GIs Remember

Maurice Paper - Dachau


Maurice Paper, a Baltimorean, enlisted in the Army in 1942, was commissioned in 1943 and rose to captain. He saw service as a combat engineer from North Africa through Italy and across Germany.

"When we came to Munich I received a special dispatch to go north to a place called Dachau. I was sent there because somebody knew that I could read, understand, and speak Yiddish.... My instructions were to open the gates, speak to the survivors and tell them that medical and food supplies and all other necessities of life would be arriving shortly.

When I came on the scene it was unbelievable; I'd heard stories but nothing like what met my eyes. Bodies were stacked up ... bodies were everywhere and the stench was so bad I actually had to cover my face with a handkerchief.

I started speaking Yiddish to the survivors but they really didn't trust me, so they gave me a test. They asked me by what Hebrew name I 'was called to the Torah, and I gave them the right answer.... They said 'OK,' now we will listen to you.

Ninety-five percent of the survivors were Jews. They were very excited when we spoke Yiddish to one another ... In fact, a couple of them were kissing my hands and feet.... They found it hard to believe that they lived, at least they lived.... I got very sad over all of this. I told them we were going to do what we could, to have faith, and that they would all be set free with identity papers.

I became a very strong Zionist because I realized there was no other answer for the Jewish people. Because of my war experiences I saw what can happen to a people, a whole people ......


Source: GIs Remember, (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Jewish Military History, 1994).