The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger
Publication Year: 2013
At the beginning of the Nazi period, 25,000 Jewish people lived in Tarnow, Poland. By the end of the Second World War, nine remained. Like Anne Frank, Israel Unger and his family hid for two years in an attic crawl space. Against all odds, they emerged alive. Now, after decades of silence, here is Unger’s “unwritten diary.”
Nine people lived behind that false wall above the Dagnan flour mill in Tarnow. Their stove was the chimney that went up through the attic; their windows were cracks in the wall. Survival depended on the food the adults were able to forage outside at night. Even at the end of the war, however, Jewish people emerging from hiding were not safe. After the infamous postwar Kielce pogrom, Israel’s parents sent him and his brother as “orphans” to France in a program called Rescue Children, a Europe-wide attempt to find homes for Jewish children orphaned by the Holocaust. When the Unger family was finally reunited, they lived a precarious existence between France—as people sans pays—and England until the immigration papers for Canada came through in 1951.
In Montreal, in the world described so well by Mordecai Richler, Israel’s father, a co-owner of a factory in Poland, was reduced to sweeping factory floors. At the local yeshiva (Jewish high school), Israel discovered chemistry, and a few short years later he left poverty behind. He had a stellar academic career, married, and raised a family in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger is as much a Holocaust story as it is a story of a young immigrant making every possible use of the opportunities Canada had to offer.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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An Airplane, a Stevedore, and His Plymouth: Arriving at Pier 21 57Ich hab dir gegebn lebn zwei mol—“I gave you life twice” 64...
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...hen I was in my early teenage years I read Anne Frank’s diary. I recall that I was struck by the similarities between Anne’s experience and ours. At the time I thought that in comparison to our hiding place and living conditions, Anne’s were palatial. I was equally struck by the fact that all nine people in our group survived while in Anne’s story only her father, Otto, ...
PART ONE: THE ONLY JEWS IN POLAND
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My father, Mordechai David Unger, came from a small village near Tarnow, Poland, called Ryglice in what was known as Galicia—a region that encompassed southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. He was born in 1902. He had eight brothers and sisters, but I do not know their names and we do not know exactly what happened to them other than that they were ...
PART TWO: SANS PAYS
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We lived about a year and a half in Tarnow after the liberation. I know now that the Kielce pogrom was July 1946. Kielce is not far from Tarnow. On 4 July 1946, a mob of locals, Polish government oﬃcials, and military attacked and killed forty-two Jewish survivors who had returned to Kielce. It was only one of many deadly assaults on Jews in Poland after the war. It is estimated that ...
PART THREE: CANADIAN THROUGH AND THROUGH
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I was so excited to spot land. As we approached Halifax the boat slowed down, the waves got smaller. We were arriving at the now famous Pier 21—the Ellis Island of Canada. One of the first things Canadian that I saw was a Canadian airplane that flew over the ship, circled it, and headed back to land. It was not a commercial aircraft, so we assumed it was an air force plane ...
PART FOUR: THE BUBBLE COUNTER
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It was 1958. I was twenty years old and had just graduated from Sir George Williams University. I left to do graduate work at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton and became independent. Fredericton was reasonably close to Montreal and it had a good reputation for chemistry. I was very excited. It was the first time in my life that I voluntarily left home. ...
PART FIVE: DEAN UNGER
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I certainly enjoyed my university career. It was multi-faceted. One main part was of course writing scientific papers. I wrote about fifty papers in all. When I was writing these papers, at first I was struck by inertia. I would collect reference papers and prepare myself for some weeks. Then, when I decided that a piece of research was at the point to be written up and I finally put pen ...
PART SIX: “THEY KNOW MY NAME IS SRULIK!”
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I did not want to go back to Poland. From the time I left Poland I wanted to forget Poland. I did not want to think of myself as Polish. I did not want anyone to suspect I was not born in Canada. At university in Montreal I took a course in English diction so that I would not have a foreign accent. I did not spend much time thinking about the Holocaust until that first ...
AFTERWORD: Writing The Unwritten Diary
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...first met Israel Unger in a Tim Hortons doughnut shop in Fredericton. We hit it oﬀ. We both sensed an immediate aﬃnity. I was born in 1959 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to non-Jewish parents and grew up knowing very little about the Holocaust or the Second World War the entire twenty-one years I lived there. So how did it come about that Israel and I spoke the ...
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...A personal thanks and much gratitude goes to the Weksler sisters. Upon finally finding Anna and Czesia Weksler (now Anna Sarid and Czesia Opfer) in Israel along with Anna’s daughter, Shoshi Macam, and Czesia’s son, Shamai Opfer, it was as if the book had gained a new family. This family opened their hearts to the project and helped make it possible in any way they could...
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Books in the Life Writing SeriesPublished by Wilfrid Laurier University Press
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Haven’t Any News: Ruby’s Letters from the Fifties edited by Edna Staebler with an Afterword by Marlene Kadar • 1995 / x + 165 pp. / ISBN 0-88920-248-6“I Want to Join Your Club”: Letters from Rural Children, 1900–1920 edited by Norah L. Lewis with a Preface by Neil Sutherland • 1996 / xii + 250 pp. (30 b&w photos) / And Peace Never Came by Elisabeth M. Raab with Historical Notes by Marlene Kadar ...
Page Count: 234
Illustrations: b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Life Writing