowenstein became a professor of German history. His main area of ​​interest was the history of Jews in Germany, about which he wrote several books. Some of them were also published in German.


After his return to the USA, Leigh Firn decided to have a memorial plaque made for the Jewish cemetery. His ancestors' gravestones had been broken down and destroyed by the Nazis.

In March 2023 it was attached to the cemetery wall by Steinmetz Roll.