Escape from the Edge

Narrow escapes and bold decisions define the life of young Morris Schnitzer during World War II. Fleeing from Nazi Germany after the violence of the Kristallnacht pogrom, with his father’s warning to never set foot in a concentration camp echoing in his mind, Morris resolves to fight — and survive. As he assumes three different false identities and crosses countless borders in search of safety, Morris poses as a farmhand in the Netherlands, is arrested and turned away from safety in Switzerland, is jailed in France, joins the resistance in Belgium, and, ultimately, enlists in the American army, vowing to take revenge for all that he has lost.

At a Glance
Germany; the Netherlands; France; Belgium
Passing/false identity
Postwar Netherlands
Arrived in Canada in 1947

196 pages

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Photo of Morris Schnitzer

About the author

Morris Schnitzer was born in Bochum, Germany in 1922. In 1947, he immigrated to Montreal, where he earned both a BSc and MSc at McGill University, going on to earn his PhD in 1955. In Ottawa, Morris worked at the Canadian government’s Department of Agriculture as a principal researcher in the chemistry of soil organic matter. He won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Agriculture in 1995 and wrote three books and more than four hundred scientific papers over the course of his distinguished career. Morris Schnitzer passed away in Ottawa in 2020.

And there I was one evening at the end of December 1942, a free man in Brussels. A German Jew. Via the Netherlands. Via Switzerland. Via France. I was free in Brussels! I didn’t know anyone. I had never lived in Belgium. A war was on. What was I supposed to do now?