Lisbeth Birman-Oestreicher
Visual biography

Lisbeth Oestreicher was born in 1902 in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic). Her father, Karl Oestreicher, died in 1915 during the First World War shortly before the birth of her sister Marie.
After completing secondary school in Carlsbad, she attended art schools in Munich and Vienna. During her holidays she worked at home designing and making women’s knitwear. While on a family visit to Berlin in 1925, she was introduced to the ideas of the Bauhaus at a lecture by Walter Gropius. The following year she became a student in the textile department at the Bauhaus in Dessau. She received her diploma in 1930. During her time there she designed curtain and furniture fabrics for several German textile manufacturers.
At the end of 1930 she attended the wedding of her brother Felix in Amsterdam. While in the Netherlands, she showed her designs to several textile companies in Twente. She received enough commissions from them to establish her own studio as a freelance textile designer in Amsterdam. Her sister Marie joined her there in 1937 after completing her training as a photographer in Vienna. Together, Lisbeth and Marie contributed to magazines such as De Libelle under the name ‘Model en Foto Austria’.
In May 1940 the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. When the occupying forces made it obligatory for Jews to report to the Westerbork transit camp in 1942, Lisbeth did so. Her sister Marie joined the resistance.
Lisbeth managed to prolong her stay in Westerbork by knitting sweaters for the wife of the camp’s commandant Albert Konrad Gemmeker. Since none of the sweaters were finished at the time of successive transports to Germany, Lisbeth saved herself and her future husband Otto Birman a chemical engineer, from being sent to the gas chambers. She and Otto were married in Westerbork on May, 6 1945. In 1947, they decided to take in my two sisters and me. Their house in Amersfoort became our home.
After the war, Lisbeth designed knitwear that was sold at Metz & Co in Amsterdam, which had established itself as the leading retailer of modernist furniture, fabrics, clothing and household items in the 1920s.
Gradually Lisbeth grew less interested in designing and became active in UNICEF and later AMNESTY International, activities that she hoped would contribute to ‘a better world’. She did that in her own measured and intelligent fashion, seldom in the spotlight, but with clarity and conviction. She retained her interest in art and literature until late in life and maintained friendships with Gunta Stölzl, her textile teacher at the Bauhaus, and with fellow Bauhaus alumni Andor and Eva Weininger. She also kept in contact with the Dutch designers Andries Copier and Kitty van der Mijll Dekker.In Amersfoort she was visited frequently by friends and acquaintances from the Bauhaus, including Tut Schlemmer, the wife of Oscar Schlemmer, and Gertrud Arndt, Gunta Stölzl and the Weiningers.
Later in life, Lisbeth turned back to textiles and created hand-made bedspreads, wall hangings and clothes for family and friends.
Works by Lisbeth Oestreicher can be found in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Textielmuseum in Tilburg and the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin, Germany.

Biography of Lisbeth Birman-Oestreicher 1902-1989

1902 born in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic)
1918-1926 studies art in Vienna and Prague
1926-1930 studies at the Bauhaus in Dessau (Germany)
1931-1942 freelance designer in her own studio in Amsterdam
1937-1942 runs ‘Model en Foto Austria’ with her sister Marie
1942-1945 interned in Westerbork concentration camp
1945 marriage to Otto Birman, moves to Amersfoort
1947 cares for the daughters of her brother Felix Oestreicher
1950 member of the Gebonden Kunsten in de federatie (GKf)
1945-1989 lives and works in Amersfoort
1989 dies at home in Amersfoort