September 27, 2007
Marcel Marceau, world-famous mime artist, dies at 84
In 1944, the French Jewish Resistance decided to evacuate the Jewish children hidden in a orphanage west of Paris and transport them by train to Switzerland.
Resistance commander George Loinger called on his young first cousin, Marcel Mangel, to help him organize the dangerous train ride. Mangel, originally from Strasbourg, on the border with Germany, was a monitor at the Sevres home and was himself in hiding.
After the war he changed his name and became Marcel Marceau, the world-famous mime artist. On Sept. 22, Marceau died in Paris at the age of 84.
"The kids loved Marcel and felt safe with him," said Loinger, 97. "He had already begun doing performances in the home, where he had met a mime instructor earlier on. The kids had to appear like they were simply going on vacation to a home near the Swiss border, and Marcel really put them at ease."
Loinger, who has written a book in French on the Jewish components of the Resistance movement during World War II in France, said media reports on Marceau this week were incorrect.
"Marcel was never a member of the Resistance," he said. "Let's say that he performed a few acts of resistance to the Vichy government and the Nazis, but he was never in the Resistance."
Marceau joined the Free French Forces of Charles de Gaulle, in a unit led by Gen. Lattre de Tassigny.
"He and several other French soldiers were in the field in Germany, though I don't remember where," when a group of 30 German soldiers led by an officer surrendered to him," Loinger recalls. "He brought them all back to his base as prisoners. Marcel always said that was his greatest exploit as a soldier."
Loinger, who remains active in Jewish communal affairs as the secretary-general of the Shoah Memorial in central Paris, thinks otherwise: "I believe his greatest exploit was to survive the war. Because so many others did not."
Loinger points to Marceau's father, Charles Mangel, a native of Poland who came to Strasbourg, France, where both Marceau and Loinger were born. Tall and handsome with a great tenor voice, Mangel ran a kosher butcher shop there and wore the yellow star on his jacket.
"By 1944 as a Resistance commander, I knew about the death camps and the deportations," Loinger said. "I went to my uncle and told him 'get out now, you are in great danger. 'He simply refused to believe me. Then the Vichy police came and deported him to Auchwitz, where he died."
Loinger said Marceau was an artist who felt the pain of the world: "You see the pain and the sadness in his mime skits. The origin of that pain was the deportation of his father."
Marceau is perhaps best known for his 1947 creation Bip the clown, signifying the fragility of life in his striped pullover and battered silk hat, much like the Little Tramp, the alter-ego created by Charlie Chaplin.
Marceau, who according to Loinger chose the name after a general in Napolean's army who hailed from the Alsace region, was never very active in the Jewish community but continued visiting Jewish children's orphanages after the war.
Philip Kauffmann, 87, was a Resistance member in the Eclaireur Israelite movement, the Jewish Scouts, and founded a home in Jouy-en-Joisas near Paris after the war where 120 Jewish orphans lived.
"Marcel came several times to perform for the kids in the home," Kauffmann recalled. "It was the beginning of his career. He came because it was a home for Jewish kids. He wanted to make them happy after the pain of losing their parents in the deportations."
Loinger, who was instrumental in helping survivors head for the newly declared State of Israel after the war, said Marceau performed many times in Israel, but "he was first and foremost an artist."
Marceau's funeral, was scheduled to be held Wednesday in the Pere Lachaise cemetery.
-- Brett Kline, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Jack Straus, First American Soldier to Cross into Berlin During WWII, Dies at 92
Jack Straus died at his Encino home Sept. 19 at 92, surrounded by his family. A World War II Army veteran with the 331st Combat Infantry Team of the 83rd Division, Straus was the first American soldier to cross into Berlin during the war.
An anti-tank gunner and combat correspondent, he fought from Omaha Beach at the Normandy hedgerows through five major campaigns in Europe, arriving at a point just 65 miles southwest of Berlin as the Russian army was finally breaking Nazi resistance in Germany's capital. His self-described "impulsive dash" for Berlin has been chronicled in several publications (as was his capture and subsequent release by the Russian army in Berlin who assumed he was a German spy.)
Straus wrote for Stars and Stripes and as a photographer captured vivid images of combat, including the recognizable photo of a dead German soldier clutching the head of a fallen statue of Hitler, which appeared on the cover of Look Magazine. He also wrote and published one of the first books on World War II called "We Saw it Through" -- for which Straus received a letter of commendation from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
After the war, Straus entered the field of marketing and advertising, founding his own agency. His innovative work in the field of women's beauty marketing included designing the merchandising campaign that made the pin-curl clip, an indispensable must-have for women around the world. In 1947, he created the unique packaging that has become a standard in the beauty industry --attaching several visible pin-curl clips to a simple multicolored piece of cardboard.
Straus is survived by his wife, Barbara; sons, Robert (Debbie) and Richard Ogner and David (Laurie); and four grandchildren.