Paula Lindberg was born on 21 December 1897 in Frankenthal near Mannheim, the only daughter of Lazarus Levi, a rabbi, and his wife Sophie, née Meyer. To comply with her father’s wishes, she studied to become a mathematics teacher in Heidelberg after the end of the First World War. After his death, however, she broke off her course to take vocal instruction at the Mannheim music college under August Perron. In 1926, on the recommendation of Wilhelm Furtwängler, she left Mannheim to study at the Berlin music academy under Julius von Raatz-Brockman.
To pay her way, she worked as a nanny for the architect Erich Mendelsohn and his music-loving wife Luise, who often held home concerts featuring contemporary compositions. Here she got to know and love modern music, as championed by Ernst Toch and Paul Hindemith at the Berlin music academy, as well as Johann Sebastian Bach, her great musical love. The person to have the biggest influence on her musical development was Siegfried Ochs, the founder and director of the Philharmonic Choir and teacher of oratorio singing at the Berlin academy. Under his direction, she sang the alto part in Bach’s St Matthew Passion for the first time in Berlin’s Philharmonie in 1926.
Siegfried Ochs advised her to change her name to Paula Lindberg to protect herself against anti-Semitic animosity. In 1930 she married the widowed surgeon Albert Salomon and moved in with him and his daughter Charlotte at Wieland Strasse 15 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Their home soon became a popular meeting place on Berlin’s cultural scene.
Between 1930 and 1933 Paula Salomon-Lindberg often sang the alto part in performances of Bach’s cantatas in St Thomas Church in Leipzig. She gave her last authorised performance there in March 1933. In 1933, a friend of Paula’s, Kurt Singer, founded the Nazi-sanctioned “cultural federation of German Jews” (Kulturbund deutscher Juden), and this became the only platform left open to her. At the federation’s events, however, only works by Jewish artists could be performed to an exclusively Jewish audience. From 1936, as well as giving concerts, Paula Salomon-Lindberg also gave musical instruction at the Hollaender private Jewish music school in Sybel Strasse in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
It was not until Albert Salomon was interned in Sachsenhausen in November 1938 that the family decided to emigrate. Charlotte left to join her grandparents, the Grunwalds, in Villefranche near Nice in January 1939. On the day Paula Salomon was scheduled to give a farewell concert, she and her husband fled with forged documents to Amsterdam. Their plans to leave Europe for the United States, together with Charlotte, foundered due to the German advance on the European continent. They never saw their daughter again. Paula Salomon-Lindberg was arrested with her husband in Amsterdam in 1943 and deported to Westerbork transit camp. They managed to escape from the camp on the pretext that they were fetching medical equipment from Amsterdam. They survived the rest of the war in hiding in South Holland.
When they returned to Amsterdam after the war they learned of Charlotte’s death in Auschwitz. In 1947 they travelled to Villefranche where they were given her work “Life? Or theatre?”, which they took back with them to Amsterdam. They categorically ruled out a return to Germany and in 1950 they assumed Dutch nationality. Paula Salomon-Lindberg gave musical instruction at the music school in Amsterdam and private vocal instruction. In 1950 she started giving classes as part of the Salzburg Mozarteum’s summer courses. She specialised in speech training and clear articulation for singers. She regarded her teaching job in Salzburg as her “compensation”.
In 1986 she returned to Berlin for the first time for the opening of an exhibition of “Life? Or theatre?”. In 1989 the Berlin college of art set up an international “Paula Lindberg Salomon competition” for classical song, which has been held bi-annually ever since. Paula Salomon-Lindberg was a jury member for many years and played an active part in it until her death. In 1992 her biography was published in Berlin under the title “Mein C’est-la-vie-Leben in einer bewegten Zeit. Der Lebensweg der jüdischen Künstlerin Paula Salomon Lindberg”. In 1995 a one-hour documentary film, “Paula Paulinka”, was made about her by Christine Fischer-Defoy, Daniela Schmidt and Caroline Goldie. Paula Salomon-Lindberg died on 17 April 2000, aged 102, in Amsterdam. She is buried in the cemetery of the Liberal Jewish Community in Hoofddorp near Amsterdam.