The following story of his life was sent to me via e-mail:
“He was born Marcel Mangel on March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg, Alsace. HisÂ father Charles, was a kosher butcher who loved the arts. Marcelâ€™s motherÂ Anne nee Werzberger, took him to a Chaplin movie when her son was five. HeÂ was entranced.
At the beginning of WWII, he and his brother, Alain, hid their JewishÂ origins, and changed their name from Mangel to Marceau. His father died inÂ Auschwitz. His mother survived the war.
The French Resistance was headed up by many Jews. Marcel and Alain joinedÂ the Resistance in Limoges. The Jewish children had to be protected fromÂ both the French police and the Germans.
Although he was trilingual, Marcel taught hundreds of Jewish children theÂ art of communicating in mime because it was important for the children toÂ converse silently. The children were brought to safety by Marceau inÂ Switzerland.
In 1944, he joined the Free French Forces under General Charles de Gaulle,Â acting as liaison officer to General Pattonâ€™s army. Marceau entertainedÂ thousands of US troops after the liberation of Paris.
Marceau was discovered by Laurel and Hardy. He spoke only once in aÂ performance. In Mel Brooksâ€™ film “Silent Movie,” Marceau said theÂ word, “Non.”
He never recovered from his fatherâ€™s loss.
“You see the pain and the sadness in his mime skits,” his cousin, George Loinger said.Â “The origin of that pain was his fatherâ€™s deportation.”
*Interesting addendum: one reader writes that she studied with Marcel and he was very talkative while not onstage.
Thank you for this post. I had no idea he and his family had gone through all of this. It just breaks my heart.