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95-year-old WWII veteran played crucial role in liberating prisoners of concentration camp

Baltimore native grew up Jewish
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Posted at 12:32 PM, Nov 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 18:43:50-05

Maurice (Chick) Paper, 95, says he's not a hero. His wife of 75-years, Cis, says he is the dictionary definition.

Paper grew up in Baltimore, modestly. The family moved to Pimlico when we was old enough to go to school and he faced discrimination for his culture.

His parents were European, and he grew up speaking Yiddish and practicing Judaism. He didn't know much English.

"I remember one of the teachers pinning a note on my jacket with a big diaper pin and I found out later that the note said, 'Do not return this child until he can communicate,'" Paper said.

Paper was interested in ball games and any outdoor activity to keep him busy growing up. At 18, Paper was walking home with friends and heard a paper boy screaming the headline, "Pearl Harbor bombed".

Within a month, Paper joined the service. He started out in the National Guard, then moved into the U.S. Army at age 20.

Then he found love. 

At a sorority party, Paper said it was love at first sight. He saw Cis walk in the door with two boys behind her and he started hitting on her.

"This pretty little girl, who looked very interesting, and I said back up guys [to his friends who accompanied him to the party]," Paper said.

They started going on dates and never stopped.

Paper went to the officer's academy, graduated and proposed to Cis. The Wednesday before the ceremony, he was told he would be going overseas.

He waited until the day before they were going to be married to tell her his orders. Cis was heartbroken to know he would be fighting in WWII.

They were married and he shipped out with one goal: to make it home to his wife.

Paper landed in Casablanca. It was difficult to send messages back home, with censorship blocking the information. 

So Paper sent a simple note that read, "Do you remember the last movie we saw?" Cis knew exactly where he was.

Not long after, he was sent for by General Eisenhower in Algeria. He remained on Eisenhower's staff  as an officer throughout the African campaign, putting his knowledge of multiple languages to use.

Then he moved to Tunis, and ordered supplies for the British. Eisenhower then promoted him to a 1st Lieutenant and he worked with an American outfit in Sicily. 

Moving up the ranks to Company Commander, Paper went on to Munich, where German soldiers were on the retreat. His company cleared the roads littered with building material to push the Germans back.

That's when he got the call to become a Captain and liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp. It was 1945.

"What I saw absolutely destroyed me... I was looking at corpses walking. I was looking at stacks of bodies completely naked, stacked up. Apparently they were going to put them into the furnace," Paper went on to say more bodies fell out of cattle cars nearby when his sergeant opened the doors.

"I blew a whistle for them to come to me. I wanted to talk. As they started coming, maybe two, 300 of them, some of them can hardly walk," Paper told the crowd in Yiddish, stay where you are for 24 hours, because you're carrying Typhus, the Americans are bringing clothing, food, IDs, and shower units.

One man asked Paper to prove he was telling the truth. Paper responded in Yiddish, "Test me."

The man looked about 40-years-old, extremely malnourished, and asked Paper, "How are you called up to read the Torah?" He responded in Yiddish and the crowd was elated.

"We gave them whatever food we had, they were kissing my hands. They were trying to reach for my feet to kiss my feet, they couldn't reach me," Paper said it smelled so bad at the camp that he and his men were carrying cloths over their mouth and nose.

Soon after Paper returned to the U.S., fulfilling his promise to come back to the love of his life in Baltimore.

Cis said it was like a movie scene when they were reunited, a big hug and only giggles the entire car ride home from Camp Meade. After three years apart and hundreds of letters, they were home.

Paper's battles lasted beyond the war. He suffered from PTSD, and came home to a disabled child. The child passed away in young adulthood.

The couple had two more boys and now have loving and successful grandchildren.

As the years went by, Paper started to tell his wife about the war. "Little by little, pieces came out. He would see a war movie for instance and come home and say that's not how it happened," Cis said.

To this day Paper says he doesn't like talking about the horrors he saw in Germany, and says he's not a hero.

His wife disagrees, "No doubt about it, how he survived, I don't know."

Paper said his secret to a long life is finding the right woman and working out. He now lives with her in the North Oaks Retirement Community and hopes to see his 100th birthday.