He was born in Bernburg (Saxony-Anhalt). After graduating from the Berlin Building School, he worked as a construction technician in Koblenz. In 1897, after obtaining the title of a construction master, he went to Malbork, where he became one of the associates of the head of the Castle Reconstruction Board, Conrad Steinbrecht.
In 1903, he became the conservator of monuments in West Prussia and from July 1st 1922, he headed the works at the castle. Under his supervision the last works at the Middle Castle were completed – the reconstruction of the presbytery of the chapel of St. Catherine’s Church, in 1926 the walls and towers of the Plauen Embankments, in 1931 the New Gate and in 1939 the last construction investment, i.e. the regothisation of a row of farm buildings in the Outskirts of the Castle.
As a conservator of monuments in the province under his control, he prepared catalogs of monuments, he was also the author of numerous monographs and articles devoted to various objects – churches, town halls, folk architecture, monuments, bells, etc. Each year of his work in Malbork ended with at least one publication. He is thought to have authored about 200 works. However, he devoted most of his attention to the art and history of the former monastic state. Being an expert on the history of the Malbork castle, he wrote a number of scientific studies and gave many lectures on the subject. He was widely recognized in the scientific community of his contemporaries in Germany.
From 1931, the castle he managed was subordinated to the Board of State Castles and Gardens, and in 1934 it was granted the status of the State Museum. Therefore, he belonged to the elite circle of institutions promoting culture in Germany that included only the 10 most important museums. It served as an interior museum, giving visitors a picture of the functioning of a medieval monastery and introducing the way of life of monk knights. The most valuable collections were military, most of which were purchased from the well-known East Prussian collector Theodor Blell. Another important collection was compiled out of the numismatic items collected and donated to the castle by Karl Adam Jaquet. Among the many monuments of Gothic art, three altars should be mentioned: Polyptych Grudziądzki (1370−80), the wings of the so-called The Hamburg Altar (1499) and the Tenkit Altar (1504). The castle library collected thousands of volumes devoted mainly to the history of the Teutonic Order, the history of art and material culture in its area. The library also kept a number of valuable archives. The archaeological collections were impressive, the core of which were historic architectural details from the former monastic state. Separate collections included: ceramics, stove tiles, portraits, postcards and furniture, most of which were copies of historic objects used as interior design elements.
In the 1930s and 1940s, in the era of the Nazi ideology prevailing in the country, Bernhard Schmid tried to maintain a neutral position and to protect the castle from being used for propaganda purposes. An improper solution to this issue could have cost him at least the loss of his job and livelihood. When there was a real threat of exposure to war damage, he led the action of securing the most valuable collections.
He left Malbork on January 24, 1945. A week later, the church and the main tower were almost completely destroyed and in February, the eastern wing of the Middle Castle and the Priest Tower, in which his rich book collection remained. He died and was buried in Husum, Schleswig-Holstein.
(compiled by R. Rzad)
Il. za: R. Zacharias, Bernhard Schmid (1872-1946). Preussischer Landeskonservator und Baumeister der Marienburg, [w:] Das Preussenland als Forschungsausgabe..., hg. B. Jähnig, G. Michels, Lüneburg 2000, s. 711.