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Harry Frommermann

Harry Frommermann was born on October 12, 1906 in his parents’ house in Berlin-Mitte, Rosenthaler Straße 45. Harry’s father taught him music theory and harmony from an early age attending rehearsals with the Berlin Philharmonic under Arthur Nikisch and receiving piano lessons.

After 1924, Harry became enthusiastic about the music of the American group The Revelers and wrote arrangements in their style with the intention of founding a similar vocal ensemble. In December 1927 Harry Frommermann published an advertisement in the Berliner Lokalanzeiger looking for like-minded singers. After initial rehearsals, Frommermann and choral singer and pianist Theodor Steiner signed Robert Biberti, Ari Leschnikoff and Walter Nussbaum to their group in April 1928, which they renamed the Comedian Harmonists in September 1928.

The group with Robert Biberti (Bobby), Ari Leschnikoff (Lesh), Erich Collin (Erich), Roman Cycowski (Rabbi) and Erwin Bootz (Chopin) celebrated their first successes as pianists on cabaret stages and in revues in Berlin and recorded their first records. From January 1930 followed his own full-length concerts, numerous recordings and participation in several feature films. In May 1931, Frommermann married Marie Erna Elise Linn Eggstein, and they moved into their first apartment together at Bamberger Straße 8.

When the National Socialists seized power, the group encountered initial resistance, including abusive criticism, anti-Semitic accusations, and finally open hostilities and the first bans on performing, including on radio and film. According to the new legislation, only artists who were members of the Reich Chamber of Culture were allowed to perform in Germany – but Jews were forbidden from doing so. The attempt to exclusively deny engagements outside of Germany throughout 1934 did not improve the situation. Like Erich Collin and Roman Cycowski, Harry Frommermann was listed by the Reich Chamber of Culture as a provisional member in a “list of non-Aryans” and received the membership number 12823. When Biberti, Bootz and Leschnikoff received the written notification in February 1935, they were officially admitted to the Reich Chamber of Culture, but the admission of the “non-Aryan” members was rejected. So the group split up and Frommermann, Collin and Cycowski left Germany together with their wives to found a new group of the same name in Vienna. Harry and Erna Frommermann left most of their fortune and all of their home furnishings at Paulsborner Strasse 20 in Berlin.

The Frommermann family initially lived as a sublet at Fischerstiege 5/6 in downtown Vienna, later at Gustav-Mahler-Strasse 7 and finally in their own apartment at Wurzingergasse 4 in the 18th district. After Austria was annexed by Hitler’s Germany, Harry Frommermann was unable to return to Vienna and once again had to leave his belongings behind. The group first found asylum in London, Harry and Erna Frommermann lived in a boarding house on Fitzjohns Avenue. The new group has since performed all over the world as both Comedian Harmonists and Comedy Harmonists and has never returned to Germany. During a tour of Australia and New Zealand from the summer to the end of 1937, the idea of ​​settling in Australia was born. But the group traveled around the world again and only returned to Australia in June 1939. After a tour in the USA until the beginning of 1940, the group could not return to Europe or Australia because of the naval war and had to make ends meet with engagements in nightclubs. Due to various artistic and also interpersonal problems, the first signs of dissolution came about. After Rudolf Mayreder left in the summer of 1940, a new bass was incorporated. When Roman Cycowski left in the spring of 1941, the group finally disbanded. Harry Frommermann moved to New York with his wife and initially worked in a radio factory. At the same time, with the support of aid organizations, he tried to set up a new group, the Harmony Singers.

On May 15, 1943 Harry Frommermann joined the US Army and served in Jackson/Mississippi, where he was naturalized on January 13, 1944. He changed his family name, Max Harry Frommermann called himself Harry Maxim Frohman. In August 1945, Harry Frohman was discharged from the US Army as a Private First Class. In October he got a job as a translator at the Nuremberg trials and was thus able to return to Germany. From April 25, 1946 to December 1947 Harry Frohman was control officer of the US administration at the radio station RIAS Berlin. Here he took care of the programming and the interests of the German employees of the station. During this time he got in touch with Robert Biberti again and met his future partner Erika von Späth.

In 1948, Harry  received a telegram from Erich Collin. His new American Comedian Harmonists urgently needed a tenor buffo to continue their Scandinavian tour. So Harry Frohman traveled to Denmark and from September appeared with the American group in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, where some new recordings were made in February 1949. Because of artistic differences, the group broke up in Italy immediately afterwards.

In March 1950 he formed the group Harry Frohman And His Harmonists, with whom he made frequent radio appearances. But this group also broke up soon after.

Harry Frohman died on October 29, 1975 in Bremen. His grave is in the Bremen-Riensberg Cemetery.

Since September 7, 1990, there has been a commemorative plaque at Harry Frommermann’s former home and where the Comedian Harmonists was founded at Stubenrauchstraße 47 in Berlin-Friedenau, commemorating the founding of the world-famous vocal ensemble at the turn of the year 1927-28 and its forced separation in 1935.

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