From early on in World War II, a big part of the Nazi’s policy was to kill people on a massive scale. The party targeted those labeled as enemies of the statesexually deviant, and racially inferior, especially Jews.

Nazi described their enemies as human beings whose lives were unimportant, and they should be outright murdered.

As the war raged on, the policy morphed into Hitler’s “final solution,” The end goal was to exterminate all Jews.

As part of the plan, Nazi Germany built concentration camps where millions of Jews were deprived of food, health care, and basic human needs. It was a genocide of biblical proportion. 

A good number of Jews survived the genocide thanks to Allied soldiers liberating the territories previously occupied by Nazi Germany and resistance movements scattered across Europe.

During his time in the French Resistance, Marcel Marceau would often find himself smuggling Jewish children from France to safety in Switzerland.

He performed mime acts to keep the kids quiet on the way. After the war, he became the world’s best-known mime artist.

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10 /10 A Fan Of Charlie Chaplin

Marcel Marceau was born to a Jewish family on March 23, 1923, in Strasbourg, France. Marcel discovered Charlie Chaplin in the movies and became an ardent fan as a young boy.

The son of a kosher butcher dreamed of starring in a silent film someday. He kept practicing his acts, mainly in front of some friends who found the stunt entertaining.

Years went by, then suddenly Nazi Germany occupied France. Marcel and his family fled for their lives to Limoges.

His father was eventually captured in 1994 and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. Marcel then joined the French Resistance.

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9 /10 First Real Mime Act

During his time in the French Resistance, he put his mime skill to a lifesaving purpose. When Nazi Germany occupied France, Marcel helped Jewish children escape to Switzerland.

He dressed as a boy scout and told the kids that he wanted to take them on vacation in the Alps.

To keep the kids in good spirit and at the same time avoid detection from patrolling Nazis, Marcel performed silent mime acts in front of the kids. Marcel made the journey three times, saving hundreds of Jewish children.

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8 /10 Miming For Life

According to Philippe Mora, a documentary filmmaker whose father also was active in the French Resistance during World War II, Marcel performed mime acts, not in the interest of practicing, but solely in an attempt to prevent the children from getting caught.

He was miming for his life and the lives of the kids who were with him. Before the war came to an end, the Allied forces liberated France.

Words quickly spread about Marcel’s talent as a mime, and he was invited to perform in front of 3,000 US soldiers in August 1944 in Paris.

7 /10 French Army

Marcel left the French Resistance and joined the actual French Army with the country liberated.

Thanks to his multilingual skills (he spoke French, English, and German fluently), Marcel was appointed as a liaison officer for General Patton’s Army.

After the war, Marcel enrolled in the School of Dramatic Art in Paris. Although he planned to become a speaking actor at that time, he studied under Etienne Decroux, the master of miming himself.

In 1946, Jean-Louis Berrault, also a student of Decroux, invited Marcel to join his theater company, and the rest is silent history.

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6 /10 Bip, The Clown

As he gained more confidence in his skills, Marcel created “Bip the Clown” in 1947, inspired partly by Commedia Delle Arte (an early form of professional theater originating in Italy) and Philip Pirrip (or Pip) in Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Bip was just another person in an enormous world, and his life experiences were full of misadventures. Despite his unlikely chances, Bip was optimistic and rebellious.

Society made him feel insignificant, but it didn’t matter. Marcel toured Europe, North America, South America, India, Israel, Australia, and Japan.

Wikimedia Commons

5 /10 An International Success

By 1956, Marcel’s reputation as a mime artist had grown exponentially. At the Phoenix Theatre, he appeared in a program called “An Evening of Pantomime” after a tour of Canada.

The audience and critics were amazed. Marcel continued playing in the United States to packed houses and began picking up TV shows.

His works on TV were not as impressive as his theater acts, but they didn’t diminish his brilliance either.

He once created a mime version of “A Christmas Carol” filmed by the BBC. In the early 1970s, he appeared five times in the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Vicki L. Miller /

4 /10 Wallenberg Medal

Marcel was the best in the art of silence throughout his adult life.

In 1995, he and Michael Jackson planned to have a concert together for HBO, but it was eventually canceled because Michael had to be hospitalized for exhaustion after rehearsal.

In 2001, Marcel received his well-deserved recognition as a war hero for his courage during the Holocaust.

When asked about whether he would give an acceptance speech, he said something along the lines of “never give a mime a chance to speak or he would never stop talking” jokingly.

Imperial War Museum

3 /10 A Model, Not A Fossil

During the late 1990s, new generations of mime artists began to move away from the classical style signature that had made Marcel Marceau a star.

Despite the rebellious gestures from the fresh faces, Marcel remained a role model and never an outdated fossil.

Later in life, Marcel expressed gratitude that the first fundamental review of his performance was published in the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

His 1955 US tour, where he played “Creation” among other titles, was also a massive success. In “Creation,” he reenacted the beginning of the world by mimicking birds and fish using his fingers.

National Archives and Records Administration

2 /10 Chevalier De La Légion d’Honneur

The “Creation” was a great success that it moved to a Broadway theater, the Ethel Barrymore. After the first tour in the US, Marcel kept on coming back to the country every year throughout his career.

The French government awarded him a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur for his achievements in cultural affairs.

In 1978, Jacques Chirac, then the mayor of Paris, established a subsidy for Marcel Marceau’s school for mimes, which still exists today and continues to produce performers. In 1998, he was awarded the National Order of Merit in France.

Wikimedia Commons

1 /10 An Eminent Ambassador

One of the mime greats, Marcel Marceau, died on September 22, 2007, at the age of 84 in a retirement home in France. The day he died happened to be Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism.

At his burial service, the 2nd movement of Mozart Concerto No. 21 played in the background, as did Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5, the music he often used during his mime routine.

Nicolas Sarkozy said that France lost one of its most eminent ambassadors of Marcel’s passing. 

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