The baritone – the unsung radio star

Fritz Angermann’s life is unfortunately still largely unexplored. He was born Friedrich Christian Heinz Angermann on 5 February 1906 in Gautzsch, Markkleeberg in the district of Leipzig, as the fifth child of teacher Theodor Georg Wilhelm Angermann and his wife Anna Maria (née Findeisen). Only his sister Annemarie (born 1903) and his brother Theodor Wilhelm (born 1901) are known by name so far. Fritz Angermann often spent his holidays with the family of his maternal uncle in Ottendorf. His sister Annemarie seems to have had artistic ambitions as well, because in 1933 her name appears with that of her brother in the „Theatergeschichtliches Jahr- und Adressbuch“.

Theodor Angermann and his first wife Anna Maria, née Findeisen, in 1904 (photo by K. Resak).

Anna Maria Angermann died young, and the widower married Johanna Maria Witkowski in Leipzig in 1920, with whom he had two children: Hans Siegfried Angermann, who was born on 19 May 1926 in Oberlungwitz near Zwickau, where Mr. Angermann was meanwhile employed as a teacher, and a daughter named Inge. In the early 1930s, the Angermanns moved to Helminghausen near Marsberg/Sauerland where they ran a restaurant at the Diemelsee. The building, idyllically situated with a view of the lake, is now used as a guesthouse and group house under the name „Gruppenhaus Diemelkroon“. Theodor Angermann died in Helminghausen on 8 April 1940.

Unfortunately, little or nothing is known about Fritz Angermann’s life before the Kardosch Singers. An undated newspaper article (see picture further below) mentions a commercial profession which he gave up against his father’s will in favour of his singing career. One can only assume that, like Nyiri, Kardos, Coste and many other aspiring young artists, he was drawn to Berlin and that the five of them met there in some way.

With Angermann as baritone, Nyiri as bass and Coste as first tenor (and later Schuricke as second), the Kardosch Singers had a brilliant lineup in every vocal position, and István Kardos was also a master at showcasing the individual voices. Fritz Angermann appears prominently in a lot of Kardosch pieces, for example in „Wenn der Bobby und die Lisa“, „Ade zur guten Nacht“ or „Der kleine Postillon“.

Angermann with Willy Reichert and Paul von Nyiri. With thanks to Julia Reichert.
Artist’s postcard. Photo: Werner Beger

After the dissolution of the Kardosch Singers, Fritz Angermann frequently appeared on the radio, in the mid-1930s often together with his presumed wife, mezzo-soprano Johanna Angermann. Between 1936 and 1937, the couple lived at 22 Fredericiastraße. He also continued to be part of Willy Reichert’s cross-country tours occasionally.

After 1937, Fritz and Johanna Angermann’s collaboration in concerts and for radio broadcasts seems to end, and there are now no more shared address entries either. Johanna stays in Fredericiastraße, while Fritz Angermann moves first to Pariser Straße 24, and later to Reichensteiner Weg 7.

Since I have not yet been able to find any evidence for the marriage between Fritz and Johanna Angermann, the possibility that Johanna Angermann might have been another sister of Fritz Angermann should not go unmentioned. According to information from the Markkleeberg municipal archives, Fritz Angermann had two other older sisters in addition to his sister Annemarie (born in 1903).

Like the other members of the Kardosch Singers, with the exception of Rudi Schuricke, Fritz Angermann turned mainly to classical singing after the end of the group and could often be heard on the radio singing classical songs or pieces from operas and operettas. Johanna Angermann had a special interest in old German folk songs, so that their joint programmes were often devoted to this genre.

This newspaper cutting of unknown origin and date offers a small insight into Fritz Angermann’s career after the Kardosch Singers. It mentions a two-year engagement with the theatre in Meissen, followed by committments to various radio stations.

„Voices we like to hear:
„His name in daily life is Fritz Angermann. Highlighted for the first time. Victory across the board. Fine, reserved performance, darkly veiled voice. It carries. For there is one thing the singer can do: spin the tone. The essence of all vocal culture. A strangely intimate warmth radiates from these tones as well as from his playing. The evening meant: discovering a future.“ So wrote a newspaper after Fritz Angermann’s debut in an operetta in Meissen. This was at the very least an acknowledgement that the young singer had taken the right path when he gave up his occupation as a clerk and turned to musical studies. Although he had grown up in a musical family, he found absolutely no understanding for his inclination towards a singing profession and had to fight his way through. – For several years he then performed with a quartet, the well-known „Kardosch Singers“, who gave guest performances not only in Germany (including the Theater am Kurfürstendamm in Berlin) but also in Holland, Denmark and Switzerland. Radio and film (including „Grün ist die Heide“) made the name of The Kardosch Singers more and more popular. Nevertheless, Fritz Angermann parted company with the quartet one day in order to continue working as a soloist. He earned his first stripes as a soloist at a travelling theatre in Leipzig, where he naturally had to take on the usual duties of stage alteration, as is the custom with travelling theatres. Two years at the theatre in Meissen were further years of training for him, not only operetta and opera had to be mastered, but also drama took the singer in its bonds. Fritz Angermann, however, is still happy about this today, because his acting can only be of use to him for his opera career. – The microphone itself already intrigued him from film and so it was no wonder that he quickly made friends with it in the world of radio as well. The Deutschlandsender, the Reichssender Berlin, Breslau and Königsberg and the Deutsche Kurzwellensender soon gave him a new, happy field of work, and the fact that father Angermann has meanwhile not only come to terms with the singing profession, but is also proud of his son, whose lyrical baritone is constantly winning new friends, is largely owed to the radio. When Fritz Angermann went on tour last summer with the South German humourist Willy Reichert and sang in South Germany and on the Rhine at „Bunte Abende“ (colourful evenings), the singer was able to see for himself how the radio had won him an impressive audience in all regions, who could now thank him personally with joyful and lively applause for all the beautiful hours he was able to give with his beautiful singing. A.M.S.“

In 1940 he played a small speaking role in the film „Wunschkonzert“: He can be seen as a hospital doctor in a scene with Carl Raddatz.

„Wunschkonzert“ was the second most commercially profitable film of the Nazi era and was based on the popular radio programme „Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht“, in which Fritz Angermann appeared several times. Unfortunately, the film is a nasty propaganda piece intended to strengthen the Germans‘ war morale and willingness to make sacrifices, which is why the film was only released in 1997 by the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft (Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry) for the ages of 18 and up, after it had even been banned in the post-war years. The love story is only the entertaining framework that is supposed to carry the messages of sacrifice, national community and „German spirit“. The film was a “ brainchild“ of Josef Goebbels, who, for example, selected the artists who were to perform in the Wunschkonzert scenes. Many popular performers from the NS entertainment scene were involved, including Hans Brausewetter (who had previously been arrested because of his homosexuality) and Paul Hörbiger (who helped Jewish colleagues to escape and was sentenced to death towards the end of the war because of his membership in a small Viennese resistance group – the end of the war saved his life). An appearance by audience favourite Willy Fritsch was not used in the film for unknown reasons. Also involved were, for example, Marika Rökk, Heinz Rühmann, Wilhelm Strienz and, of course, Heinz Goedecke, the narrator of the radio programme that gave the film its title.

The „Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht“ was broadcast from October 1939 to May 1941 as a follow-up programme to the „Wunschkonzert für das Winterhilfswerk“. Initially the programme was broadcast from the Großer Sendesaal in the Haus des Rundfunks on Masurenallee, and from March 1940 from the Großer Saal of the Philharmonie. In the film we can see recordings from the 8th and 10th broadcasts of the programme.

As Hans-Jörg Koch writes in his book „Wunschkonzert. Unterhaltungsmusik und Propaganda im Rundfunk des Dritten Reichs“, Joseph Goebbels recognised early on the potential of radio in general and, because of its mass appeal, of light music in particular. In view of difficult times, it fulfilled both distracting and manipulative purposes, and at the same time seemed completely apolitical – a fact to which many artists popular in the 1940s gladly and often referred in the post-war period. The „Wunschkonzert“ programme had the task of acting as a „bridge between the front and the homeland“, of stabilising the system and of swearing the listeners to the national community or Schicksalsgemeinschaft (community of destiny).

In a speech on the occasion of the 50th broadcast on 1 December 1940, the Minister of Propaganda expresses the purpose of the programme in no uncertain terms:

„The Wunschkonzert should be a reminder and an incentive for the entire German people not to let the adversities of everyday life get them down, but to face the times with courage and with their heads held high. One day the hour will come when the last remaining enemy, England, will fall. Until then, however, we want to fight and work and also steel our spiritual and mental strength. Humour and music are the best helpers.
We want to join hands across the ether waves in a circle of 90 million people and rally around the Führer in loyalty. Long may he live and eternally exist his people and his empire!“

Johannes Heesters writes about the Wunschkonzert in his memoirs:

„These Wunschkonzerte […] were immensely popular. And because they were so popular, they were of course part of Herr Goebbels‘ propaganda reservoir. The slogans of perseverance that he propagated could not be brought among the people in a more effective way than through these Wunschkonzerte, which stirred up emotions and psychologically very skilfully appealed to each individual listener.“

Ilse Werner, on the other hand, is unwilling or unable to face this fact and instead emphasises the suppressive, distracting and unifying aspect of the broadcast:

„In those war years I often and gladly appeared in the Wunschkonzert, sang, whistled or simply spoke a few words to the audience – convinced that by doing so I was helping all those who were helpless, who were afraid, who wanted to suppress their fear and worries for a few moments.“

As an artist, it was of course difficult to turn down an invitation to take part in a Wunschkonzert broadcast. Fritz Angermann could never comment on his position towards the Nazi regime, and it needs to be remembered that singing and public appearances became a matter of survival for him with the beginning of the war. Whether he was aware of his and many other artists‘ function as „servants of the Third Reich“ remains to be determined. As the examples of Brausewetter, Hörbiger and Bruno Balz show, an artist could be both a victim and a helper of the Nazi dictatorship. Presumably, like so many, he chose the path of least resistance, which ensured his early survival and continued work. The composer Norbert Schultze succinctly expressed what Fritz Angermann probably also felt, only with regard to singing: „You know, I was in the best age for a soldier at that time, around 30. For me, the alternative was to compose or to die. So I decided on the first one.2

In 1939 and 1940 Angermann took part in some still preserved radio productions as a soloist, for example on 11 January 1939 in a „Special Broadcast for Madagascar“ of the German Short Wave Radio under the conductor Georg Vack. Other participants were Fritz-Hans Rebold on the piano, Ernst Wilhelmy as narrator, the orchestra of the German Short Wave Broadcasting Station and the singing group Rudolf Lamy. Angermann sings „Il est doux“ by Maurice Ravel.

On 17 November 1939, again with Georg Vack as conductor, he sings in the broadcast recording of the opera „El Matrero“ by Felipe Boero. Other singers involved were: Auguste Garavello, Willy Voss-Mendes, who was a member of the last cast of the Meistersextett before its dissolution in 1940, Lilly Kietz, Franz Wolf, Hans Fiedler, Lissy Bühler, Nuni Nanett, the Singgemeinschaft Rudolf Lamy and the orchestra of the Kurzwellensender.

On 20 July 1940, he sang the role of „Erbgraf Theodor von Laubach-Immelheim“ in the world premiere of Paul Lincke’s operetta „Der Liebestraum“, which was recorded at the Funkhaus on Masurenallee in Hall 1. Apart from Angermann, the cast included Rosl Seegers, Ruth Zillger, Carl-Heinz Graumann, the choir and orchestra of Deutschlandsender Berlin and conductor Heinz Karl Weigel. Hanns Dekner was responsible for the radio editing of Paul Lincke’s music. Unfortunately, the recording is only incomplete.

Autograph from 1940. Photo: Rolf von Barm.

In Signale für die musikalische Welt Alfred Birgfeld reviews a recital of Lieder and arias by Fritz Angermann in Bechsteinsaal Berlin on 24 January 1940:

„In his aria and song recital, which was based on the names of Antonio Lotti, Carissimi, Brahms, Schubert, Donizetti and Verdi, Fritz Angermann was able to sustain the interest of the numerous listeners not only through his sensibly structured programme, but also through his technical ability and soulful performance. A temporary indisposition was not able to spoil the favourable general impression. The artist successfully championed the world premieres of Richard Müller, whose melodious, modern song creations reflect Iyrian moods in colourful harmonies. Hans Priegnitz accompanied with musical sensitivity.“

Kindly provided by Mrs. Karin Resak
Wedding announcement, with thanks to Karin Resak

On 2 July 1941 he married Johanna Maria Heinz (born 20 February 1905) in Trier, who was the half sister of the later fairly well-known Trier painter Guido Bidinger. His maid of honour was his sister Annemarie, who was living in Bremen at the time.

Concert announccement from 17 Januar 1943 from: Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz

On 20 January 1943 he gave a recital at the Berliner Singakademie with works by Schubert, Beethoven, Kilpinen and Richard Strauss.

A review of this recital in the Berliner Volkszeitung said:

„The baritone F.A. showed the potential of his full, supple and excellently trained voice with an exquisite programme of songs, especially with Schubertian lyric poetry. His soulful manner of performance is very appealing.

Fritz Angermann was lucky enough to be placed on the list of indispensable persons for „painters, musicians, architects, artists, etc.“ thanks to his prolific activity as a concert singer and on the radio, which meant that he was not initially called up for military service. From 1944 onwards, however, only those artists who had made it onto the notorious „Gottbegnadetenliste“ were exempted, and Fritz Angermann’s name does not appear here. Instead, he appears on the „list of actors not needed by the film industry“.

On 21 October 1944 Fritz Angermann died of a lung abscess in the Herz-Jesu Hospital in Trier. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the circumstances of his death. At the time of his death, he was registered with his wife in her parents‘ house at Palaststraße 12 in Trier. It seems likely that he was drafted after August 1944 and died as a result of a war wound.

Fritz Angermann’s stepmother and also possibly his half-siblings were still living in Helminghausen at the time of his death, but they moved away from there to an unknown location in the late 1950s.

His widow Maria Angermann married Karl Johann Bethge from Trier in 1954 and died on 3 December 1961.

Johanna Angermann in 1942.

What became of Fritz Angermann’s presumed first wife, singer Johanna Angermann, is sadly unknown so far. In 1942, she spent several months in Norway performing for German troops, her last sign of life so far. She gave an interview for Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten in June 1942 on the occasion of a concert in Oslo on 19 June, in which she says she spent five months in Narvik, in the far north of Norway, giving concerts for soldiers stationed there, accompanying herself on guitar. Her repertoire consisted mainly of German folk songs in various dialects from the 7th century to more recent times.

In writing this biography, Mrs Karin Resak was an invaluable help to me. I would also like to thank Jan Grübler and Josef Westner for their help with my research, as well as the municipal registry office of the city of Trier and the municipal archives of Markkleeberg for their kind support. I would also like to thank Detlef Köster, Helminghausen, for photos and information about the Angermann family’s time in Helminghausen.

I would be very grateful for any further information on the life of Fritz Angermann!