Classification scheme: 

Title: Jakob Unger fonds

Dates of creation: 1926-2016

Physical description: 12 cm of textual records; 5 photographs

Biographical sketch: Jakob (or Jacob) Unger (1894-1959) was born in Novopodolsk (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine) to Jakob Unger and Anna (Epp). His maternal grandfather was Dietrich D. Epp, a superintendent of the Judenplan, an agricultural Jewish settlement. In 1912, Jakob began his teaching career. During the First World War, he served as a conscientious objector in the Forestry Service. In 1918 he married Anna Wiens (1898-1979) in Slavgorod; the couple had 13 children. The family crossed the Amur River into Harbin, China in 1930, and in 1932 settled in the Chaco, Paraguay. In 1957, Jacob, Anna and five of their children moved to Beamsville, Ontario to find work. In 1957 and 1958, Jakob recorded his life story, from his childhood in the Soviet Union to the family's journey to China, in notebooks. In 1959, the couple and two of their children returned to Paraguay.

Jakob Unger was a skilled hunter and self-taught taxidermist. He was a keen observer of wildlife. He provided thousands of specimens of Paraguayan birds and animals to museums, predominantly to the Senckenberg Museum in Germany.

Jakob's sister Maria was married to printer and newspaper editor Gerhard Derksen. It was Maria who encouraged her brother to write about his life's experiences in 1957-1958, which she later published in the Derskens' newspaper, the Steinbach Post. Jakob Unger also wrote articles about Paraguay for the Steinbach Post and Der Bote. After his death in Filadelfia (Fernheim, Paraguay) the Museo Jakob Unger (Jakob Unger Museum) was named in his honour in 1980. This museum of Mennonite history also houses Unger's zoological collection.

Custodial history: Donated to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario by Agnes (Unger) Boerner in 2016

Scope and content: Autobiographical writings of Jakob Unger (along with a transcription and translation), family photographs, an academic article about Jakob Unger, and notes from his daughter Agnes.

Notes: For photographs related to Jakob Unger search the Mennonite Archival Image Database.
Further materials related to Jakob Unger may be found by searching the Archives.
Original archival description created 2016 by Laureen Harder-Gissing.

File list:

  1. Autobiographical writings by Jakob Unger detailing his early life in the Soviet Union and journey to China, handwritten in 10 notebooks in German, 1957-1958
  2. Transcription in German by Maria (Unger) Derksen of Jakob Unger's autobiographical writings as published in the Steinbach Post.
    Note: Not all writings  in the notebooks are included in this transcription.
  3. Jakob Unger: Memories. Agnes Unger Boerner, translator and editor. Mount Hope, Ont.: Agnes Unger Boerner, 2013.
    Note: A copy of this published book is also located in the Milton Good Library. Boerner's transcription and translation is directly from Jakob Unger's notebooks and includes all of his writings.
  4. Notes by Agnes Boerner, including description of publishing rights, 2016
  5. Russkii ornitologicheskii zhurnal, v.22 no.912, pp. 2287-2302
    Note: This file contains a copy of an article in the Russian Journal of Ornithology about Jakob Unger.
  6. Printed family photograph album by Agnes and Walter Boerner, Sept 2013


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Mennonite Archives of Ontario
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