Paul O’Montis was born Paul Wendel, in Budapest on April 3rd 1894.
He was brought up and spent most of his youth in Hannover before moving to Berlin in 1924, where he began performing in cabarets. He was an accomplished singer, comedian and impersonator.
His style was witty and, at times, bawdy incorporating double-entendres, puns and nonsense rhyming couplets. His homosexuality was open and integral to his stage persona.
He is credited as a writer for two films ‘Das Diadem der Zarin’ made in Germany in 1922 and ‘Der Mann mit der Eisernen Maske’ made in Austria in 1923.
He was ‘discovered’ by Friedrich Holländer in 1926 and appeared in his revue ‘Laterna Magica’ at the Charlotte-Casino in the Kurfürstendamm, alongside Paul Graetz and Kurt Gerron.
By 1927 he had made his first record on the Odeon label, accompanied by violinist Bela Dajos and his Dance Orchestra, the first of over 70 recordings he was to make for the label. He signed to Deutsche Grammophon in 1929 where he recorded with stars such as Paul Godwin and even Mischa Spoliansky.
He was a regular face at a variety of Berlin cabaret venues including The Scala and The Wintergarten, and also at Cabaret Corso in Hamburg, he was also regularly heard on the radio.
“Paul O’Montis has the technique to present the most banal fashionable songs in a way that makes them enjoyable for a sophisticated person, because he, standing above them, satirises them wittily at the same time.”
Max Hermann-Neiße, Berliner Tageblatt, 15th June 1926.
After the Nazi’s came to power in 1933, he fled to Austria and settled in Vienna performing at The Ronacher Variete Theatre and The Wiener Volkstheater.
He was forced to flee again after the annexation of Austria in 1938, this time to Prague. When German troops occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, he was arrested and deported to Zagreb, initially, and then to Lodz in Poland.
In 1940 he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where, as a Pink Triangle prisoner in isolation barracks, he survived just six weeks under the brutal conditions. The official version that he had hanged himself in his cell is almost certainly untrue and it is more likely he was tortured and beaten to death. He was just 46 years old.