When I took a water safety and lifesaving course, our instructor warned us of the risks of going into the water to rescue a drowning victim and to only do so if every other attempt had failed, for many people drown while trying to rescue others. We learned techniques to use if we should have to go into the water and approach a person who is in need of rescue.
Have you ever wondered if you would be willing to risk your life to save someone else? Many in military conflicts have been faced with that issue, Many Europeans faced that decision during World War II. Even now, nearly eight decades later, stories of men and women who risked their lives to save Jewish people from death continue to emerge. I recently read (in Israel My Glory, Jan/Feb 2021) the amazing story of Marcel Marceau, considered the world’s greatest mime, who passed away in 2007. With his white-painted clown face, he was famous for his walking-against-the-wind routine and wiping his hand back and forth across his face to change from happy to sad.
But, what most people don’t know is that he was Jewish, born Marcel Mangel, son of a Jewish butcher. Growing up in Strasbourg, France along the German border, he faced–as a teenager–the momentous decision of whether to risk his life to save others. On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, vicious anti-Jewish riots known as “Kristallnacht” (“Night of Broken Glass”) swept across Germany. Jewish homes and businesses were looted and destroyed and Jewish people by the thousands were beaten and many killed. By night’s end, 35,000 Jews were hauled off to concentration camps and hundreds of Jewish children had become orphans.
A wealthy Strasbourg woman “bought” 123 Jewish orphans from the Nazis and brought them to France, turning them over to Marcel’s cousin, Georges Loinger, head of the Jewish Boy Scouts of France. He recruited Marcel to calm and entertain them, and through mime, overcome the language barrier.
When Hitler invaded France in 1940, Marcel fled with the orphans to Lyon, but in 1942, Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon,” became head of the Gestapo. He was known for torturing and murdering Jews, including children. Marcel and his brother made three trips across the Alps to get the orphans into neutral Switzerland. The journey was treacherous. German soldiers patrolled the mountains to catch those fleeing. Marcel used mime to calm the children when the Germans stopped them to check their papers (Marcel and his brother had forged documents for the children to hide their Jewish identity). By the end of the war, some 10,000 youngsters had been rescued.
Marceau escaped the holocaust himself, but his father was sent to Auschwitz where he perished in 1944. Not realizing that Auschwitz was a death camp, Marcel would sit and wait for the train from Poland, hoping his father would return.
Marcel never thought of himself as a hero and only shared about rescuing the children a few years before he died at age 84. He spent his life entertaining others, but he lived with the sad memories of all the war took from him and of the orphaned children. His remarkable story was made into a movie, Resistance, in 2020. Marcel (Mangel) Marceau risked his life to save others.
Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, came from heaven to earth to not only risk His life, but to lay down His life to rescue lost sinners who are being held captive by the adversary, Satan, who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:10). The Apostle John, in his first epistle, wrote: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:10).
God loved us enough to send His “only begotten Son” to die for us so that we might believe in Him and have eternal life–be rescued from being “dead in trespasses and sin” (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:1)–the greatest rescue mission ever undertaken! “God was in Christ, reconciling (rescuing) the world unto Himself…” and He has now “committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:19,20).
Are there people around you who are “drowning in sin” and need to be rescued? If you know Christ, then you are their lifeguard. Just remember, there are risks in rescue work. Make sure you depend on the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit who live within you. They are the “soul winners” (Rescuers)–not you!