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Cortini: a prisoner of the Japanese

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Dutch magician and illusionist The Great Cortini got caught up in the war in the Far East and ended up a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese. He used his magic skills to boost the morale of his fellow POWs and to survive the brutal and harsh conditions of captivity and hard labour. Prisoner of the Japanese When the Japanese army overran vast areas of Southeast Asia during World War Two, they took almost 200,000 Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen captive. Thousands more died resisting the invasion. The war in Europe had weakened the commitment of Britain, France, and The Netherlands to the region. The Far East was wide open to Japan's dream of dominance throughout Asia. As many as 130,000 European civilians - men, women, and children - were also imprisoned. Most of these were Dutch. One of the captured civilians was a Dutch-Indonesian entertainer known as The Great Cortini, who promoted himself as a supposed nephew of Hungarian-American magician and escapologist Harry Houdini. It is

Maldino: A master illusionist uses magic to bridge between foes

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The story of a German illusionist who performed for both the Germans and the British during World War Two. And whose magic helped him avoid combat and earn freedom from captivity. Born in Germany in 1911, Friedrich Mahlo became interested in card tricks at twelve years old. His hobby helped him overcome shyness in front of his classmates.  When he was 15, his father took Friedrich to receive magic lessons from Berlin-based Friedrich Conradi, a magician and magic dealer. Conradi sped up the teenager’s learning. As he turned to adulthood, Mahlo also turned to magic full-time, becoming a professional magician in 1930. He performed as Maldino, a stage name he kept throughout his career.  Germany’s Weimar Republic suffered a deep depression following the 1929 Wall Street Crash. Mahlo took what bookings he could to make ends meet. He favoured those in other European countries where the economic crisis was not as severe as that in his home nation.  Mahlo started his career with a parlour / sm

The Great Tihany: A circus impresario’s narrow escape

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A fledgling circus magician narrowly escapes the infamous Novi Sad raid in January 1942, where the Hungarian military massacred 4,000 Jewish, Serbian and other civilians to covet favour with Nazi Germany. Miraculously, he survived and went on to create the most spectacular magic-based circus show in Latin America. A circus magician   For over five decades, the name Circo Tihany was as famous in Latin America as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses were in North America. It was the most successful travelling show on the continent.   The show was conceived and developed by Franz Czeisler (aka The Great Tihany), a magician and illusionist who built it from its early origins as an extended magic act into a spectacular variety circus.     Franz ( Hungarian : Ferenc) Czeisler was born on 29 June 1916, in   Kétegyháza , Hungary (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).     He received a few lessons from German magician Alfredo Uferini as a child, but didn ’t  take a serious i

Five stories of magicians in captivity before World War Two

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While this blog series focuses on how magicians helped fight World War Two, the history of magicians in warfare is a long one. Taking a break from World War Two, the blog below looks at five stories of magicians in captivity in the Nineteenth Century and in World War One. Giovanni Bartolomeo Bosco Italian-born Giovanni Bartolomeo Bosco (1793-1863) served in the Napoleonic army’s invasion of Russia in 1812. He was injured during the Battle of Borodino on the 7 September.  The fighting involved around 250,000 troops and left at least 68,000 killed and wounded, making Borodino the deadliest day of the Napoleonic Wars and the bloodiest single day in the history of warfare until World War One. To avoid capture, Bosco  pretended to be dead while lying on the battlefield. But a Cossack soldier started searching the dead bodies for loot. As the soldier searched Bosco, he realised Bosco was alive and took him prisoner. Little did he know Bosco picked the looter's pockets while this was goin