Find out more about our founder families, who support our museums and research institutions.
The Reiss siblings’ home established itself as the center of social life in Mannheim from the 1890s onward. Carl Reiss donated large sums to beautify the city, build monuments, purchase important works of art, and sustain cultural and charitable organizations. With his sister’s consent, he ultimately willed his entire estate to the city of Mannheim in 1913, stipulating that the majority be used to establish a Reiss-Museum in Mannheim. The two World Wars delayed this project. Not until 1957 could the historic Zeughaus, which thenceforth bore the name Reiss Museum, be rebuilt with funds from their foundation.
Anna Reiß (1836 – 1915) started performing theater at an early age and was hired as a singer in Schwerin. She withdrew from life on the stage after just a few years but remained loyal to the artistic scene in Mannheim. A theater connoisseur and critic, she was a regular at the National Theater, had her own box in the first tier, and frequently received artists at her home.
Carl Reiß (1843 – 1914) had a career as a Mannheim businessman, politician and patron of culture. After graduating from the University of Heidelberg with degrees in law and political science, Carl Reiss spent several years abroad in Palermo, Bordeaux, Paris and London before returning to Mannheim. Other ventures took him to Egypt, North Africa and the USA as well as on a world tour together with his sister Anna Reiss.
Reiss attained high standing in Mannheim as the founder of and partner in major businesses. A financier, he was a member of the management of several banks. He took advantage of his excellent connections to the family of the grand duke and the government of Baden to benefit his hometown in civic politics and additionally represented the city of Mannheim’s interests as its delegate to Baden’s first and second chambers.
In 2001, Curt Engelhorn (1926 - 2016) fulfilled his promise to make an large donation to the city in gratitude for his business success. He endowed a foundation for the Reiss Museum in Mannheim with over € 25 million, unparalleled in the German museum scene in recent years.
Curt Glover Engelhorn, great grandson of BASF founder Friedrich Engelhorn, was born in Munich in 1926. He majored in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He started working at the former C.F. Boehringer & Söhne GmbH in 1955 and rose to become its CEO within five years. Under his management, the hitherto medium-sized business grew to become a global concern. Engelhorn headed Boehringer Mannheim (now Roche) until it was sold in 1997. Family ties and his career as a businessman kept his relationship with the city extremely close.
In 2001, he endowed a foundation for the Reiss-Museum in Mannheim with over € 25 million, something unparalleled in the German museum scene in recent years. The eponymous Curt-Engelhorn-Stiftung für die Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen funds various exhibition projects and this institution’s research. Together with his wife Heidemarie Engelhorn, Curt Engelhorn was actively involved in the development of the foundation and the museum. The two of them augmented the foundation with significant funds on the occasion of CES’s tenth anniversary in 2011.
The successful businessman and exceptional patron Curt Engelhorn died at the age of ninety on October 13, 2016. The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, the Curt-Engelhorn-Stiftung and the Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie remember him as a generous and perspicacious patron who enriched arts and sciences in the region extraordinarily and honor his memory with deep gratitude.
Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto (1927 – 2022) established the Brombeeren Foundation in 2013 in memory of her husband. An incorporated non-profit foundation, the Brombeeren Foundation promotes the activities of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in the fields of fine arts and cultural history as well as scholarship and research.
Peter Engelhorn (died 1991), great grandson of BASF founder Friedrich Engelhorn and cousin of Curt Engelhorn, was a partner in the former pharmaceutical company Boehringer Mannheim (now Roche). He married publisher and editor Traudl Vechiatto, originally from Vienna, in 1955. Their marriage produced four daughters. Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto (1927 – 2022) established the Brombeeren-Stiftung in 2013 in memory of her husband. The incorporated non-profit Brombeeren-Stiftung funds activities of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in the fields of cultural history and art as well as scholarship and research. Regarded in scholarly and cultural circles as a quiet sponsor, donor and patron, Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto had very close ties to Mannheim. Her deceased husband had been one of the co-founders of the Friends of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen. The Peter & Traudl Engelhornhaus will be opened 22 January 2023 in the museum quarter of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen for the foundation’s exhibition activities. Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto had devoted herself to the foundations and associations even more since Peter Engelhorn’s death in 1991. Together with her family, she supported numerous research projects, publications, scholarly conferences and cultural projects in the field of music, among others, through her immaterial and material gifts. She also supported young scientists working in biotechnology, genetic engineering and life sciences. On 22 September 2022 Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto died at the age of 95. The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, the Brombeeren-Stiftung and all other foundations and institutes associated with the museum mourn the loss of the generous patron and commemorate this extraordinary woman with deep gratitude.
The Bassermann family of merchants in Mannheim rose economically and socially in the 18th century. Ellen Bassermann (photo), a pianist and great-great-granddaughter of Wilhelmine Bassermann (née Reinhardt) established the Bassermann Cultural Foundation of Mannheim in 2008 to support the Reiss Engelhorn Museen.
The Bassermann name stands for an illustrious family of Mannheim merchants that produced two lines. One of the lines is named after a stately home on Mannheim’s market square in R1 – the Bassermann am Markt line. Friedrich Ludwig Bassermann (1782 – 1865) married Wilhelmine Reinhardt (1787 – 1869), daughter of Mannheim mayor Johann Wilhelm Reinhardt. Friedrich Daniel Bassermann (1811 – 1855) arguably stands out among the many sons and daughters from this union as the most prominent member of the family. Most notably, he demonstrated his abilities as chairman of the constitutional committee at the Frankfurter Parliament in St. Paul’s Church in the years 1848-49. Friedrich Daniel had sold his “Drug and Chemical Store” in R1 to his younger brother Julius Heinrich Bassermann (1818 – 1891) and his former traveling salesman August Friedrich Herrschel. Other members of the family shaped the city’s history. Deserving of mention are: Dr. August Bassermann (1847 – 1931) and Albert Bassermann (1867 – 1952), who had close ties with Mannheim National Theater.
Ellen Bassermann (1925 – 2017), pianist and great-great-granddaughter of Wilhelmine Bassermann (née Reinhardt), established the Bassermann-Kulturstiftung Mannheim in 2008 to support the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen. She primarily patronized music and the history of music. She died at the age of ninety-one on February 4, 2017. The Bassermann-Kulturstiftung Mannheim and the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen mourn the loss its generous and major benefactor of music and arts and honor her memory with deep gratitude. She enriched the city of Mannheim and the region extra-ordinarily.
Klaus Tschira (1940 - 2015) established the non-profit Klaus Tschira Foundation, headquartered in the Bosch Villa in Heidelberg, with his own funds in 1995. The foundation promotes the natural sciences, computer science, and mathematics and envourages new forms of science education. The most advanced complex of laboratories and research offices for scientific dating in Germany, the Klaus Tschira Physical Dating Laboratory funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the Curt Engelhorn Foundation is located at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen.
Klaus Tschira was born in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1940. A physicist, he established the non-profit Klaus Tschira Stiftung gemeinnützige GmbH (Klaus Tschira Foundation), headquartered in the Bosch Villa in Heidelberg, with his own funds in 1995. The foundation promotes the natural sciences, computer science and mathematics and encourages new forms of science education. Its nationwide activities begin in preschools and continue into schools, colleges and research organizations. It supports both the compilation and comprehensible presentation of research findings. The most advanced complex of laboratories and research offices for scientific dating in Germany, the Klaus-Tschira-Archäometrie-Zentrum (Klaus Tschira Physical Dating Laboratory) at the University of Heidelberg (based in Mannheim), funded by the Klaus Tschira Stiftung and the Curt-Engelhorn-Stiftung, is located at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen. Dr. h.c. Klaus Tschira was presented with numerous accolades for his dedicated work, including the German Cross of Merit, First Class and the Association of German Foundations’ Benefactors Award.
A successful career as a businessman preceded his stage of life as a philanthropist. After earning a degree in physics, Klaus Tschira worked as a systems consultant at IBM in Mannheim until 1972 when he and four partners founded a successful and rapidly growing software company, Systeme, Anwendungen, Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung GmbH (SAP).
Klaus Tschira died unexpectedly and prematurely on March 31, 2015. He was a generous patron and magnificent human being from whose vision of vibrant scholarship we have consistently been permitted to profit. The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, the Curt-Engelhorn-Stiftung and the Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie are deeply indebted to him.