The Comedian Harmonists were a German-Jewish vocal sextet popular in the 1930s. They were known for their close harmonies, comedic performances, and wide repertoire of songs, including jazz, swing, and classical pieces.
The group formed in Berlin in 1927 and quickly rose to fame, winning over audiences with their talent and charm. They released several successful records and starred in several films.
However, their success came to an end with the rise of the Nazi Party. In 1933, the Comedian Harmonists were banned from performing in Germany because three of the members were Jewish. The group attempted to continue performing in other countries, but they were eventually forced to disband in 1940.
What happened to the individual members of the group after they broke up?
The individual members of the Comedian Harmonists went their separate ways after the group broke up. Some of them emigrated to other countries, while others stayed in Europe.
- Harry Frommermann emigrated to the United States where he was naturalized in 1944 before joining the US Army. In 1948, he received a telegram from Erich Collin that the new American Comedian Harmonists needed a new tenor buffo on their international tour. That group broke up immediately after the tour and Harry tried to start a new group with no success.
- Roman Cycowski became a cantor at a synagogue in Palm Springs, California and he became the last living member of The Comedian Harmonists (he died in 1998 in the United States).
- Erich Collin remained in the United States and worked as a musician and actor, even attempting to create a new singing group.
- Ari Leschnikoff returned to his native Bulgaria for some time. And because he was in debt to Robert Biberti, he transferred his share of the group’s royalties to him. In the last years of his life, he had unsuccessfully asked Robert Biberti to let him share in the royalties of the Comedian Harmonists but unfortunately died in poverty.
- Robert Biberti remained in Germany and worked as a musician and arranger. For 30 years, he went on to write articles about The Comedian Harmonists for the radio.
- Erwin Bootz left his wife, Ursula, and many accused him of leaving her out of fear of Nuremberg racial laws because she was Jewish but this was never confirmed. Erwin was drafted as a soldier but eventually emigrated to Canada before returning to Germany, where he worked as a composer and arranger.
All six members of the Comedian Harmonists survived the Holocaust. They never reunited after their final performance in 1934.
The Musical about The Comedian Harmonists
Starting performances on Broadway on October 18th is the first and only musical about this singing group – Harmony: A New Musical.
The complete Broadway cast includes Chip Zien as Rabbi, Sierra Boggess as Mary, Julie Benko as Ruth, Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, and Steven Telsey as the Comedian Harmonists, Allison Semmes as Josephine Baker, Andrew O’Shanick as Standartenfϋhrer, Zak Edwards, Dan Hoy, Bruce Landry, Rhonni Rose Mantilla, Daniel Z. Miller, Benjamin H. Moore, Matthew Mucha, Constantine Pappas, Kayleen Seidl, Kyla Stone, Bronwyn Tarboton, Kate Wesler, Stuart Zagnit, and Lee Zarrett.
To learn more about Harmony: A New Musical, click here.