The Death Camp Magicians
New Holocaust Memoir - a Triumphant Survival Story Built on Friendship and Magic
Oct. 15, 2015 - A new memoir, "The Death Camp Magicians," a true story of Holocaust survivors Werner Reich and Herbert Nivelli, transports readers back to the days of the Third Reich and portrays the strength of will two men had to survive in the midst of cruelty that passes all understanding. Central to the story are The Great Nivelli, a professional magician, who performed card tricks for the Auschwitz guards to stay alive and Werner Reich, his starving young bunkmate who not only learned card tricks but also how to endure.
As a 15-year-old boy, Reich experienced the hell of four concentration camps and survived to tell others what it was like to be under the control of Adolf Hitler and the S.S. along with millions of others. When Reich was liberated at age 17, he weighed only 60 pounds. Reich's memoir is preceded with an overview of the rise of the Third Reich written by his longtime friend and author William V. Rauscher.
In 1933, while living in Berlin, Reich's father lost his job because he was Jewish. The family fled to Yugoslavia but when Hitler's troops invaded that country in 1941, Reich was forced into hiding with other families until 1943, when he was arrested and beaten by the Gestapo. After being imprisoned he was transferred to Terezin concentration camp where 30,000 people died from starvation, and out of 141,000 people only 17,000 survived. Reich recalled that when he was in the camp, the guards had competitions on who could cut the most throats—one guard won by cutting 1,630 throats in one day.
"Readers of this book must prepare themselves for a journey to the dark side of human behavior," says co-author Rauscher. "Through these pages the reader will be transported back to the Nazi world during the years when the Third Reich truly believed their leaders would rule the world. They even chose a name for this 'new world.' They called it 'Germania.' It is an incredible story of survival and even more remarkable is that despite experiencing all these atrocities, Reich is a disciple of civility."
Herbert Levin, one of the two men featured in the memoir, was known as The Great Nivelli. Prior to Nazi control, Levin was a prominent performer in Berlin, and the youngest member of the Berlin Stock Exchange. In an effort to escape, Levin moved to Prague, Czechoslovakia until the Nazi regime once again gained control. He and his family were arrested and sent to Auschwitz. But he survived, and came to the United States to once again become a prominent performer. Rauscher saw him perform, became acquainted with him, and periodically corresponded with him and his wife Lotte until Levin's death in 1977.
Reich's interest in magic continued after his liberation and eventual emigration to the United States. He carried the lessons Nivelli had taught him but only knew him in the camp by the number tattooed onto his forearm. Later, as a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Reich discovered Levin's name in an article Rauscher had written on Nivelli for a magician's magazine.
Reich talks of his experiences to young people at schools and synagogues throughout the east coast delivering a message that resonates with today's young people. "If you see bullying and intolerance you should not be a bystander," he says, "You should be one of the 'J.U.S.T.' people and stand up and say something."
He coined the term "J.U.S.T." which is an acronym for Judge the Situation, Understand the Problem, Solve it and Take Action. Reich believes his message is important and volunteers his time to give over 100 talks a year.
And a final warning - this book echoes the words of the philosopher George Santayana, who said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
BEST MEMOIR - 2015
“The Death Camp Magicians” Is HMTC's November's Book Of The Month
First, this book is as solemn and serious as it sounds. Second, there is very little "magic" per se. Third, you should definitely buy and read this.....I cannot proclaim that I "enjoyed: The Death Camp Magicians, but of anything I have read this past year, this is the one book that I am most glad that I did read.
I finished reading 'The Death Camp Magicians'. It was horrifying, but so accurate, and everyone should learn just what went on in the despicable minds of the Nazis. Just unbelievable. Thanks go out to you as author and for publishing this book. A noble cause.
I received 'The Death Camp Magicians' day before yesterday and just completed reading it... a truly moving story and one which everyone should read especially with the way the world is trying to erase history today. I could not put it down.
In 'The Death Camp Magicians', the interwoven stories of two men who survived the Holocaust are shared and contextualized by William V. Rauscher - author of many books on the occult as well as magic history, including the recently reviewed Silent Mora, the Story of Louis J. McCorc. Those looking for tricks or an extended discussion of magic effects, beyond a few tantalizing descriptions and a brief historical review of Jewish magicians will be disappointed. However the autobiography of Werner Reich drives home both the power of magic as well as the incredible personalities behind its practitioners.
'The Death Camp Magicians' is the most compelling book in any g3genre that one is likely ever to read. The handsome volume takes its title from card tricks young Werner learned while imprisoned in, of all places, a fascist concentration camp!...In this disturbing, but inspiring book many aspects of Werner Reich's persona shine through, principal among them are his candor, courage and uncanny sense of humor.