Zammit and Grube were a German dancing team who specialised in arty acrobatics. They thrived for about 10 years from 1925 to 1935 and although originating in Germany and in particular Berlin, they travelled all over Europe and even the Near East and performed in Paris, London, Istanbul, Cairo, Dresden, Munich, Vienna, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm.
Nothing is known at all about Fidy (Fidi) Grube’s early life or when and where he was born and so far nothing can be found on Ancestry about him. One must ask – was Fidy Grube his real name? Perhaps Fidy was a shortened version of Friedrich or Fritz. One must also assume that he was born about 1906 as he looks in photographs to be the same age as his dancing partner Kathleen.
Kathleen Zammit on the other hand is reasonably well documented. Kathleen was born 15th October 1906 in Cardiff, Wales as Kathleen Schmidt. Her mother was Kitty Schmidt and her father a Spanish consul called Zammit but she was born illegitimate. According to the authors of Kitty’s Salon: Sex, Spying and Surveillance in the Third Reich (by Urs Brunner, Julia Schrammel and Nigel Jones) Kitty Schmidt was born Katchen Emma Sophie Schmidt in Hamburg on 25th June 1882 in Hamburg. She went to the England in about 1900 as a piano teacher and governess where she met Zammit and subsequently gave birth to Kathleen in 1906. Kitty married Zammit but at some point he committed suicide and in 1918 Kitty returned to Germany and settled in Berlin. They lived at 10 Berliner Strasse until 1932 and in 1922 she opened her first ‘salon’ (brothel) in Budapester Strasse. Later, she was coerced by the Nazi’s to run her brothel as an espionage centre becoming the infamous Salon Kitty.
As her mother Kitty established her ‘salon’, Kathleen developed a keen interest in dance especially acrobatic dancing. Along with a friend, Lieselotte Köster-Stahl, she attended the ballet school of Tatjana Gsovsky (Issatschenko) an internationally renowned Russian ballet dancer, choreographer and Ballet mistress at 68 Fasanenstrasse, Charlottenburg. Tatjana Issatschenko was born in Moscow and studied ballet with Isadora Duncan in St. Petersburg. After the revolution she married her colleague Victor Gsovsky and they emigrated to Berlin and started her school in 1924. Kathleen may have been amongst Tatjana Gsovsk’s first pupils but it is likely that prior to 1924 she was attending other dancing schools. It must have been while attending these schools that she met the elusive Fidy Grube, who presumably was also a Berliner or had moved to Berlin to train in dance from another part of Germany.
By 1925 both Fidy Grube and Kathleen Zammit were dancing under the direction of Hanns Gerard, one of Germany’s leading dancers as part of his famous Gerard Ballet Company. Gerard emerged just after the First World War having been trained at the Berlin Opera House and then began performing with German and Russian dancers. He was fond of pantomime and began to organise his own ballet group presenting a range of dance performance, ballet and pantomime.
The first known appearance of Zammit and Grube together (but not as a dancing pair) was in early 1925 on a tour with Hanns Gerard that culminated in early May 1925 at the City Theater Innsbruck. The untitled show featured a cast of eight with Hans Gerard, Fidy Grube, Kathleen Zammit, Herr Surkov, Miss Georgieva, Miss Mitschmer (or Mitschiner), Miss Lenz and Herr Willie. There were thirteen scenes: a Prologue by Pierrot, (Grube), “In the wardrobe” set in the 18th century (with Zammit and three others), “Flames” (Gerard), “Youth”, “Shadow of Death”, “Powderpuff” (with Zammit), “Night Spook” (with Zammit and four others), “Russian Dances”, “Vojarentanz”, “Pas de Deux” (with Zammit and Gerard), “Grotesque” (with Zammit and Grube and four others), “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Gerard), “Japanese Fairy Tale” (with Zammit and Grube and one other), “Dolls” (with Zammit and four others representing the big doll, fashions dolls and music boxes) and finally the Pierrot (Grube) closes the performance.
There was stunning scenery and costumes and the ‘show’ was thought to be technically refined, stylish, and highly artistic with excellent ensemble performances and outstanding soloists. The cast gave gifted characterizations with unusual, yet convincing acting. Overall, it was a ‘sensational dance evening’.
Presumably Zammit and Grube continued touring and performing with Hanns Gerard into early 1926. In February 1926 Zammit and Grube made their first ‘documented’ performance as dancing partners at the Blüthnersaal in the Tiergarten district of Berlin at Genthiner Strasse. One of Berlin’s major performance venues, the Blüthnersaal (later Bachsaal) was the largest of three halls in a complex of buildings. As part of a programme that began with Katerine Deoillier, prima ballerina from the former Imperial Theater in Moscow, Zammit and Grube gave an acrobatic turn that was seen as technically clean and amusing. It included a Spanish number was instructive with its passionate, whirling vigor of stamping out, twisting and shattering in decorative or pantomimic poses.
Their next appearance in Berlin was in the revue Wieder Metropol ! at the Metropol theatre commencing 14thSeptember 1926 under the direction of Fritz Paul Jentz. The Metropol Theatre was part of the large Metropol Palast at 55-57 Behren Strasse in Mitte (central Berlin). It was noted by one author writing about the city that Berlin delighted in grouping places of amusement, putting half a dozen different restaurants, ballrooms and cabarets under one roof and so the Metropol Palast was also the home of the famous restaurants and dancing palaces called the Palais de Danse and the Pavillon Mascotte.
Wieder Metropol ! was a big revue with 27 scenes with a big cast that included Suse Eisler, Leni Bowitz, Elisabeth Alexadrowa, Ellen Hajdu, Lilly Miquette, Elly Hoffman, Lori Leux, Wladimir Sokoloff, Max Bertuch, Max Hanser, Hans Albers and two groups of dancers: the Metropol Girls and Shurley Girls. the music was by Hugo Hirsch and a large part of the show featured dancing with the well-known dancers Jenny Steiner and Ipsen Andre.
Zammit and Grube were a feature in the 14th scene called Die Revue der Tanze (the Revue of Dances) dancing as Bacchantes in the Age of Antiquity. Fidy also appeared as Louis XV with Elisabeth Alexandrowa as Pompadour in the Age of Rococo and in the 24th scene (Die Drei Kauboys or the Three Cowboys) he danced with Jenny Steiner and Ipsen Andre.
Of significance, Zammit and Grube were also part of Professor Oskar Schlemmer’s scene (Das Triadische Ballet) as Adagio (an acrobatic number). No doubt their experience in the Gerard ballet in terms of pantomime and modern dance was of benefit. Schlemmer was an artiste associated with the Bauhaus school and his Triadische Ballet (a ballet of geometry) was first performed in Stuttgart in 1922 and then toured Germany to great artistic acclaim. Schlemmer described his ballet as ‘artistic metaphysical mathematics’ and his vision was to transform his actors into representation of the human body as a party of form and colour with geometric costumes and a revolutionary spirit. The idea was that the stage was a machine, the individual parts of which were made up of people; the machine was left running until the parts were released, to perform in free dance.
At the end of October 1926, the Allgemeine Schnauferl Club (the friends and lovers of historic automobiles) held a festive evening for women members with a diverse range of performers including Zammit and Grube at the famous Clou Clou concert Hall 82 Mauerstraße.
In February 1927 Zammit and Grube were back at the Metropol Palast. This time at the Pavillon Mascotte in a cabaret show that also featured three other dancing pairs: the Parisian sisters Mary and Christiane Guy; Semiov and Vanvvera and Yvette and Danny. Interestingly, in mid-March 1927 there was a festive gala and benefit evening for skating instructors and the artistic staff of the Sportpalast. There was a range of performers and ‘jolly diversions’ and one name person was the prima ballerina Kitty Schmidt. Perhaps Kathleen Zammit used the name Kitty Schmidt (that of her mother) for her strictly ballet work without Fidy Grube.
It would appear that shortly afterward Zammit and Grube made their way to Vienna since a few months later while in Munich it was revealed that they had come from the Stadt Theater in Vienna. The revue that was running at the Stadt theatre in 1927 was Herbert Marischka’s Wien Lacht Wieder that had been launched on 2nd October 1926. At some point the American dancer Dora Duby joined the cast but was replaced 1st April 1927 with another American dancer Gypsy Rhoumaje. It may well have been at this juncture that Zammit and Grube were also added to the cast. They were certainly in Vienna in the summer of 1927 since they were included in the June cabaret programme of the Tabarin nightclub on the Annagasse. They were part of a cast that included Hildegard Erfurth, Lily Tiger, the Bernhardi trio, Gretl Freudenreich, Eva and Karin and Dougson and Olsen. It was also usual practise for stage performers to double-up and appear in nightclubs. It is highly doubtful that Zammit and Grube would have travelled solely to Vienna to appear at the Tabarin on its own.
By the end of July 1927 Zammit and Grube were in Munich and were added to the cast of Hans Grus’s revue Du und Ich at the Deutsches Theater on 1st August 1927 replacing the American dancer Iris Whyte. The revue had been launched in February 1927 and featured the 12 Lawrence Tiller Girls, Willi Schaeffers, Eugen Rex, The Windsors and the Epp Sisters. It also had regular star guests – first the American dancer Nina Payne and then the Parisian dance Mado Minty, prior to Iris Whyte’s appearance.
Another big revue took the place of Du und Ich at the Deutsches Theater called Grus an Alle on 1st September 1927 costumed by Ladislas Czettel and Marco Montedoro, with Zammit and Grube, the Epps Sisters and the 12 Lawrence Tiller Girls were retained by Hans Grus and the rest of the cast included Mimi Kott (Carls theatre, Vienna), Erika Korner (Ronacher Theater, Vienna), Eugen Rex (Metropol theatre, Berlin), H. Fisher Koppe (Nelson Theater, Berlin) and the British dancers Iris Rowe and Robert Quinault. As was to be expected, Zammit and Grube may well have doubled up and performed after the show in Hans Grus’s salubrious cabaret adjoining the theatre called Pavillon Grus.
From available photographs of Zammit and Grube at the time they had certainly shifted into almost totally nude stances and dances that may have been the norm for 1920s Berlin and Germany but were nevertheless still rather audacious and daring. The naked male and female form would have appealed to both sexes in the audience and since Fidy was also homosexual he may well have become a bit of a gay icon. The authors of Kitty’s Salon: Sex, Spying and Surveillance in the Third Reich, also recalled a conversation with Kathleen Zammit’s son who said that Fidy was ‘very gay’ and flirted a lot with stagehands, ‘handsome burly boys’ who always ended up in Fidy’s arms.
They were still in Munich that winter for the beginning of the various festivals, carnivals and balls and did perform at least once at the grand ball staged at the Regina Palace Hotel in late November 1927. With great suppleness they gave ‘fantasy’ dances that included a type of waltz and a modern number in distinctive costume.
What they did next is not clear but, in the summer of 1928, they were described as having come from the Scala Theatre Copenhagen so it is likely that they made a trip and performed in Denmark and perhaps other Scandinavian countries in the first half of 1928.
However, at the beginning of September 1928 they were in the cast of the Emil Schwarz’s (a major Viennese revue producer) revue Wissen Sie Schon? at the Central theater in Dresden. The show had been launched by Emil Schwarz at the Theatre des Westens, Berlin in March 1927 with the American black performer Ruth Bayton doing the black bottom. It was thought by Variety to be the best revue that season in Berlin, but made it clear that it had been planned as a touring revue and it would appear that Wissen Sie Shon? did indeed tour through Germany and perhaps Europe. For example, it is known that in August 1928 Wissen Sie Shon? was being shown at the Breslau Schauspielhaus. More than likely Zammit and Grube were in the cast that included two sets of 16 chorus girls along with Hugo Fischer-Koppe, Melitta Kleser, Anja Aroschewa, Max Mensing, August Härtner, Maly Podszuk and the two black American dancers Bobby Vincent and Louise Warner.
The show had ‘involvement’ with two key black dancers and choreographers Sonny Jones and Louis Douglas, both of whom had worked together on and off for some time. In August 1927 it had been announced in Vienna and that Sonny Jones had been appointed dance-master by Viktor Eckhardt at the Apollo Theatre in August 1927 in Vienna and worked on two shows Lady X and Ma Grosse Show and clearly also became involved with Emil Schwartz.
Emil Schwarz had leased the Stadt theatre in Vienna and produced a new revue called You Will Laugh! (Sie Werden Lachen) that ran from 9th October 1928 through to 22nd February 1929. The revue was written by the team of Karl Farkas (one of Austria’s leading cabaret performers), Emil Schwarz and Fritz Lehner and starred a host of performers with Karl Farkas, Christl Mardayn (film actress), Trude Brionne, Olly Gehauer, Lisl Sweet, Maly Podszuk (dancer), Max Brod, Hugo Fischer-Koppe (German film actor), Mimi Sharp (singer and dancer), Betty Werner, Marga Bernard (the fashion queen of Vienna), the Alfred Jackson Girls, the Norwegian Rocky Twins, the Sisters G and Zammit and Grube.
The Rocky Twins, did their impersonation of the famous Dolly Sisters in drag and the German Sisters G with their dark bobbed hair, looked identical to the Dolly Sisters (a look they must have intentionally perfected). All the costumes were created by Jose de Zamora and Gesmar in Paris and local designers Stella Weissenberg-Junker and Ladislas Czettel.
After leaving the Schwarz show Sie Werden Lachen in late February 1929 Zammit and Grube embarked on a tour of the near East. In April 1929 they were in Istanbul and were noted for doing eccentric dances in a film and variety show at the Istanbul Opera Cinema run by Fred Niblonun and then in the Turquoise nightclub along with Les Landhoff and the Eight Jazz Boys in Blue. By August 1929 Zammit and Grube were in Cairo where the season for nightclubs was in full swing with the peak of tourist travel. They appeared as part of a cabaret show staged by proprietor Calomiris at the Kit Cat that was crowded every night with Delvil (French comedian), Etta Veledam, Molly and Henderson, Carmina Desvilla (Spanish dancer) and D’Auvin. One must assume that here they were wearing a lot more clothes than was usual. They may have done a tour since Gino Arbib, Billy Arnold’s Agency Manager booked an itinerary for Louis Douglas and his Louisiana troupe commencing October 1929 to include Cairo, Alexandria, Smyrna, Constantinople, Athens and back though Italy to Paris.
On their return home Zammit and Grube once again joined Hanns Gerard and his Gerard Ballet Company, which may have been in early 1930. They performed a successful run at the Empire Theatre in Paris in May 1930 and listed as ‘acrobatic dancers’ they were seen in what was called ‘the Blond Fantasy’ number. They then toured with Hanns Gerard and ended up in Holland. First, they performed as a stage show at the Theater Tuschinski in Amsterdam in support of a film programme and then at the City Theatre in the Hague in November 1930. Afterward, they were in Stockholm from March to April 1931 (sadly access to the Swedish digital newspaper archives are restricted and so exact details of their activities is elusive).
From Sweden they emerged in Holland by May 1931 and were part of an International Variety show at Ernst Krauss’s theatre Carre in Amsterdam. Other members of the cast included the Rivel Trio (three clowns and the highest paid clowns in Europe), Roger and Marcel (acrobatic dansers), Harry Holt trio, the Chartion Marionette theatre and the 4 Essedras (gymnastic sensation).
By late 1931 they were in Denmark and were part of a show called Wunder-bar at the Fonix (Phoenix) Theatre, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen but they were also seen at the Dagmar Theater giving a performance. (Again, like Stockholm, access to the Danish digital newspaper archives are restricted and so exact details of their activities is elusive).
They either stayed in Denmark or returned in June-July 1932 before visiting London in late 1932. In London they were part of a Non-Stop Express Variety season at the Victoria Palace Theatre during December 1932 and perhaps into early 1933. There was a big cast with Derek Oldham, Jeanne de Casalis, the O’Gorman Brothers, the Cole Brothers, Ted Ray, Low and Webster and the Sherman Fisher Southern Belles. The adagio dancing of Zammit and Grube was described by The Era as having ‘skill and thrill, yet of delicate artistry’ and The Stage observed their dancing interlude was on adagio line and had ‘much accomplished work to recommend.’ The show only ran for about a week and from London Zammit and Grube appear to have gone on some kind of tour. On the 28th December 1932 they were part of a cabaret entertainment along with the three Dorland Sisters at a Waifs and Strays charity ball in the ballroom of the assembly rooms in Whalley, Lancashire. They must have been on tour and visiting somewhere nearby such as Blackburn or Preston. However, back in London at the end of January 1933 it was reported that they had been robbed twice in one day – once at the ‘Trocadero Picture Theatre’ (Elephant and Castle) and again at their apartment. Perhaps Zammit and Grube were appearing at the Trocadero Cinema since a stage show was being presented at the time with the headline act of Hutch – the pianist and singer Leslie Hutchinson.
It would appear that in the early 1930s both Zammit and Grube had deserted Germany. Perhaps they disproved of the rise of Hitler. More than likely their form of performance was becoming increasingly frowned upon as the National Socialists took power and removed what they considered to be depraved and debauched forms of entertainment so prevalent in the 1920s under the Weimer republic. Despite long absences, Kathleen Zammit was listed in the Berlin Telephone Directory for 1929, 1931 and 1932 at Berliner Straße 10 in Wilmersdorf and 1934 and 1935 at Budapester Strasse 27 and 1936, 1937 and 1939 at Kurfürstendamm 63.All address associated with her mother’s ‘establishments’.
However, Zammit and Grube were back in Germany in mid-May 1933 and in Dresden they were part of an entertainment given at a ball for the Dresden confectioners guild and the Saxony association. They delighted the audience with their ‘high-quality dance performances’.
Their last known performances were listed in Holland in February and March 1934 on stage bills at Cinema’s including the Luxor Palast, Rotterdam, the Asta Theater, the Hague and the Rembrandt Theater, Arnhem. Finally, there was one last mention in Denmark for March 1935 but no detail can be found.
Clearly, Kathleen Zammit and Fidy Grube parted company in either 1934 or 1935. Kathleen Zammit must have stayed in Berlin and in 1939 met her future husband Jean-Florian Matei, a famous juggler of Roumanian extraction (stage name simply Jean Florian who had just returned from an American tour). They had a son Jochem in June 1942 and finally married 28th October 1942 at the registry office in Charlottenburg, Berlin. After Kitty Schmidt’s death in 1954, her daughter took over the brothel but changed the name to Pension Florian. Kathleen died in 1992 at the age of eighty-six. Her son, Jochem died in 2009.
What happened to Fidy Grube is not known. Did he return to Germany? Did he survive the war? Did he stay in Scandinavia or emigrate to England or America? Please let me know if you know!
Kitty’s Salon: Sex, Spying and Surveillance in the Third Reich (Urs Brunner, Julia Schrammel and Nigel Jones)
Tatjana Gsovsky. Oxford University Press. 2011
Allgemeiner Tiroler Anzeiger 4/5/25, 8/5/25 and 11/5/25
The Guardian 24/11/2016
Berliner Börsen-Zeitung 17/09/26
Programme for the Metropol Theatre (courtesy of Chris Streicher)
Berliner Tageblatt 5/10/26
Berliner Börsen-Zeitung 8/10/26
Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung 21/9/26
Berliner Tageblatt 30/10/26
Berliner Tageblatt 15/2/27
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung 22/3/27
Wiener Morgenzeitung 27/3/27
Die Stunde 2/6/27
AZ am Abend Allgemeine Zeitung 7/2/27
AZ am Abend Allgemeine Zeitung 4/6/27
AZ am Abend Allgemeine Zeitung 2/7/27
Münchner Neueste Nachrichten 30/7/27
AZ am Abend :Allgemeine Zeitung 2/9/27
Brochure for Grus an Alle, Deutsches Theater, Munich
Münchner Neueste Nachrichten 23/11/1927
Sächsische Staatszeitung 30/8/28
The Rocky Twins: Norway’s Outrageous Jazz Age Beauties
Black People: Entertainers of African Descent in Europe and Germany by Rainer E. Lotz
Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten 4/9/28
Illustrirtes Wiener Extrablatt 10/10/28
Der Tag 10/10/28
Chicago Tribune 7/5/30
Het Volk 13/11/30
De Avondpost 20/11/30
Svenska dagstidningar at https://tidningar.kb.se (access restricted)
Algemeen Handelsblad 4/5/31
The Era 14/12/32
The Stage 15/12/32
Clitheroe Advertiser and Times 6/1/33
Daily Herald 24/1/33
Dresdner neueste Nachrichten 19/5/33
Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad 3/2/34
Het Vaderland 17/2/34 and Haagsche Courant 17/2/34
Haagsche Courant 3/3/34
Arnhemssche Courant 16/3/34 and De Graafschap-bode 16/3/34
https://www2.statsbiblioteket.dk/mediestream (Royal Danish Library access restricted)