6. Before He Became the World’s Most Famous Mime, This Teenager Used His Miming Talents to Save Jewish Children
Marcel Marceau (1923 – 2007) was the world’s most famous mime, and his white-faced character, the melancholy vagabond Bip, became known around the globe. Before he was famous, Marcel spent his teenage years hiding from the Nazis and fighting for the French Resistance during WWII. As part of his underground activities, Marceau managed to save numerous Jewish children from the Nazis by smuggling them to safety. He had aspired to become a mime ever since he first saw a Charlie Chaplain movie as a child. Miming talent came in handy to distract and quiet the tiny tots as he smuggled them past German guards and across the border to safety in Switzerland.
Born Marcel Mangel, the future star was sixteen when WWII began. When the Nazis conquered France, Marceau’s father, a kosher butcher, had to hide the family’s Jewish origins and fled with them to central France. Marcel’s father was captured, however, and sent to his death in Auschwitz. The teenager moved to Paris, and with forged identity papers in which he adopted the surname “Marceau” after a French Revolutionary War general, joined the Resistance.