Roman Josef Cycowski
Roman Josef Cycowski grew up in Łódź (Poland), which was then under Russian sovereignty, and he began singing in the synagogue at an early age.
During World War I, Roman learned the German language from a German officer. In 1920 Cycowski left Łódź, to live in Germany. After a first job as a singer in the synagogue in Beuthen, he was hired by various theaters as a chorus singer and smaller roles. In 1926 he began studying music in Berlin. His aversion to Poland and the loss of Polish citizenship following his refusal to perform military service prevented him from ever visiting his family.
In Berlin he initially lived on savings from his time as an opera singer, later he sang to silent films in cinemas. During an engagement at the Great Theater he met Ari Leschnikoff and Robert Biberti . Through the two became the Comedian Harmonists in early 1928. In 1935 the ensemble was banned because of its Jewish members. Cycowski emigrated to Vienna together with Harry Frommermann and Erich A. Collin. From Vienna and later from London, they managed an international career with new members. Under the name “Comedy Harmonists” they toured a.o. Australia, South America and the Soviet Union. In London, Cycowski married his longtime girlfriend Maria/Mary Panzram, who – although of non-Jewish faith – had emigrated with him. In 1940, while on tour through the USA, the German submarine war prevented the ensemble from leaving the country, which soon disbanded in the face of an increasingly anti-German environment. Cycowski settled in Los Angeles in 1941. He started a nightclub but soon went bankrupt.
Erich Collin tried together with Harry Frommermann to build a new ensemble. However, Roman Cycowski turned him down. The project failed.
Following the death of his father, Roman accepted the post of cantor of the orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles. After World War 2, he learned that three of his siblings had fallen victim to the Nazi genocide. Only one sister had survived in Auschwitz. In 1947 he became cantor of Temple Beth Israel in San Francisco. In 1971, at the age of 70, he resigned his position as cantor and moved to Palm Springs with his wife. There he soon took over a position as cantor again for the love of his profession. On November 9, 1998 he died in Palm Springs at the age of 97. He was the last living of the six Comedian Harmonists. His grave is in Desert Memorial Park Cemetery in Palm Springs.