Meeting Dad 50 Years after His Death – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Meeting Dad 50 Years after His Death

Alumnus Thomas Hasler ’62 spent his journalism career writing about people and events both in the U.S. and in Lebanon. Now, he has taken on a mission to tell the story of his father’s role in history, a father whose identity he only recently discovered. After the death of his mother, Hasler found a letter revealing that he is the illegitimate son of Karel Hašler, an iconic Czech balladeer whose songs gave hope and life to his countrymen during World War II. He has since become reviled for consorting with a German woman (Hasler’s mother). Hasler hopes a documentary he worked on will help restore his father’s reputation. The documentary, “Písnickár, Který Nezemrel” (“The Immortal Balladeer of Prague”) premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic in early July. Hasler explains, “The documentary is in part about my discovery of my father…an icon of Czech nationalism, who defied the Nazis.” The film is directed by Marek Jícha and Pepi Lustig. Hasler is also working to have a statue of Karel Hašler erected on the Prague Castle steps, as they were the setting for one of his best-loved songs. In 1941, in an effort to preserve the “master race,” the Nazis denied Hasler’s Czech-born father and German mother permission to marry. Tragically, Hašler was soon after imprisoned for his lyrics, called “slanderous” to the Nazis, and froze to death in the Mauthausen concentration camp in December, 1941, just one month after the birth of his son. In 1990, Hasler stumbled upon a film showing of “Batalion,” part of a series titled “Czech Modernism 1900-1950,” in which his father played the leading role but did not speak. In 1993, on a visit to Prague, he both saw and heard his father sing, “I screened a 1932 film called “Pisnickar” [Balladeer], which was based on his own story. When he sang “Our Czech Song,” I connected emotionally,” Hasler is quoted as saying in an article in The Prague Post. Hasler received his B.A. in political science from Hobart College and his M.A. in journalism in 1966 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has worked as a journalist in Baltimore, Md., and Beirut; as an electronic publishing entrepreneur, and as the head of a public relations committee for a Czech advocacy group. For more background information about Karel Hašler and Thomas Hasler, please read “Tom Hasler: Prodigal Son’s Odyssey” in The Prague Post at http://web.hws.edu/news/update/printwebclip.asp?webclipid=1210.