Martha Schlamme

Martha Schlamme

Martha Schlamme was born Martha Haftel to a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria in 1923. Forced to flee to France in 1938 after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Haftel soon after joined her family in England, where they were then interred as 'enemy aliens' on the Isle of Man. It was in the camp that she made her performance debut, appearing in a German-language production of As You Like It.[1]

Interred in the same camp was the Danish-Icelandic folk singer Engel Lund, and it was exposure to Lund's repertoire, which included traditional Yiddish songs, that inspired Haftel to pursue a musical career. Living in London after the war, she supported herself doing office work while studying voice and piano and occasionally performing on stage and radio.

Emigrating to the United States in 1948, Haftel married her first husband, Hans Schlamme. She supported herself performing an ever-increasing repertoire of folk songs in multiple languages in nightclubs and concert venues in the Catskills and elsewhere.

Her early recorded work began during this period and was recorded in collaboration with the Israeli composer Nachum Nardi. In 1959, her performance of songs from the operas and musicals of the German composer Kurt Weill at the Edinburgh Festival led to much wider awareness of her work. She continued to perform until her death, onstage, in 1985 in Jamestown, New York.[2]


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