Michel Thomas bigraphy, stories - American linguist and language teacher

Michel Thomas : biography

February 3, 1914 - January 8, 2005

Michel Thomas (born Moniek ("Moshe") Kroskof, February 3, 1914 – January 8, 2005) was a polyglot linguist, language teacher, and decorated war veteran. He survived imprisonment in several different Nazi concentration camps after serving in the Maquis of the French Resistance and worked with the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II. After the war, Thomas emigrated to the United States, where he developed a language-teaching system known as the Michel Thomas Method. In 2004 he was awarded the Silver Star by the U.S. Army.



Thomas was born in Łódź, Poland, to a wealthy Jewish family who owned textile factories. When he was seven years old, his parents sent him to Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), where he fitted in comfortably. The rise of the Nazis drove him to leave for the University of Bordeaux in France in 1933, and subsequently the Sorbonne and the University of Vienna.Robbins, Christopher. Test of Courage: The Michel Thomas Story (2000). New York Free Press/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0263-3/Republished as Courage Beyond Words (2007). New York McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-149911-3

World War II

Thomas's biography gives an account of his war years. When France fell to the Nazis, he lived in Nice, under the Vichy government, changing his name to Michel Thomas so he could operate in the French Resistance movement more easily. He was arrested several times, and sent to a series of Nazi concentration/slave-labour camps, finally being sent to Camp des Milles, near Aix-en-Provence. In August 1942, Thomas secured release from Les Milles using forged papers and made his way to Lyon, where his duties for the Resistance entailed recruiting Jewish refugees into the organisation. In January 1943, he was arrested and interrogated by Klaus Barbie, only being released after convincing the Gestapo officer that he was an apolitical French artist. He would later testify at the 1987 trial of Barbie in Lyon, although the prosecutor "threw doubt" on Thomas' testimony with regard to the "difficulties of identification" after so much time had elapsed.Chicago Tribune, by Julian Nundy, July 1, 1987

In February 1943, after being arrested, tortured and subsequently released by the Milice, the Vichy French paramilitary militia, He joined a commando group in Grenoble, assisting the OSS, then began working for the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. When Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, Thomas learned the whereabouts of Emil Mahl (the "hangman of Dachau"), whom Thomas arrested two days later. Thomas, along with CIC colleague Ted Kraus, subsequently captured SS Major Gustav Knittel (wanted for his role in the Malmedy massacre). Mahl and Knittel were later convicted of war crimes. Mahl was sentenced to death and Knittel to life imprisonment, although both sentences were subsequently commuted. Thomas also engineered a post-war undercover sting operation that resulted in the arrest of several former S.S. officers. A 1950 Los Angeles Daily News article credits Thomas with the capture of 2,500 Nazi war criminals., "'Hangman of Dachau' tries to blackmail war hero", by Sara Boynhoff, February 17, 1950. In the final week of World War II, Thomas also played a part in the recovery of a cache of Nazi documents that had been shipped by the Nazi leadership to be pulped at a paper mill in Freimann, Germany. These included the worldwide membership card file of more than ten million members of the Nazi party. After the end of the war, Thomas learned that his parents and most of his extended family had died in Auschwitz.

Post-war years

In 1947, Thomas emigrated to Los Angeles, where an uncle and cousins resided. He opened a language school in Beverly Hills called the "Polyglot Institute" (later renamed "The Michel Thomas Language Center") and developed a language-teaching system known as the Michel Thomas Method, which he claimed would allow students to become conversationally proficient after only a few days' study.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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