Michel Thomas was a gifted linguist who mastered ten languages in his life-time and became famous for teaching much of Hollywood's 'A' list how to speak a foreign language. Film stars such as Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, Emma Thompson and Barbara Streisand paid up to £18,000 each for face-to-face lessons. He even taught Doris Day Spanish to enable her to sing the hit song, Que Sera Sera, with confidence!
Michel Thomas' remarkable life experiences fuelled his passion for teaching languages.
Michel Thomas was born Moniek Kroskof, the only son of a Jewish family who owned a textile factory in Poland in 1914. As a young boy, Michel was sent to live in Germany to escape the anti-Semitism directed at his family. Living in Vienna in 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria, Michel was rendered stateless as a Jew.
He fled the country for France, and when the Germans invaded he joined the French Resistance.
He spent two brutal years in French concentration and slave labour camps, narrowly avoiding being sent to Auschwitz. He escaped, surviving capture, interrogation by Klaus Barbie and torture by the Gestapo.
His mastery of languages enabled him to adopt many identities. At the end of the war, he masterminded operations to uncover war criminals and infiltrate underground Nazi groups.
In 1944, Michel was nominated for the Silver Star medal for his service to the US Army's 45th Infantry Division in France. The award was finally presented to him in May 2004, sixty years later.
It was during Michel's wartime experiences, particularly his torture by the Gestapo, that he discovered his ability to block out pain and unearthed the untapped potential of the human mind. The only way he survived his wartime experiences, particularly his capture by the Gestapo, was by concentrating and placing his mind beyond the physical.
He said, "I concentrated so hard, that I stopped feeling pain. I was amazed at myself."
Fascinated by this experience, he was determined that after the war, he would devote himself to exploring this further and dedicated his life to education.
"I contemplated the untapped reserves of the human mind. The great hidden depths of the brain. I learned from it"
In 1947, he moved to Los Angeles and set up the Michel Thomas Language Centers and taught languages for over fifty years in New York, Beverly Hills and London.
Michel Thomas died of heart failure at his home in New York City on Saturday 8th January 2005. He was 90 years old.
Michel remains the world's greatest language teacher and an inspiration and mentor to learners everywhere
Read more about Michel on Wikipedia
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