1898 - 1944
Otti (Otilija) Berger (b. 1898 in Zmajevac – d. 1944 in Auschwitz) was a Croatian designer whose artistic and creative potential was largely formed during her stay at the textile workshop of Bauhaus.
Having completed the Royal Academy of Art and Applied Arts in Zagreb (1922-1926), she began to study at the textile workshop of Bauhaus in Dessau early in 1927, where she graduated in 1930. At the beginning of her studies, she attended an introductory course or “Vorkurs” offered by László Moholy-Nagy and lectures by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, which largely influenced her later work. Soon after graduation, in autumn 1931, at the recommendation of the then head Gunta Stölzl, she took over the leadership of Bauhaus’ weaving workshop, but even though she managed the workshop all by herself, with all its educational aspects related to pedagogy, production, and practice, she was never officially appointed its head. While working with the students, she developed her own curriculum, based on the experience she had gathered as a former Bauhaus student and an experienced textile designer.
She experimented with new, synthetic materials when creating fabrics, exploring their potentials for industrial production. ..She collaborated with textile factories in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, which produced fabrics following her innovative design solutions, which she signed with her initials: "o.b."
Having left Bauhaus in 1932, Otti Berger opened her own “Textile Atelier” in Berlin, successfully collaborating with a number of textile companies. She experimented with new, synthetic materials when creating fabrics, exploring their potentials for industrial production. She collaborated with textile factories in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, which produced fabrics following her innovative design solutions, which she signed with her initials: “o.b.”
Because of her Jewish origins, in 1936 she was prohibited to work in Germany and was forced to close down her company. Most of the Bauhaus professors, including her fiancé, architect Ludwig Hilberseimer, managed to obtain a visa for the USA. Otti Berger attempted the same, and in 1938 even received an invitation by László Moholy-Nagy to New Bauhaus in Chicago. While looking for work and waiting for her visa, she lived briefly in London on several occasions, but because of her mother’s illness and the impossibility of finding an employment in England, she returned to Zmajevac in 1938. In April 1944, she was deported with her family to Auschwitz, where she died.