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Tombstone fragment recovered from a destroyed Jewish cemetery by a Holocaust survivor

Object | Accession Number: 1993.3.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Tombstone fragment with engraved Hebrew text recovered long after the war by William (formerly Wolf) Ungar from the Jewish cemetery in Rimaliv, Tarnopol District, Ukraine, formerly eastern Poland. Wolf was mobilized into the Polish Army when Germany invaded in September 1939. He was wounded, captured, released, and then returned to Lwow (Lviv, Ukraine), now under Soviet control. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Lwow. Wolf was made to continue teaching at the technical school because the Germans needed Aryan youth trained to work in defense plants. In 1942, the Germans began to deport the Jewish residents. Wolf went into hiding, assisted by a Catholic student who gave Wolf his identity documents. In 1943, Wolf was denounced by the Jewish capo of a forced labor brigade and sent to Janowska concentration camp. He escaped and returned to his old apartment building where the superintendent let him hide in a basement crawl space. The city was liberated by the Soviet Army in spring 1944. William's entire extended family, including his wife and son, were killing during the war. When the war ended in May 1945, he left for Berlin and, in May 1946, went to the United States.
    recovered:  1992 May 27
    found: Rimaliv Jewish cemetery; Ternopil' (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of William Ungar
    front, engraved: [Hebrew text] Shin / Yud (Here is buried)
    Subject: William Ungar
    Wolf (William) Ungar was born on January 21, 1913, in Krasna, Poland (Krasne, Odeska oblast, Ukraine) to Mechel and Fanie Altsziler Ungar. Wolf was active in the Zionist movement. He became a teacher in a technical high school in Lwow), also known as Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine). He was married and had a young son by the late 1930s. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Ungar served in a front line artillery unit of the Polish Army and was wounded on September 13. He was captured when the Germans took control of the hospital where he was being treated, but was soon was released because he was a wounded veteran. Wolf returned to Lwow and resumed his teaching career. Lvov was in the eastern region of Poland and was now Soviet territory, per the German-Soviet Pact.

    In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Lwow region was occupied by German troops, accompanied by Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) who incited pogroms by the local Ukrainians against the Jews. More than 6000 Jewish residents were massacred during July. In November 1941, the Germans set up a ghetto in northern Lwow where Wolf and the other Jewish residents were forcible relocated. Thousands, mostly the elderly and infirm, were shot as they crossed a bridge into the ghetto. Wolf and other Jewish staff at the technical school were retained until 1942 because the Germans needed them to train Aryans, 16-20, to work in German defense factories. At that point, they were to be deported to concentration and labor camps with other Jews. Wolf went into hiding, assisted by one of his Catholic students who gave Wolf his identification documents. He used those papers to get a forged ID in the name Edward Weber and left the city. Wolf did not look Jewish or have an accent which helped in the deception. He went to Warsaw, and then returned to Lwow where he worked in a German military base that employed Jews from forced labor camps, some of whom he knew. At night, he lived in the basement of his old apartment building which had been appropriated by the Gestapo. In December 1943, he had an argument with the Jewish capo, Tannenbaum, of the forced labor camp who revealed Wolf’s Jewish identity to the Germans. Wolf was sent to the nearby Janowska concentration camp, but escaped around April. He returned to his former apartment building and the Ukrainian superintendent hid him in a basement crawl space.

    Around April 1944, the area was liberated by the Red Army. Wolf returned to Lwow. He taught in a government run technical school from 1944-45. His wife, son, and entire extended family, nearly 100 people, perished during the war. The war ended in May 1945 and in September, Ungar left for Berlin, Germany, where he stayed in a displaced persons camp. He had an elder brother in the US whom he had never met, as well as some other relatives, and his brother submitted the affidavit of support for a US visa. Ungar emigrated to the United States on the SS Marine Flasher, the first refugee boat to leave for America postwar. He arrived on May 20, 1946, and settled in New York. His technical background helped him find employment at a factory that manufactured envelopes. In 1950, he married Jerry Schweitzer and the couple had four children. Wolf, now William, received a degree in mechanical engineering from City College in New York. He founded the National Envelope Corporation, the largest such manufacturer in the US. He dedicated himself to educating Americans about the Holocaust and was the recipient of several honors for his philanthropic work. Ungar wrote a memoir about his Holocaust experiences, Destined to Live, published in 2005. He had doubts about his Jewish identity, but then decided to embrace it. William believed that his escape had meaning and that the lesson of his experience was to be more humane. He believed that he had survived to "pay back in some measure the good things people did for me." He died, 100, in September 2013.

    Physical Details

    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Physical Description
    Small triangular fragment of gray stone with partial, faint Hebrew engravings.
    overall: Height: 6.375 inches (16.192 cm) | Width: 6.875 inches (17.463 cm) | Depth: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm)
    overall : stone

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The tombstone was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993 by William Ungar.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 17:50:34
    This page:

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