A Czech balladeer murdered by Nazis–and that's where this story begins

In the January issue of Urbanite, a magazine that is something of a love letter to the city of Baltimore, Richard O’Mara profiles a local newspaperman who is slowly unearthing the history of his father–a Czech actor and singer who was killed by the Nazis in an Austrian concentration camp. The story covers just one page and begins like this:

Imagine, if you can, a frigid December night in 1941 at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. German soldiers haul an inmate outside. They strip him naked. They tie his hands. They douse him with cold water and leave him to die.

This is how Tom Hasler imagines his father’s death. The Gestapo’s minions at Mauthausen entertained themselves by making such “ice statues” out of human beings. The practice was a new form of torture introduced in the fall of 1941, and while accounts of Karel Hasler’s death vary, most say he froze to death. Soon after, Hasler’s wife received from the Germans notice of his death–of pneumonia. A month before he died, his son, Tom, had been born in Prague.

Hasler’s father was not one of the Nazi’s millions of Jewish victims. “One of Tom’s goals,” O’Mara writes, “is to stimulate interest in an aspect of the Holocaust that he believes has not received sufficient attention: the murders during the war of millions of non-Jews–gypsies, Poles, Slavs, union leaders, homosexuals, Communists, the aged, the physically and mentally disabled, and others who deviated from Nazi ideas of who should live and who should die. Karel Hasler was one of these victims, and in a way, so was his son.”

You can read the rest here. And you can watch an arresting eight-minute video about Tom Hasler and his father right here:

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