Dr. Martin Friedmann (1895-1943)

The Kapellmeister, conductor and composer Dr. Martin Friedmann, who worked at the Landestheater Coburg between September 1919 and May 1921, was born in Leipzig on January 3, 1895, son of consul and merchant Jacob Friedmann and his wife Antonie, née Scheidling. After studying law and music, he was drafted into military service and was temporarily deployed as a medic during the First World War.
After a first engagement at the “Intimes Theater” in Nuremberg in 1915, Friedmann came to Bad Kissingen in May 1917 and conducted numerous operettas over the next three years. His musical activities were largely and highly praised in the reviews of the Saale-Zeitung, and the young conductor certainly benefited from the fact that he could rely on an outstanding ensemble in the form of the Orchestra of the Vienna Concert Association, today’s Wiener Symphoniker. Already after the After the 1919 season, Martin Friedmann left the spa town, because the artistic perspective at the spa theater of such a small town was limited and he did not want to remain reduced to the genre of operetta.

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Therefore, he applied at the Coburg Landestheater, where the new director Anton Ludwig, who knew and appreciated the young Kapellmeister, offered him a position as choir director and operetta conductor with the option of eventually conducting operas as well.
Martin Friedmann accepted the offer and moved to Coburg in September 1919, hoping to find even better professional conditions here. But the following years were to be a disappointment for him, because from the beginning he faced hostility, which certainly had to do with his Jewish origins. In Coburg, the first German city in which the National Socialists dominated the city council and provided the mayor in 1929, there were already strong “völkisch” and anti-Semitic tendencies at the beginning of the Weimar Republic. In particular, the incumbent general music director Alfred Ottokar Lorenz, a convinced anti-Semite, made life difficult for Friedmann. He saw Friedmann as an unwelcome competitor who threatened his supremacy at the Coburg theater. Lorenz tried to bully, humiliate and put the young conductor in his place in every possible way.

Even when Intendant Ludwig appointed Friedmann as “First Coordinated Kapellmeister,” thus opposing Lorenz’s claims to power and establishing Friedmann as an equal conductor of the orchestra, this was not accepted by Lorenz and his followers, and the disputes continued in unchanged severity. Although General Music Director Lorenz was suspended from his duties by Intendant Ludwig in March 1921, Friedmann was unable to establish himself permanently in Coburg even after Lorenz left. The constant struggles had also taken their toll on his health, and so in May 1921 he resigned from his position as Kapellmeister and announced his retirement.

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In the following years, he tried to regain his footing at earlier places of activity. Thus, during the summer months of 1922 and 1923, he once again stayed in Bad Kissingen. He was again employed here as a Kapellmeister and as a conductor he was responsible for the musical direction of numerous operetta performances. In the meantime, the “Orchester des Münchner Konzertvereins” (which was renamed the “Münchner Philharmoniker” in 1928) made guest appearances here during the summer months. Friedmann often collaborated on these performances with theater director Otto Reimann, who took over the staging. Friedmann spent the winter months in Nuremberg before moving to Stralsund for a theater season in 1924.

The next few years were also not to bring lasting success to the conductor who had started out so successfully. Rapidly changing engagements followed, among others in Stralsund, Recklinghausen, Bad Salzungen, Bad Liebenstein, Essen, Hanover and Leipzig. The repertoire he performed was increasingly limited to works of the light muse, which certainly did not correspond to his artistic standards.

After the National Socialists came to power, the situation became even more difficult for him, because the membership in the Reichsmusikkammer, which was necessary for him to pursue an artistic activity, was denied to him due to his Jewish origin.
Friedmann, who had already made guest appearances in the Netherlands in 1934, finally emigrated to the Netherlands in February 1935, lived in Amsterdam in the following years and worked as a composer, conductor and arranger at various revues and theaters. In the process, he collaborated with the famous Dutch theater producer René Sleeswijk and was also able to stage his own operetta “Rebell aus Liebe”.

When, after the occupation of the Netherlands by German troops, Jewish emigrants were also exposed to Nazi terror there, Martin Friedmann went into hiding in December 1942 to escape threatening deportation. But only a few months later in March 1943 he was arrested and imprisoned in the transit camp Westerbork. From there he was deported to Sobibor in early April and murdered immediately after his arrival on April 9, 1943.

Martin Friedmann’s mother Antonie had first fled to Paris and later went to Amsterdam. From 1941 she lived in Apeldoorn in a psychiatric clinic for Jewish patients, where numerous Jews sought refuge from persecution at the time. Antonie Friedmann died there in August 1942, a few months before the inmates of the clinic were deported. Jacob Friedmann, Martin’s father, had already died in 1915.

This short biography was taken slightly modified from the “Biografisches Gedenkbuch der Bad Kissinger Juden während der NS-Zeit” by Rudolf and Marlies Walter with their kind permission, which was published online:

Dr. Martin Friedmann Friedmann Martin deutsch
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Hans-Jürgen Beck: Dr. Martin Friedmann

Translation from English: Theresia Pfister


Portrait photo © Stadtarchiv Stralsund
Photo withHeinrich Rehkemper © Sammlung Klaus Riehle
We owe the photos to the kind support of Hans-Jürgen Beck