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.