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Film and Talk about a Son’s Exploration of His Father’s Legacy to Open Greenberg Center's 25th Season

Posted 08/30/2010
Posted by David Isgur

Starting off with Hartt Guitar and Judaic Studies major Katie Child playing Czech Cabaret music, the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford will screen the documentary film Songs of My Father, by Tomas Hasler, detailing his efforts to uncover the history of his father, Karel Hasler, a famous Czech troubadour and film star killed in Mauthausen during the Second World War.

With this Sunday, Sept. 12 event, the Greenberg Center will begin a series of new and exciting initiatives to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its founding. Following the film, which be shown at 1:30 p.m. in Wilde Auditorium, Tom Hasler will speak about his personal journey in creating the film and discovering his relationship with his father.

The afternoon will also feature the awarding of the 2010-2011 Jerome Caplan Memorial Scholarship to sophomore Judaic Studies major Eric Maurer and will conclude with a festive reception at the re-opening of the exhibition, Freedom is Never Free: Norway and the Jews at the Sherman Museum of Jewish Civilization on Mortensen Library.  This event is free and open to the public.

The program will be introduced by the event chair, Dr. Nina Lichtenstein, a local expert in European Jewish life and culture. The music of Karel Hasler is enshrined as a part of the history of the Czech Republic and the famous Czech tune, "Ta nase pisnicka ceska" or "That Czech Song of Ours" was voted one of the 10 greatest hits of the 20th century in a poll conducted by Czech Radio in 2000.  Its author and singer, Karel Hasler, born 125 years ago in Prague, became one of the most popular cabaret actors and singers in Czechoslovakia after a brief acting career at the National Theatre. An established singer and song-writer, his music focused both on the beauty of Prague and contemporary social and political issues. Overall, he composed around 300 songs and also appeared in a number of films in the 1920s and 1930s.

After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Karel Hasler wrote sarcastic anti-German lyrics to "That Czech Song of Ours." In the summer of 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo and the 62-year-old Hasler was taken to the concentration camp in Mauthausen where he died a cruel death in 1941.

Hasler is not only remembered for his songs and films in the Czech Republic today, but his name survives to this day in the popular licorice sweets Haslerky. Karel Hasler, who had a hoarse voice, closed a deal with the producer of these supposedly medicinal candies, and they were named them after him.  Tom's mother, Charlotte Clark, a former professor of German at the University of Hartford, met Karel Hasler in Prague in 1939.  Tom, born in November 1941, never met his father, but this film documents his efforts to recover his lost past.

The Jerome E. Caplan Memorial/Rogin Nassau Scholarship, created to honor the memory of former Rogin Nassau partner Jerome Caplan, a dedicated civil rights attorney, activist, philanthropist, and supporter of Jewish education, will be awarded to Eric Maurer, a sophomore Judaic Studies major from Burlington, Mass.

Following the film, the exhibition Freedom is Never Free: Norway and the Jews will re-open at 3:30 p.m. in the Singer Family Gallery of the Sherman Museum of Jewish Civilization. The exhibition, which first opened in April, will continue to run through October 26. Irene Berman, a Bloomfield  resident and Holocaust survivor, will sign copies of her book, We Are Going To Pick Potatoes - The Story Of Norway and The Holocaust (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010) at the exhibit re-opening.

The exhibition, which initially opened in September 2008 at the Oslo Jewish Museum, presents the history of Jewish involvement in Norwegian Arts and Culture, as well as the Jewish role in the Norwegian struggle against German occupation in the World War II.  The exhibition was specially translated into English for the American opening at the Sherman Museum of Jewish Civilization at the University of Hartford.

The museum is free and open to the public and available for group and individual visits five days a week and for special pre-arranged visits with student docents. For hours please consult the Greenberg Center website at or call 860.768.4964 or send an email to