Buy it on Amazon:
Years before Marcel Marceau achieved fame in the art of silence he was a member of the French Resistance during World War II who was fluent in French, German and English. After the Americans landed in France in 1944 he was recruited by the French army for his linguistic skills and assigned to the position of liaison officer with General George Patton's army.
If the Americans were impressed with the young French liaison officer's talent for languages, they also took note of his genius for acting, and after the liberation of Paris Marceau was asked to entertain the troops. He gave his first major pantomime performance in an army tent before an audience of 3,000 U.S. soldiers. And so Marcel Marceau, who would go on to become the world's most famous mime, was first discovered by the United States army .
As it turned out, there was someone else who was also discovered around that same time by the American Army.
After the war, among the Nazi war criminals being hunted by the French government was German SS officer Klaus Barbie, known as "The Butcher of Lyons" because of his cruel torture of Jewish adults and children and suspected members of the Resistance during the German occupation of France. (See previous post, "Silent Hero").
Barbie was found in 1947, not by the French, but by the American army. However rather than turn Klaus Barbie over to the French government, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps decided to sign him on as an informer. Barbie was clandestinely put up in a hotel in Germany and paid $1700 a month by the American Government to help gather information on Communist activity in Europe. In 1947 $1700 a month was a small fortune.
In 1950, after the French learned that that The Butcher of Lyons was being protected and paid by the Americans in Germany, the U.S. intelligence services, likely out of embarrassment, arranged with the help of the Vatican for Klaus Barbie to flee to Bolivia. There he went on to live and prosper greatly for 33 years, living a country club existence, traveling freely and occasionally visiting the United States, and doing business with drug cartels, dealing in arms, and serving as a collaborator with Bolivian government paramilitaries on how to most effectively use torture.
For years France tried to extradite Klaus Barbie but the Bolivian government protected him, and it wasn't until 1983, by which time Barbie was well into old age, that he was returned to France to stand trial in Lyons for his crimes.
Barbie was finally sentenced in 1987 to life in prison and four years later he died of cancer at age 77 in prison in Lyons. Klaus Barbie never repented and until the day he died remained a proud Nazi and supporter of Adolph Hitler. “I am proud to have been a commanding officer of the best military outfit in the Third Reich," he said, "and if I had to be born a thousand times again, I would be a thousand times what I’ve been.”
As for Marcel Marceau, who spent his life bringing joy and laughter to adults and children around the world.
"The people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it. My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.
"Among those kids (who were killed by the Nazis) was maybe an Einstein, a Mozart, somebody who (would have) found a cancer drug. That is why we have a great responsibility. Let us love one another."