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The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger

Revised Edition

By Carolyn Gammon & Israel Unger
Series Life Writing Hide Details
Paperback : 9781771120111, 240 pages, July 2014
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771120135, 240 pages, July 2014
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588596, 234 pages, March 2013
Ebook (PDF) : 9781771120128, 240 pages, July 2014

Table of contents

Table of Contents for The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger by Carolyn Gammon and Israel Unger
Foreword by Israel Unger
Part I: The Only Jews in Poland
Srulik is born in Tarnow
My Father's Courage
Dagnam's Flour Mill
The Hideout
The Only Jews in Poland
Kissing a Soviet Soldier's Boot
Matzos from America
Part II: Sans Pays
The Kielce Pogrom and a Gash on the Head
Becoming ”Orphans”
Sans Pays in Paris
Charlie and Sydney in London
Back to Paris, Quartier Pére Lachaise
Visions of Canada: Mounties, Snow, and Sheepskin
Part III: Canadian Through and Through
An Airplane, a Stevedore, and His Plymouth: Arriving at Pier 21
Home à la Mordecai Richler
Ich hab dir gegebn lebn zwei mol—”I gave you life twice”
The Yeshiva and Bnei Akiva
Canada Through and Through
The Octet Rule
Collecting Butcher Bills
Kafkaesque Encounters
My Brother Charlie
Part IV: The Bubble Counter
Leaving Home: Montreal to Fredericton
The Bubble Counter
Photochemistry in Texas
Under the Chuppah in Minto, New Brunswick
The Young Professor—From Texas to Saint John
ALS—My Father's Death
Charlie's Troubles
A Mark for Canada
Sharon and Sheila
The Best Granny
Part V: Dean Unger
Dean Unger
Struggles with Charlie
My Mother and Her Backbone of Steel
Making Up for Lost Time
Airplane Accident
Telling My Story
Part VI: “They Know My Name is Srulik!”
Return to Tarnow
A Modern Righteous Gentile: Meeting Adam Bartosz
Meeting Mr. Dagnan
Kalman Goldberg—Outside the Hideout
Rescue Children, Inc.
Ryglice and Dabrowa
State Archives and Registry Office
My Birth House
Matzevahs for my Family
“They know my name is Srulik!”
“How did the Holocaust affect you?”
Afterword: Writing The Unwritten Diary by Carolyn Gammon
Dagnan's List


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 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. Against all odds, they emerged alive. Now, decades later, here is Unger’s “unwritten diary.”
At the end of the war, following a time as people sans pays, the Unger family immigrated to Canada. After discovering a love of chemistry, Israel Unger 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.
This revised edition includes a reproduction of Dagnan’s List, a list of Jewish slave labourer similar Schindler’s List, made famous in the Steven Spielberg movie. The name of Israel Unger’s father appears on the list, in which Dagnan declares that Unger is an “essential worker”—a ruse that may have saved the father’s life. This recently discovered document proves that Israel Unger’s memory of this key part of the story was accurate. A new postscript details the importance of this startling document.


The book's final section sets it apart from many other memoirs, in detailing the extensive research undertaken by Unger and Gammon, greatly facilitated by the internet, to reconstruct the circumstances of his Holocaust childhood: the hiding place, the Polish citizens who helped the nine Jews, others who knew about their refuge but did not denounce them, and even the fates of the five others who hid with the Unger family. Correspondence and personal encounters with various helpful and unhelpful Polish authorities enliven this account. A high point is Unger's meeting with the mill owner's son, who had known about the hidden Jews, and the discovery of and visits with two women from the group, sisters living in Israel. Another strength of the book is its rich photographic documentation, again largely the result of careful research.... Gammon and Unger have produced a readable, unpretentious, straightforward book that will be of interest to those studying immigration and exile, Holocaust memoir, and Canadian university life. Closing the account, the reader is inclined to agree with Unger's assertion that ‘every survivor story ... is unique and extraordinary’ and to concur with his own self-assessment: ‘I have had a very good life.’

- Cecile Zorach, Franklin and Marshall College, Yearbook of German American Studies, Spring 2015, 2015 June

In a small town in Poland, nine Jews hid from the Nazis in an attic crawl space for two years. All of them survived. Israel Unger, professor and dean emeritus of the University of New Brunswick, was one of them. With the help of Carolyn Gammon, Unger has shared his story in the Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger. Unger says the idea to write this book was not his, it was Gammon's. ‘When she first suggested to me that we write a book, my answer to her was that there wasn't a book, that my memories were not very extensive because I was so young at the time,’ he says. Unger was five when they first hid in the attic, seven when they left that tiny space after Poland was liberated. ‘And I was 1 1/2 when the German war machine crashed into Poland,’ he notes. ‘But Carolyn then said, what happened afterwards is also interesting.’ Looking at himself as a representative of what happened to many survivors, he realized that there might be a book. ‘There were 350,000 Jews that survived Poland—10 per cent of the 3.5 million that were living there before the war—and I was one of those,’ says Unger. ‘It seemed to me, in telling the story, you could also tell in some ways the story of many other people.’... What [Unger] found particularly gratifying was that the external reviewer said his story wasn't just part of Holocaust history, it's part of Canadian history. The reviewer also said his story filled a gap. ‘To me, it was kind of a justification for the book, that somebody considers it a part of Canadian history,’ he says.

- Lori Gallagher, Fredericton Daily Gleaner, 2013 April 6

This is like a detective story where we are also taken on the journey with the authors and become witnesses to the discovery of evidence that, in every detail, supports Israel's memories and stories. I have seldom been so moved that I literally stop everything else, including eating until I reach the end. There is a tension between the utter honesty and attention to detail of Israel's story, and the need to dig deeper and find out more emotionally. It makes this book powerful and indeed, empowering. This is storytelling / history / memoir / biography at its very best. The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger deserves an award for its content but also its methodology. It provides a useful blueprint for other writing–interviewing partnerships and shows how dedication to the cause can lead to an incredibly compelling book.... You cannot read this book fast. It is a slow read. It needs to be. Nor can you put it down. So, be prepared to find a safe haven, take plenty of time, and begin this journey. You will not emerge the same person as you began. This is one of those unique, life-changing books.

- Cathie Koa Dunsford, Asia Pacific Review, 2013 April