Marcel Marceau, The Mime Who Managed To Save Hundreds Of Jewish Children With Silence

There are stories and people, in the midst of the events that make up History, the one with a capital letter told in school books, who manage to impose themselves in the memory of those who read them and those who lived them. better than any other episode.

Without too much clamor or too much resonance, there are those who, at the right time, have acted to save human lives , going so far as to put their own lives in danger. And, to do this, the man we are going to tell you about, has decided to use only one powerful weapon: silence .


image credit: Pixabay

The story of Marcel Marceau, the famous French mime, shows that in life you can sometimes express yourself and do great things just by remaining silent. In his case, not speaking was the peculiarity of his expressive art. The incredible talent of mime he had, in fact, succeeded in making him famous as a comic and tragic mask at the same time.

Because the reality in which Marceau lived (in the Marcel Mangel register ) was thus: filled with tragic elements, but with a few comic snatches to find salvation. We are talking about the period of WWII, when the Nazis, with their racist and murderous follies, occupied France. Marcel, from a Jewish family, lived in Strasbourg and understood that from that moment, nothing would be the same.


image credit: chariserin/Flickr

He struggled to survive, changing his surname to make his origins unrecognizable, joined the French Resistance, and often managed to escape the clutches of the occupiers. The Nazis, however, captured and deported his father to Auschwitz, where he died.

But it was in 1944, when the Nazi “lucid madness” decided to exterminate orphan Jewish children, that Marceau decided to act by putting himself in direct danger. He took hundreds of Jewish children from an orphanage near Paris and, disguised as a boy scout leader, he managed to get them out of the establishment three times, simulating trips to Switzerland in order to put them sheltered.

An extremely dangerous operation, during which he obtained the trust and cooperation of the little orphans, thanks to his undisputed art of mime. By improvising scenes, pantomimes and games , he entered into the graces of children and knew how to silence them during their flight, even in the most critical moments. Step by step, danger after danger, the artist and his little ones managed to cross the state border, making everyone believe that they were not .


image credit: Bridge Eastern Europe / Wikimedia

An idea is as ingenious as it is risky, worthy of a particular personality, resolutely heroic. His incredible mimicry ability and acting skills saved his life on several occasions as he found himself having to deal with several groups of Nazi soldiers. If he had been discovered, he and the children certainly wouldn’t have had a chance of survival.

After the war, Marceau studied mime, then brought to life his famous character, Bip the Clown. An unfortunate “buffoon”, far from being a winner, but endowed with great humanity, depth, and hope. Just like Charlot, the famous silent film character conceived and played by Charlie Chaplin.

Silence and discretion continue to characterize Marceau’s life. Until 2001, the actor hid most of his experiences during the years of war and Resistance, including his heroic feat of rescuing young Jewish orphans. What he did, beyond any medal or honor, remains silently strong today.


image credit: Commons/Wikimedia

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