Maurice Sznycer was born Musio Sznycer to a Jewish family in Poland. World War II began when he was a teenager, and he and his family fled eastwards to Soviet territory to escape German invasion of their homeland. In June 1941, Germany attacked the USSR, and the family soon found their village of Kurzeniec (in present-day Belarus), occupied by Nazis. The following year, when the Nazis murdered the Jewish inhabitants of Kurzeniec, Maurice escaped along with his brother Selim (later Shalom Yoran) and spent the frigid winter of 1942 in the forest with three friends. They became Jewish partisans, joining many others in fighting the Nazis in Poland and elsewhere. After the war, Musio changed his name to Maurice and moved to Paris. He became a noted professor of antiquities and expert in West Semitic languages at the Sorbonne. His research focused on western Mediterranean civilizations. He was named director of studies at the Eccole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris in 1971. He published numerous books and scholarly articles that are still considered authoritative.