Morris (born Moritz Israel and also called Moishe by family) Schnitzer passed away peacefully on June 9th at Hillel Lodge in Ottawa at the age of 98. He was buried beside his wife, Leah, in the Jewish Memorial Gardens in Osgoode on June 11th, attended by just a few relatives and friends due to the current difficult circumstances.
Morris was exceptional as a person and a professional. He was born in Bochum, Germany on February 4th, 1922 to Hermann and Rosa and had two younger brothers - Edmund, deceased in Montreal in 2012, and Benno, murdered in Auschwitz as were their parents. Morris left Germany on a children’s transport in 1938 but, as it took him only to Holland, he was later caught up in the Nazi invasion and spent the war using his ingenuity and bravery to avoid capture or detection. He was in Holland, France, Switzerland (briefly, as he was thrown back out) and Belgium; he was in prisons, in the Underground, worked on farms and was often on the run. After the end of the war, he finally found out his brother Eddi had reached Canada (via another children’s transport to England) and decided to come here as Eddi promised him he could study. He immigrated in May 1947, studied hard for his university entrance exams and succeeded in entering McGill that fall. He met and married Leah Paltiel in Montreal in 1948.
He studied straight through till obtaining his PhD in Chemistry from McGill in 1955. After 2 years as a researcher in industry, he got into the Department of Agriculture (now Agriculture Canada) on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. He was a principal research chemist there until well past his formal retirement in 1991.
Throughout his long and brilliant career, he published some 400 papers, co-authored scientific textbooks, and cooperated with 30 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists who came from 15 different countries to work with him. He was much appreciated as a very fine and generous teacher and colleague by many who kept in touch for years. He received numerous honours and awards, culminating in the Wolf Prize in Agriculture (known as ‘the Nobel of Agriculture’) which he received in the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem in 1996.
Morris published the memoirs of his life before and through the war as “My Three Selves” in 2002, and they will be re-issued later this year in longer, textbook format under a new title by the Azrieli Foundation. He was much in demand as a speaker (in several languages!) not only on soil chemistry but also on his Holocaust experiences, which he shared bravely and generously. His last talk was at the Montreal Holocaust Museum at their Kristallnacht commemoration last fall: at the age of 97, he spoke without notes, clearly and powerfully.
He was a founding member, along with his wife, of Adath Shalom, a Conservative, egalitarian, lay-led congregation. He contributed his deep knowledge of Jewish studies, prayers and traditions and participated in services right up until the current lockdown.
Morris is survived by his daughter, Eve Schnitzer, grandson Jan Torrents and his wife Nadine, and three great-grandchildren- Aliyana, Xavier and Valentina- as well as relatives in Montreal, Israel and Brazil. His family is missing him tremendously. A great deal more could be told about his warm, strong character, long life and career, but there will be a proper memorial once people can gather in large groups again, as well as the presentation of his memoirs in the coming fall or winter.
If you wish to make a donation in his honour, please send it to the Hillel Lodge Foundation in Ottawa. We thank them for their outstanding care.