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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                      MORTON B. WAITZMAN

                                           AVIVA SHEDROFF WAITZMAN

INTERVIEWER:                  MICHAEL WEINROTH

                                            RUTH EINSTEIN

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                 JULY 10, 2008

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Morton Waitzman was the youngest of seven children born to a Jewish family in Chicago, Illinois in 1923.

In January 1943, Morton enlisted in the Army. After training as a radio operator at Camp Crowder in Missouri, he was sent to Kidderminster, England, where he was trained to intercept German code and communicate with the French resistance. Morton was in the first wave of American soldiers to invade Normandy on D-Day. He went on to participate in the fierce battle of St. Lo and the liberation of Paris. After fighting in Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland, he crossed the Ruhr River into Germany at the end of 1944.

In March 1945, Morton helped capture the headquarters of the notorious Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, and participated in a Passover service held there. His unit went on to liberate slave labor camps in Dinslaken and Gardelegen before liberating the notorious Dora Mittelbau concentration camp. Morton was with the American soldiers who met Russian soldiers at the Elbe River. After guarding displaced persons and German prisoners of war in Bremen, Germany at the end of the war in Europe, Morton was preparing to sail to Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped.

In January 1946, Morton was discharged from the Army and returned to Chicago. He enrolled in college, where he studied ophthalmology, and eventually completed his PhD at the University of Illinois. In 1949, Morton married Aviva Shedroff. The couple had three children.

In 1962, Morton was recruited by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia to begin an ophthalmology research program. After his retirement in 1991, he became a Professor Emeritus. Morton has also become active in sharing what he witnessed with visitors at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

Scope of Interview:

Morton introduces where he was born. He tells how he came to live in Atlanta, Georgia and met his wife. Morton explains his motivation for enlisting in the Army in 1943. He shares his perceptions of the war as a Jewish soldier. Morton describes his journey across the Atlantic to England. He outlines his communications training. Morton reflects on his experiences on D-Day and at the liberation of Paris. From France, he traces his movements across Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, and finally Germany. Morton talks about the slave labor camps he helped liberate and capturing the headquarters of Joseph Goebbels. He recalls liberating the Dora Mittelbau concentration camp, encountering survivors, and capturing German soldiers. Morton points out the role of Werner von Braun in Dora Mittelbau’s use of slave labor to produce the V-1 and V-2 rockets. He recollects meeting Russian soldiers at the Elbe River at the end of the war in Europe. Morton discusses his preparation to fight in Japan before the war ended and he was discharged. He remembers meeting his wife and pursuing his PhD after he returned to Chicago. Morton considers why he began sharing his experiences. He talks about being bar mitzvahed in Israel at his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah. Morton shares his thoughts on his generation and their respect for Jewish traditions. The interview closes with Morton’s reflection on what he would like to be remembered for and what he hopes others will take away from his talks.

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