The Wiener Library in London is the oldest institution for documenting the Nazi regime and its crimes. In 2016 the library received a private donation, the private archive of the late businessman Bernd Simon (1921–2015). Bernd Simon came from a Jewish family in Berlin and emigrated to Great Britain with his parents in the 1930s. In this estate, the Wiener Library team discovered the almost complete archive of the forgotten photographer Gerty Simon (1888–1970), Bernd Simon's mother. It consisted of over 350 original gelatin silver prints, along with exhibition catalogues, invitations and newspaper clippings.
This remarkable find testifies to Gerty Simon's successful career behind the camera. The people depicted on the prints are immediately recognizable: they include famous German personalities such as the physicists Albert Einstein and Max Planck, as well as the artists Käthe Kollwitz and Max Liebermann – alongside British personalities such as the actress Peggy Ashcroft and the politician Aneurin Bevan.
In 2019, the Wiener Library organized the first exhibition of Gerty Simon's photographs since her death in 1970. Research for the exhibition revealed some insights into Gerty Simon's life, from the beginning of her career and her many successes in Berlin in the 1920s to the Nazi’s seizure of power and her emigration to England.
As a continuation of the successful London presentation, the Liebermann Villa will present Gerty Simon to the Berlin audience. Based on Gerty Simon's 1929 photo portrait of Max Liebermann, visitors will have the chance to learn more about this remarkable German-Jewish photographer: from her career beginnings in Berlin in the 1920s, to a successful career as a portrait photographer, the subsequent persecution, exile, and her following time in the UK.