Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau, the world’s most beloved mime, was born on this date in 1923 in Strasbourg, France. Born Marcel Mangel, he took the name Marceau (an homage to French Revolutionary general François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers) to hide his Jewish identity following Germany’s occupation of France. Marceau’s father, a kosher butcher, was killed in 1944 in Auschwitz while Marcel and […]

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The Butcher of Lyon

Klaus Barbie, a Nazi functionary who became known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for personally torturing members of the French Resistance in the Lyons region, was arrested in Bolivia on this date in 1983. He would be convicted of war crimes in France and die in prison in 1991. Barbie was recruited by American intelligence after the war and aided […]

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Georges Mandel, Resisting the Nazis in Vichy France

Georges Mandel (Jeroboam Rothschild), a journalist with Emile Zola’s L’Aurore, an advisor to Georges Clemenceau, a government minister, and a sharp and prescient opponent of Nazism, was arrested in Bordeaux on this date in 1940. He was released by Petain a few days later after protests were made on his behalf by the presidents of […]

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March 8: A Leap Into Darkness

Leo Bretholz, who escaped death at the hands of the Nazis numerous times, including from a train en route to Auschwitz, died at 93 on this date in 2014. A resident of Vienna, Bretholz fled from Austria after the Anschluss and swam across the Sauer River from Germany to Luxembourg. Arrested two days later, he […]

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March 2: Denise Bloch, in the French Underground

Denise Bloch, 28, a Parisian Jew who had been active in the French Resistance in Lyon as a courier and wireless operator for two years (codenames Ambroise and Crinoline), was flown by the British Special Operations Executive into Central France on this date in 1944 to work undercover with Robert Benoist, her fellow passenger, to […]

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December 14: A Rabbi of the Resistance

David Feuerwerker, a rabbi who helped liberate Lyons from fascist rule and then reestablished the Jewish community in that city after World War II, was awarded the Gold Medal of the City of Paris on this date in 1957. Feuerwerker was “an eminent scholar and spiritual leader of French-speaking Jews in North America,” said the […]

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September 21: Ministre de la Culture

Françoise Giroud (Lea France Gourdji), a writer, screenwriter, journalist, and political activist who co-founded the French news magazine L’Express in 1953 and edited it until 1971, was born to Sephardic Turkish parents in Lausanne, Switzerland on this date in 1916. Giroud also edited Elle magazine from 1946 to 1953 and wrote some thirty books, fiction […]

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July 8: I Shall Betray Tomorrow, Not Today

Marianne Cohn, a German-born Jew who was active in the French Resistance and helped to smuggle groups of Jewish children to Switzerland, was beaten to death by the Gestapo on this date in 1944. She was 22 years old.  Jewish members of the Resistance had prepared a rescue plan for her, but she refused to […]

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March 30: Father of the Jews

Capuchin monk Father Marie-Benoît (Pierre Péteul), who provided transport for more than 4,000 Jews from Nazi-occupied France into Switzerland and Spain, was born in Bourg d’Iré, France on this date in 1895. Wounded in World War I, he took vows after the war and became a leading Christian expert on Judaism. Headquartered in a monastery […]

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The Farewell Letters of the Manouchian Group

Jews of the French Resistance in Their Final Hours Translated by Mitchell Abidor From the Autumn 2015 special issue of Jewish Currents on the theme, “Honoring the Jewish Resistance.” THE MEMBERS of the Manouchian Group, twenty-three mostly foreign-born men and women fighting in the Communist Resistance in France, were captured in the fall of 1943. […]

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