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The French Resistance's Secret Weapon? The Mime Marcel Marceau

January 2, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Marcel Marceau was known worldwide as a master of silence. The world-famous mime delighted audiences for decades as “Bip,” a tragicomic figure who encountered the world without words. But during World War II, his skills as a mime came in handy for another reason: He used them to save Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Marceau was recruited to help the French Resistance by his cousin, Georges Loinger, a commander in the secret unit who was part of the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a Jewish relief group that smuggled Jewish children from occupied France to neutral countries. Loinger, who was credited with saving around 350 children, died on December 28, 2018 at the age of 108.

Marcel Marceau, circa 1950.

Their mission was to evacuate Jewish children who had been hiding in a French orphanage and get them to the Swiss border, where they would sneak to safety. But traveling with large groups of children was anything but easy. Marceau had a secret weapon: His training as a mime.

“The kids loved Marcel and felt safe with him,” Loinger told the Jewish Telegraph Agency in 2007, after Marceau’s death. “He had already begun doing performances in the orphanage, where he had met a mime instructor earlier on. The kids had to appear like they were simply going on vacation to a home near the Swiss border, and Marcel really put them at ease.”

Marceau, who was Jewish, didn’t just use his acting skills to make the kids comfortable: He used them to save their lives. He mimed “to keep children quiet as they were escaping,” Philippe Mora, the son of one of Marceau’s Resistance comrades, told The Age. “It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life.”

The actor also posed as a Boy Scout leader to trick the authorities. “I went disguised as a Boy Scout leader and took 24 Jewish kids, also in scout uniforms, through the forests to the border, where someone else would take them into Switzerland,” he recalled in 2002. And when he unexpectedly ran into a group of German soldiers near the end of the war, he pretended he was a member of the French Army and demanded they surrender. They did—all 30 of them.


Jewish children from Paris caught by the police before being deported to a camp …read more

Source: HISTORY

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