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April 18: The Concentration Camp Mime

lawrencebush
April 17, 2016

zvi-kanar-1-300x225Zvi Kanar, a child survivor of the Holocaust who became a well-known mime, died at 80 on this date in 2009. Born into a khasidic family in Poland, he spent years of his adolescence in concentration camps in Poland and Germany, including Buchenwald, and survived at least one death march. Kanar "used his physical mimic abilities to stay alive" in Buchenwald, writes Itsik Gottesman at the Forward, "making himself appear larger than he really was. One time, after a German officer knocked him to the ground and everyone assumed he was dead, he jumped sprightly up on his feet and returned to the line as if nothing had occurred. This ability to bounce back and persevere can be found in all his works," which included three Yiddish novels and short story collections (his second novel won Israel’s Itzik Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature). After the war, Kanar came to Israel’s Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon and fought in the War of Independence. He trained as a mime in France in the mid-1950s with Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau. He came to writing in the 1970s and ’80s while living in New York, then returned to Israel in 1994, where he had a strong acting career.

“In his drama, ‘Run Jacob, Run!'... he depicted how his innocent childhood was shattered by the Holocaust. In a powerful, silent performance, he spoke only the words his father had exclaimed to him in Yiddish when Germans entered his town — 'Loyf, Yankev!'" —Itsik Gottesman