September 26, 2007

A homage to Marcel Marceau


The death of the great mime Marcel Marceau marks a sad moment not only to the theatre and arts world but is also a great loss of a WW II hero.

When the Nazis uprooted the Jewish residents of Alsace-Lorraine after marching into the region in 1939, Marceau and his family were given two hours to pack their belongings, as they were to be transported to the southwest of France. Marcel and the brothers changed their name from Mengel to Marceau and fled to join the underground movement in Limoges, France. Marceau’s father, a kosher butcher, was captured and deported to Auschwitz in 1944, where he was killed.

While in the French underground, Marceau used his artistic skill to change the identity cards of scores of children so they would appear to be too young to be sent to labor camps.

After Paris was liberated, Marceau enlisted in the Free French Army, where he was appointed liaison officer to General George S. Patton because of his fluency in English. Word of Marceau’s pantomime antics spread through the troops, and soon Marceau gave his first performance to Americans in an Army tent before 3,000 GIs.

”We shall never, never destroy evil, unfortunately, but good exists also and has to reach maturity.”, he used to say.

In 2005 Marceau was distinguished by the Wallenberg Foundation in recognition of his solidarity and courage during the Second World War.

On August 2002 Marceau wrote a letter to Baruch Tenembaum, IRWF founder. The letter was handwritten and accompanied by a drawing of the mime, the same that illustrates this article.

Natalio Wengrower
Oscar Vicente

Translation: IRWF