Manfred Altman(n) was born into a Jewish family in Salzburg, Austria on 30 October 1911. In 1920 his father was appointed Chief Rabbi of Trier and the family moved to Germany, where Manfred later studied law and philosophy in Frankfurt, Berlin and Marburg, then, briefly, having sketched and painted from his early years, art in Holland, where he settled in 1934 as a lawyer for a Jewish company. Fleeing Nazi persecution, he fled to England in 1939, and in 1940 was briefly interned as an 'enemy alien' on the Isle of Man. Afterwards, he became a businessman, taking British citizenship in 1947. He served on the Ben Uri council from 1958 to 1998 and the Art Committee from 1967 to 1993. In his later years, he helped develop the Institute of Jewish Studies at University College London, founded originally by his brother, Alexander, in Manchester in 1954. In 1959 the institute was transferred to UCL and Manfred became honorary secretary, succeeding Lord Mishcon to the Chairmanship in 1988. In 1992, he was appointed an honorary fellow of UCL, which now houses his archive; his oral testimony is held by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. Manfred Altman died in London, England on 20 July 1999.
Manfred's older brother, Alexander Altmann, fled to England from Berlin in 1938 and was appointed Communal Rabbi of Manchester, later becoming Professor of Jewish Philosophy at Brandeis University, Massachusetts.