HAŠLER, KAREL (1879-1941)

Karel Hašler (31 October, 1879, Prague - 22 December 1941, Mauthausen) was a Czech songwriter, actor, lyricist, film and theatre director, composer, writer, dramatist, screenwriter and cabaretier. He was murdered in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Karel Hašler's artistic output consists mainly of songs. He created more than 300 compositions, many of which became popular "folk songs." With his engaged patriotic approach he helped to strengthen the national consciousness of Czech people during times of danger and oppression. Following his death in the concentration camp, his songs became a symbol of national resistance.
Hašler studied to be a glove-maker, but he became intererested in theatre at a young age and occasionally performed with amateur theatre ensembles. In 1897, following his debut at the Aréna Theatre he left home and successively joined various travelling theatre companies. In 1902 he became a member of the Slovenian theatre in Ljubljana, but soon moved back to Prague, where he joined the National Theatre ensemble. In the National Theatre, he asserted himself in conversational plays. In addition to that, he also attempted to apply his singing abilities. Around 1908, he started composing his own music, and at the same time he began to incline to cabaret activities. Gradually he became a director and head of various Prague cabarets, such as Lucerna (1910–1915, 1918–1923), Rokoko (1915–1918) and Karlín Variety Theatre (1924–1929). In 1908, he married a sister of pianist and composer Rudolf Friml.[3][4]
During World War I he also began to appear in silent films, as an actor, director and author. In 1914, he made a comedy České hrady a zámky (Czech Castles), based on his own script. The film was intended as an introduction for the play Pán bez kvartýru (A Man Without Flat). He appeared also in the comedy Ahasver and in other silent films.
Among his most successful film roles were the lawyer and deputy Uher in the drama film Batalion (The Battalion, 1927) by Přemysl Pražský, and the organist in Varhaník u sv. Víta (Organist at St. Vitus Cathedral, 1929) by Martin Frič. The coming era of the sound film in 1930s enabled Hašler to utilize his singing skills. In his first sound film role Písničkář (Balladeer, 1932) by Svatopluk Innemann he sang patriotic songs "Svoboda" (Freedom) and "Ta naše písnička česká" (Our Czech song), among others In 1942, in his last film role, he played himself in Za tichých nocí (In the Quiet Nights), made by his son Gina Hašler. From 1932 to 1941 Hašler played in more than 13 films. In September 1941, during production of the film Městečko na dlani, based on the script by Jan Drda, he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp. The main reason for his arrest was his patriotic songs. In Mauthausen he was tortured to death.
In the post-war Communist Czechoslovakia he was officially ignored for political reasons, because many of his songs hailed Tomáš Masaryk and Czechoslovak Legionnaires, and mocked interbellum communists.