Harro Fromme

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(b. Bremen, 12/12/1921 – d. Bremerhaven, 21/07/2008). Opera singer, painter, film director. Harro Heinz Theodor Fromme was born in Bremen, but grew up in Hanover. As a boy he was a member of the Marine-Jugend and at the age of 16 he was part of the crew of the barque Priwall as it set off on a lengthy voyage around Cape Horn. He first visited South Africa as a sailor on board the Ussukuma, a passenger ship that was part of the Deutsche Ost-Afrika Linie. On his return he found his call-up papers waiting for him and, after deciding that he did not want to be a soldier for the Nazis, signed up for another cruise with the Ussukuma to South America. On 5th December 1939, while off the coast of Argentina, the ship encountered the British cruiser HMS Ajax, which had been hunting the German pocket battleship the Graf Spee. The captain ordered the Ussukuma to be scuttled and, as enemy aliens, its crew was taken first to the Falkland Islands and then to South Africa, where they were interned at Baviaanspoort near Pretoria. Here he was to spend the remainder of the war.

In the camp he met and was befriended by theatre and film director Kurt Baum. He also came to know a number of interned German painters and after his release in 1947 he returned to Germany to study art. Eventually he moved back to South Africa, took part in a number of exhibitions and began to develop his talent as a singer, performing in operas, concerts and on radio. Amongst others he appeared in Harvest Champagne, presented by Roscoe C. Behrmann for the Cape Province Cerebral Palsy Association. Also in the largely amateur cast were Joey Wishnia and Paddy Canavan.

In 1952 he had moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town, became a cameraman with Pan African Films and later turned to documentary filmmaking. While in Cape Town he directed two short documentaries, namely The Cape Carnival and The Company's Garden, both in 1957 and released by the Cape Television Centre. A projected feature entitled “No time for pity”, to be directed by Alastair Scobie, had to be abandoned for reasons described in some detail in Fromme’s autobiography, “Mein Weg durchs Leben”. Fromme actually appears (as a painter) in The Company’s Garden. In 1959 he returned to Germany to pursue a successful career as opera singer and painter. (FO)


Fromme, Harro - Mein Weg durchs Leben


Private correspondence

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