Valor Friday

| March 24, 2023

Marcel Marceau as Bip the Clown circa 1974

According to the all-knowing, all-seeing Doodle of Google, this past Wednesday, March 22nd was the 100th birthday of famous mime Marcel Marceau. Rather it would have been if he hadn’t passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. In honor of his birthday, I’ll be pulling an old Valor Friday article out this week and giving it a fresh polish. I’m calling an audible and not giving you fresh material as we added another daughter to the Mason household last week. I’m getting too old for this infant shit, I tell ya. 🙂

Many of us who have studied World War II are aware of the French Resistance fighters. Called the Maquis in rural areas, these French nationals fought a guerilla war against the Germans who had invaded in 1940 and occupied their country. They spied on the enemy, provided intelligence to the Allies, and helped Allied and soldiers and airmen escape from behind enemy lines. Perhaps most nobly, some within La Résistance helped Jewish people escape deportation to the concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis.

The first person who had a role saving countless lives from the Nazi death camps is none other than Marcel Marceau. World renowned long after the war for his pantomime skills, he was only 16 when Germany invaded and took over his country.

His cousin, already a resistance fighter, encouraged Marcel and his brother Alain to join the Jewish . They did, in the area of Limoges. Their father a Jew, Marcel and Alain took the surname Marceau in honor of Francois Severin Marceau-Desgraviers, a French Revolutionary general.

Marcel and his brother were hid in the home of Yvonne Hagnauer, and they had cover there under the auspices of working at her school. Hagnauer, for her efforts in saving Jews in occupied Europe would later be designated Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel. It is one of the highest honors of the country and is awarded only to those Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. She is one of fewer than 28,000 afforded the honor and among 4,150 recipients of France.

In 1944 Marcel’s father Charles Mangel was captured by the Gestapo and deported. He died at Auschwitz.

Marcel’s cousin, Georges Loinger, and Marcel took on the task of rescuing scores of children from the Nazis. They did this in a variety of ways. Marcel would change children’s ages on identity cards (of both Jews and Gentiles) so that they would then be too young to be sent away to labor camps (for the Jews) or to German factories.

More daringly, Loinger, who was a physical education teacher before the war, would help kids escape to neutral Switzerland. They used such tactics as staging a soccer game near the border and continually having kids run across the border into Geneva where the fence was guarded only by barbed wire. Marcel would even pose as a Boy Scout leader to lend legitimacy to why a man would be travelling with a large group of children (also dressed as scouts) in the mountains.

Marcel, who had been enthralled by Charlie Chaplin’s antics in movies as a boy, first mimed for these children as a distraction. As the men (who in the case of Marcel was still a teenager himself) would bring the kids towards the border, past Nazi checkpoints and roving patrols, they needed to be kept calm. When stopped, the kids needed to appear not as if they were running for their very lives, but that they were merely going on a vacation to a home near the Swiss border. His acting skills not only entertained the children, keeping them calm as they travelled through occupied territory, but also helped him pass the guards.

Marcel had a part in directly saving at least 70 children’s lives through these efforts. His forgery skills probably saved more than that. His cousin is credited with saving more than 300.

At one point he stumbled across a patrol of 30 Germans. Through his excellent acting skills, he convinced them he was part of a French Army advanced unit. Though the tale differs depending on the source, he either convinced them to surrender en masse or retreat. Frankly, either is impressive.

After the Allies invaded in 1944, he joined up with the French Army. Since he was fluent in English, French, and German, he worked as a liaison with Patton’s Third Army. After the war, he went on to become an internationally famous entertainer. As with many Holocaust survivors, he didn’t talk about his war exploits for more than 50 years, and to this day few know of his heroics during that time.

Marceau died in 2007. He was a recipient of the French Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor) and Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit). From the Mayor of Paris he was given the Medal of the City in 1978. That same year, Marceau also was made a commander (the highest grade) in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters). No more than 20 commanders can be inducted into the order annually.

Category: Historical, Valor, We Remember

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Actions speaking louder than words.

Hack Stone

Hack sees what you did there. Touche’.


Thanks for the post, you learn something new every day. I’m still amazed at what some of these people that I watched on TV growing up did during the war. Case in point the foreign born cast of Hogan’s Hero’s.


Now that sounds salacious!

But I know what you mean.

Last edited 1 year ago by rgr1480

Yes indeed! BTW Remember Hedy Lamar? Interesting book: The Only Woman in the Room. Recommended reading.

Last edited 1 year ago by e.conboy
Hack Stone

That’s Hedley!


Klemperer, Banner, Askin and Clary had large numbers of family murdered by the Nazis. The first three all served in the US military during the war and Clary somehow survived the camps. Different times, different times.


A Hero in every sense of the word. Someone that actually did something “…for the children”.

“…he didn’t talk about his war exploits for more than 50 years, and to this day few know of his heroics during that time.” Imagine that.

Another great write up, Mason. Thanks! Oh…btw…Ya gotta quit bragging/gloating about how many times you get lucky in your carnal relations. We KNOW how babies are made.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

“….. we added another daughter to the Mason household last week. I’m getting too old for this infant shit, I tell ya.”
You know, scientists and doctors DO know how that happens. ANd equally important, how it can be prevented. Might want to look into that, hmmmmm?


That is an amazing story. To have the balls as a teenager to go up against the Nazis and save the lives of children? I take back half of every bad thing I ever said about the French.

Bubblehead Ray

His most iconic movie role was as himself in Mel Brook’s “Silent Movie”. The plot is, in a silent movie style (no dialogue) Mel and the gang run around trying to recruit famous movie stars to be in their movie. Mel calls Marceau and after miming being unable to get to the phone because of gale force winds, he finally picks up the phone, “listens” to Mel pitch his movie, and then he delivers the only spoken line in the movie… “No”.

The movie is not Mel’s best, but having a performer who’s world famous for not speaking, deliver the only spoken line was freaking genius.