In celebration of the Berman Museum’s 25th year of operation, Anniston Museums and Gardens will present a monthly series on the history and interworking of the museum. Our first article focuses on the early days of our founder, Farley Berman.
Farley Lee Berman was born to Jacob and Etta (Massell) Berman, two Lithuanian immigrants, in Anniston, Alabama on September 9, 1910. Farley attended Anniston public schools while growing upand was an active member of Temple Beth-El, the Anniston synagogue where his parents were founding members. After high school, Farley attended the University of Alabama and Emory University, earning a law degree. In 1934, he opened a law office with his uncle, Samuel Massell, in Atlanta, Georgia.
The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor changed not only the world but also Farley Berman’s life. Already a member of the National Guard, Farley joined the U.S. Army attached to the Ordnance Corps. The military soon noticed his intelligence and talent and they transferred him to the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.). He was stationed in Italy, the Middle East, Japan, and eventually North Africa, where he was assigned to reveal a double agent. His primary target: a French resistance agent named Germaine Louise Kinne.
Simultaneously, Parisian Germaine (b. 1908) was assigned to verify that the American agent Berman was not a double agent. The two met, realized neither was a double agent and struck up a friendship. Farley and Germaine fell in love and married in New York in 1948. The family settled in Farley’s hometown of Anniston. He took over the family business, Berman’s Department Store, after the death of his father. At the outbreak of the Korean War, Berman went back to active duty, remaining on reserve status in the years after.
To uncover the next chapter of the Bermans’ story and to learn about their collecting, make sure to read next month’s article.