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Topic: Radio play about Kalanag
Message: Posted by: Jolyon_Jenkins (Jun 12, 2007 09:30AM)
BBC radio broadcast a play this week, starring British magician Geoffrey Durham, about Hitlerís favourite magician, Helmut Schreiber, aka Kalanag. I produced it. Itís available to listen to online for a week here:
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 17, 2007 01:12PM)
Nicely done! Many of the German magicians would not agree with the portrayal of Schreiber, but his record speaks for itself.
Message: Posted by: Richard Evans (Jun 18, 2007 05:40PM)
Thanks for that link - I enjoyed it very much.
Message: Posted by: Elliott Hodges (Jun 19, 2007 11:35AM)
Geoffre's accent is tremendous.
I couldn't do one as well-and I speak German
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 19, 2007 12:48PM)
My German accent is rather good, if I say so myself. I can do varying degrees of it. I can do extremely close impressions of Ted Lesley (whose accent is almost unnoticeable), Punx, and a couple of other folks I know fairly well.

My Russian accent is my favorite, though. I don't speak as much Russian as I used to, but John Fedko told me that my accent reminded him of his grandfather.

I had two Russian teachers in college who never really learned how to speak English.

That's basically what you need to do. You need to imitate a specific person.
Message: Posted by: Jolyon_Jenkins (Jun 21, 2007 09:10AM)
Thanks, Bill.

Geoffrey put a lot of hard work into that accent, and I think it paid off. Really difficult to sustain over that length of time. We looked at a lot of old Kalanag tapes together, but on the whole his acts were done to music.

The basic source for the play was an article by Richard Hatch, plus some old reviews he pointed me towards. Apart from the story of the American lieutenant, it was pretty solidly based in fact.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 21, 2007 01:37PM)
I haven't seen Richard's article in a long time, but I knew someone else who was involved directly with Kalanag. That was Punx. Punx's brother worked in the Nazi HQ in Munich. When Kalanag thought that the war was lost, he bribed Punx's brother to destroy his records. There are photos of Kalanag in an SS uniform, so you know his involvement was not just coincidental. You didn't get to wear the SS uniform by saving up boxtops from your favorite muesli.
Message: Posted by: Jolyon_Jenkins (Jun 21, 2007 04:03PM)
I have never seen such pictures and would be very interested to. Richard Hatch (who I had quite long discussions with) is very sceptical of claims that Schreiber was an active Nazi. Another story I heard - second hand from a witness now dead - is that Schreiber was a concentration camp commandant. Richard also dismisses this.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 21, 2007 09:05PM)
The only photo I have seen of Schreiber in a Nazi uniform is a head shot, plainly showing the SS collar insignia.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 21, 2007 10:00PM)
While I am reasonably certain that Schreiber was not a commandant of a concentration camp, I find it very naive of Richard to assume that he was not an active Nazi, whatever that is. He was involved as author, cameraman, producer or director of about 150 films and was the director of Tobis (the German film production company) during the Second World War. He was also, at least through his connection with the film industry, very closely associated with Goebbels.

I have always thought his choice of the name Kalanag was rather appropriate and amusing.
Message: Posted by: Jolyon_Jenkins (Jun 22, 2007 03:24AM)
Do you have that photo? I'd be very interested to see it.

Certainly Schreiber was close to top Nazis, and used those connections, but that doesn't make him a Nazi - by which I mean someone with a commitment to Nazi ideology. Schindler did the same (although Schreiber was no Schindler). And Schreiber only joined the party in May 1939, about as late as he decently could.

I prefer to go along with the post-war American intelligence assessment of him that he was "an opportunist of the worst order". This was pretty much the line that we took in the play.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 22, 2007 03:46AM)
No. I wish I did. If I run across it, I'll send it to you.

I knew a lot of Germans who knew Kalanag. They are all dead now. Their assessment of Schreiber was not as kind as the post-war American Intelligence assessment. If he didn't believe in the party line, he definitely gave it lip service.

But I do agree that he was definitely an opportunist of the worst order.
Message: Posted by: Rimbaud (Jun 22, 2007 10:52AM)
Didn't he steal Kassner's entire act? I mean, literally steal, equipment and all, because Kassner was Jewish?

If that is the case, what happened to Kassner afterwards? (I've only heard the tiniest details of the Kalanag/Kassner story and would love to hear more.)
Message: Posted by: Jolyon_Jenkins (Jun 22, 2007 12:56PM)
No, the Kassner story is not true, although you'll find it plenty of places on the net. I would have liked it to be true because it would have been a great detail for the play. Schreiber did expel Jewish magicians from the German magic circle, but if he was going to remain as president, he didn't have much choice.

Kassner survived the war. Hatch has all the details but I'd have to look at my notes to remember them.
Message: Posted by: Rimbaud (Jun 22, 2007 01:15PM)
Thanks. I remember reading the story in a short description in the "100 Years of Magic Posters" listing for one of Kassner's lithos years ago. It sounded like a fascinating story. (As was their brief listing of the Erik Jan Hanussen story from the same time period.)
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 22, 2007 01:50PM)
I see that Jonathan Allen has gotten a grant of more than £10,000 to research Helmut Schreiber. Too bad Punx's brother destroyed so much material.

I'll be in Berlin in August. I know some people there who may have some insight on some of the films Schreiber was involved in. That would tell a lot. There doesn't seem to be an accurate filmography for him.
Message: Posted by: Jolyon_Jenkins (Jun 22, 2007 02:12PM)
Who is Jonathan Allen?

I did initially want to make a documentary but I figured it would be too hard to find enough people alive with first hand memories of Schreiber. Plus, I don't speak German. There's probably a book in it for someone who could do the research. There are some interesting chapters in a book called Nazi Gold, by two ex-Sunday Times journalists, who go into a lot of detail about the heist.