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“The Millionaire Who Never Laughs”

Lawrence Bush
January 22, 2018

Marcel Dassault (Bloch), a French aircraft engineer who became a major force in the country’s airplane and defense industries until he was imprisoned by the Vichy government for refusing to build aircraft for the Nazis, was born in Paris on this date in 1892. In 1944 he was confined in Buchenwald, where he was targeted for torture and barely survived the camp’s liberation in April, 1945. In 1949, he changed his name to Dassault, using the alias employed by his brother, General Darius Paul Bloch, in the French Resistance. (The name is derived from char d’assaut, French for “battle tank.”) He became a Roman Catholic the following year. Dassault resumed his work as an industrialist, and acquired several landmark Paris buildings. His Mirage III interceptor-strike fighter was used with great effectiveness by Israel during the 1957 Six Day War. In The Adventures of Tintin comic, Dassault is parodied as the aircraft construction tycoon Laszlo Carreidas -- “the millionaire who never laughs.” He lived to be 94.

“One sunny day in the school playground, I looked up at the sky and saw the Count of Lambert’s Wilbur Wright passing the Eiffel tower for the first time. I had never seen a plane before. There and then, I knew that aviation had become a part of my heart and thoughts.” —Marcel Dassault

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.