Sometimes historical events can cause a horrible impact on a person or group. Unfortunately this is one of those times when a dark moment in history impacted the life of a magician in a very terrible way. This is a tragic story, but the subject of this story deserves to be remembered and have it told.
Cornelius Hauer was born in Vienna, Austria on April 18, 1889 into a Hungarian-Jewish family. His parents however, had converted to Catholicism. During World War I, he fought in the German Army, and had been captured by the Russians, but escaped from the Siberian camp he had been interred in. During this escape, he suffered from an infection to his ear which left him with a permanent hearing loss.
Hauer had been interested in magic for some time, and in the 1920’s he moved to Amsterdam and pursued a career as a professional magician under the name of Larette. He was known as “The Man with the Mysterious Hands”.
Past President of the S.A.M Parent Assembly #1, Emil Loew, was originally from Holland and had come to the U.S. after the Germans had invaded his country during World War II. He remembered seeing Larette, and wrote a nice article about him in M-U-M for July of 1991.
Loew referred to Larette as “A very fine magical artist”. He went on to say that his act “consisted primarily of cigarette and playing card manipulations”. “After a cigarette manipulation during which he produced veritable quantities of cigarettes, which he tossed into the audience, he went into card manipulations; and he was an expert in scaling cards into the audience as far back as the last row of the theater and the balcony”. “He also did coin manipulations; from time to time, coins with his advertising, which he tossed into the audience.”
|Throw-Out Cards for Larette.|
Loew goes on to say, “At a given time during the twenties, when Vaudeville was at its peak, Larette built up his entire routine as a promotion for Miss Blanche, an extremely popular cigarette in Holland during that time. This company provided him with the necessary cigarettes to be tossed into the audience, as well as the playing cards with the Miss Blanche cigarette trademark.”
|The Back of a Larette Throw-Out Card.|
Larette also operated a Studio of Magic in Amsterdam. Emil Loew commended Larette for being a “most likeable and entertaining performer” and that he “was commercial and an excellent businessman”, and that “contributed to his success as a magical entertainer”.
Larette married in December of 1938 to a woman named Johanna Kortmulder. She was from Rotterdam and came from a Catholic family.
On May 10, 1940 Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. Once the occupation was in place, the occupation forces applied the Nuremburg Laws, and began their reign of terror in rounding up and sending many thousands of Dutch Jews to concentration camps, along with so many other victims from elsewhere, in what was to become the Holocaust.
Larette did not consider himself Jewish, but according to the German laws, he was a “mixed married Jew”. The details of May 14, 1943 have several different versions. According to Hannes Höller in his book, European Jewish Magicians 1933-1945, in one scenario two men from the Gestapo arrive at Larette’s home, but in reality they were there for a neighbor of his. In the other scenario, they came for Larette.
Larette must have thought he knew what fate had in store for him, and must have felt a sense of despair. When they arrived, Larette went into an adjoining room, took a pistol and ended his own life. In the German magic magazine of the time, Die Magie, they said that “Larette died after an Allied bombing raid on Amsterdam”.
Those of us interested in the art of magic like to think about how entertaining it is to witness the performance of a skilled magician and how it can fill an audience with wonder and amusement.
|From The Sphinx for April of 1936|
Larette, “The Very Fine Magical Artist” did that for his audiences, but became a tragic victim of the Holocaust. He was not the only magician to die during that time, along with the millions of other innocent victims. We must never forget them.