Herbert Levin performing as Nivelli
Inspired by a true story, Nivelli's War
is a brand new play about an unlikely friendship forged between a Holocaust survivor and a German evacuee in the aftermath of World War II. Though the events of Nivelli's War
are largely fictional, the play draws inspiration from two concentration camp survivors, Herbert Levin and Werner Reich, whose lives were both saved by just a few, simple card tricks.
At the dawn of WWII, Herbert Levin was a magician known throughout Germany as "Nivelli," yet he was captured and imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rumors quickly began to spread of a magician in the concentration camp, and Nazi soldiers soon summoned him to perform tricks for them, day and night. To help his bunkmates entertain their guards—thereby saving their lives—Levin taught a number of them simple magic tricks, including one young boy, Werner Reich.
"Yes, Herbert Levin started something in me. That first explained trick had a huge impact on my life," says Mr. Reich, who's alive today and lives on Long Island.
Both Levin and Reich survived the Holocaust and eventually emigrated to the United States. Levin resumed his career as Nivelli and Reich pursued a lifelong interest in magic. Many years later, upon reading Levin's obituary, Reich learned that his friend was none other than the famous Nivelli.
Werner Reich shows the identification number tattooed onto his arm when he was a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp.
"I was reading the obituaries. I see Herbert Levin had died. He had been in Auschwitz and was known as The Magician of the Holocaust. I noticed his number was close to mine–his was #A1676 and mine is #A1828." He realized, "That's the guy, the very guy," who saved him from death with a card trick.
"I was inspired from the moment I heard the story of Herbert Levin. This tale of a man using all of his power to fight for survival took my breath away," says Nivelli's War
director Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney, founder and artistic director of Cahoots NI.
Experience this moving story about the magic of friendship. Nivelli's War
is playing from April 28-May 7 at The New Victory Theater. Get your tickets today!
||Brought to the stage by Cahoots NI, Northern Ireland’s premier children's theater company, in association with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Nivelli's War tells the fictional story of Ernst. As a young boy evacuated from Frankfurt, Germany, Ernst finds himself alone with no idea how to return home at the end of the war. When all seems lost, a mysterious stranger who knows the true value of magic comes to his aid. As they travel together through a war-torn world, these two survivors become each other’s ally, protector and confidant.