Profile Two

Nahum Waldinger Yaar (#530)

    Like all good stories, we will begin with "Once Upon A Time..." I received an E-mail from RICK WALDINGER (#451) of Oregon, telling me about an inquiry that he received on the internet from a nuclear physicist in Israel by the name of Ilan Yaar (#441), who thinks we are related. After several E-mails to Israel, we find that we are indeed related. His father was born Nahum Waldinger in Lemberg (now called Lvov), but changed his name to Yaar when he arrived in Israel in 1947. Yaar translates to "Forest" in Hebrew, just as Waldinger means forest dweller in German.

    I am sharing with you two amazing letters that I received from Nahum Waldinger Yaar (#430). These letters were written in Hebrew and translated by Dr. Albert Waldinger (# 220), who teaches Hebrew at the Army Language School in Monterey, California.

Open Letter (July 28, 1998)

Dear Gloria and Arthur:

    I finally managed to sit myself down for a few hours and write you briefly – extremely so – about my family in Poland, no longer in existence, and about those in Israel who carry on the name.

    I perhaps wrote you that in ’95 I had a bad auto accident and am still undergoing various tests at the hospital. But the situation is getting much better and everybody says, "It could have been much worse." I’m in contact with Spielberg’s "Survivors of the Shoah" and am waiting for them to record my story of how I managed to survive in the days of the ghetto. But they don’t seem in a rush to come. I wanted to sit myself down and write a book, but for some reason or other, it’s not coming. In any case, you’ll be the first to receive a cassette when they finally do come to record me.

    Bat-Sheva and I are very involved with volunteering for the elderly and are also active in the teacher’s union – Bat-Sheva worked for years as a kindergarten teacher. Until my accident I gave math lessons to gifted children, and voluntary and free, and I hope to continue to do so next year.


    The threesome of cities (or towns), Boryslaw, Drohobycz and Stryj, make up a focal region for the dispersal of the Waldinger family into several countries of the Western world. These three cities are about 100 kilometers away from the capital of East Galizia, Lvov (Lemberg), and the roots are first of all to be researched in the county seat of Stryj. From there, the first members of the family moved to Boryslaw, the oil center, and to the refinery center of Drohobycz.

    Many stories were circulated in the family about the Waldingers who dug the first oil wells in Boryslaw about two centuries ago under the Habsburg regime. Also, it seems that some of the family were employed in the refining of crude oil in the refineries of Drohobycz.

    The name Waldinger stems from German and is owing to those family members who were employed in the forests of Carpathia in Southern Galizia – "Wald-dinger" means "Leaser or agent of forests" in German.

    According to my father, the Waldingers arrived in Poland from Spain in the early years (16th and 17th centuries). My grandfather, Avraham, who lived in Stryj, prayed in the Sephardic style and so did my father. (As for me, I stopped praying a long time ago). He – called Reb Abali by everyone – had a book which listed the names of the heads of the family all the way back to Spain. Between every pair of leaves, there were hairs from his beard and on the side his name was written ("Kalman ben Yosef," for example). Also, there were many dates. But the book was never shown to me, to a child, and only by chance did I get to see (from far) its leather binding. It seemed to me that the book was a kind of family amulet and was passed from father to son.

    (Another) fact proving the Spanish heritage was Grandfather’s habit of smoking a "nargila." I still remember well how he used to sit with his pipe in his mouth. The pipe was connected to a bottle of water some distance away and Grandfather would smoke while poring over a book. Was there another Jew in Poland who smoked a nargila?

My grandfather Avraham was the last to live in Stryj with his wife Miriam (Mirele) nee Wagner. He was a man of the Torah known throughout Poland who studied the Practical Kabbalah for decades with a view of hastening the advent of the Messiah – according to his beliefs. He would sit for a whole night in order to find a formula to arouse God to hurry and send the Messiah.

    Grandfather was a Zionist at heart and tried to influence the rabbis of Poland to compromise with the Zionists and order their followers to ascend to Eretz-Israel and not wait for the Messiah. He engaged in an extensive correspondence with the heads of World Zionism. In our house, there were letters from Weizmann, Rabbi Berlin (Bar Ilan), and the poet H.N. Bialik among others.

    Grandfather Abali passed away in Stryj in 1934 and his big library was donated to the Jewish community in his town.

    Grandfather left behind three sons. One of them, Lester, lives in London and I know that during the Second World War two daughters of the Wagner family came to live with him after escaping from Vienna to London. Today, both of these live in Israel and we’re on good terms with them. The second son, Joseph, arrived in the U.S. during WWI and lived first in Chicago, later in L.A. Joseph left behind two sons, Moshe (Milton) who lives in Petaluma and passed away in 1995. I met Milton in 1987 on a trip to the U.S. and also got to know his daughter Lori and his wife, Lois, with whom I remain in correspondence to this day. They live in Cotati now.

    The second son, Leizer (Lester), lives in L.A. The third son, Grandfather Avraham’s youngest, was my father Moshe of blessed memory, born in Stryj in 1889. He fought in WWI with the Austrian Army and studied at the Rabbincal Seminary in Bratislava (Czechoslovakia). After the War, he got married and moved to a small village in the Carpathian Mountains with his wife Bertha (Bella). There he worked in forestry and from there moved to the big city of Lvov/Lemberg, the capital of Eastern Galizia where my mother lived permanently. My mother, Bella Ostrover, was of Hungarian origin from the town of Segedin, where my maternal grandmother was born – her name was Rachel and she came to Israel in the thirties and passed away in 1947 in Jerusalem.

    My mother and father, may their memories be blessed, died in the Holocaust in the extermination camp of Belzec in 1943. I, Nahum Waldinger (Yaar), was an only son. In the Holocaust, I succeeded in surviving and today live in Natanya, Israel, the last of the Waldingers once resident in Poland who is still alive. I was born in the city of Lvov, Poland on New Year’s Eve, 1919/20 – for various reasons, my birth was registered on my birth certificate as December 26, 1919.

    I studied Oriental civilization at the University of Lvov, and after the entrance of the Russians into Lvov in 1939, went over to teaching Forestry Engineering at the Polytechnic Institute in the city. Until the war, I was active in the Zionist Youth Movement called "Zionist Youth."

    With the entrance of the Germans in 1941, I lived in the ghetto for a certain period of time and then escaped from it to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine and then under German control.

    During the battles of 1943, when the Russian army got near to Kiev, I managed to pass through the front lines and reached the Soviet Union. There I worked as an engineer in the coal mines near Tula (about 200 kilometers from Moscow).

    In 1946, I left the Soviet Union as a Polish national and returned to liberated Poland. I didn’t return to Lvov, since the city remained under the Russians.

    In the summer of 1946, immediately upon arriving in Poland, I organized a group of about 50 young people and we left Poland and went on illegal immigration to Israel, crossing by roads that weren’t really such, the countries of Czechoslovakia, Austria and Italy. On the 29th of November 1947, after a stay in the detention camp of Cyprus, we arrived in Eretz-Israel, then under British Mandate.

    On the way to Israel, in Austria, I got married to Bat-Sheva, one of my student-trainees, and our eldest son, Moshe (named after my father), was born in the English camp of Cyprus. Today, Moshe is the head of a big farm in the Negev on the banks of the Dead Sea.

    In 1950, in Israel, a daughter was born whom we named Bella (after my mother). Bella was a teacher for 20 years, then suddenly passed away at the age of 45 – that was three years ago.

    Our youngest son Ilan is a Doctor of Nuclear Engineering practicing his profession near Beer-Sheva.   

    As for me, I have busied myself teaching mathematics ever since the War of Liberation in which I participated – at the     Vocational School and in Teachers Seminaries. Between 1969 and 1982, I worked as a member of the Mathematics Group of the Weizmann Institute for Science at Rehovot and helped write educational curricula and texts for Israeli high schools.

    In Israel, Bat-Sheva and I have been grandparents to ten grandchildren, may they increase! In recent years, one of the grandchildren has always been in the Army and we are always worried...

    In the letter to follow, I’ll add a few remembered stories. All the best, Yours truly,

    Bat-Sheva and Nahum Waldinger

    In January of this year my sister PEARL GLICK (# 130 ), her husband MERLE, their daughter NANCY ( #141) and her family (Peter, and their children, TODD (#143 ) and ERICA (#144 ), visited Israel. They met with Nahum and his wife at Nahum’s apartment for a few hours. During their visit Pearl video -taped an amazing interview with Nahum. He described in detail the story of his ordeal during the Holocaust. It is much too long to tell here but some day maybe it will be written as a book.

The following is a letter that I received from Nahum after this visit.

Natania, Jan. 10, 1999

Dear Gloria and Arthur,

    Since my last letter to you, about 5 months have gone by. What can you do? Seemingly, it’s hard for me to write. A month ago, I got sick suddenly, the remains of a traffic accident in 1995, and I was forced to undergo another operation at the hospital. The day after I returned home we had a pleasant surprise. Pearl Glick, your sister, visited us with her family. We spoke and spoke and were very happy about it; we couldn’t stop. Unfortunately, though, we only had a few hours at our disposal. Maybe, in the future, we’ll manage to make a short trip to the U.S. and tell more. And there’s so much to tell! In the meantime, I’ll add a few details abut the members of the family, part of which you already know.

    My grandfather, Abraham-Abale,(#526) was perhaps the son of Yosef Shmuel Waldinger ( #400). I remember that he had an oval or elliptical shaped rubber stamp on which was written "Abraham, Abale, son of Yosef Shmuel/Waldinger/ author of the "Kingdom of Heaven." Grandpa, for many years, was occupied in writing a Kabbalistic book entitled "The Kingdom of Heaven," but he never succeeded in getting it printed.

    Grandpa Abale had a brother by the name of Meir-Zvi (Hirsch-Harry) (#401)who left Strij in 1906 and reached the northern part of the U.S., where he worked in tin and was successful and, after a number of years, founded a factory, "Iowa Sheet Metal Construction." His children, 4 sons and a daughter, continued and developed the business of their father. You know, the sons are David (#405) Moshe (#403) Yakov (#408) and Yosef (#404) and the daughter is Etta (#406). David had two sons – I know that one of them studied in Germany.

    I corresponded with David for many years and also received snapshots from him. The daughter of Zvi, Etta, married Irving Borg and their daughter, Gloria, studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for one year. During the summer, I went to search her out, but she had left one day before – in order to go to Greece, it seems – and didn’t return any more. A pity!

    Today I have no connection with the family in Iowa.

    I did recall a story about my father’s grandmother who lived in the city of Drohobycz in Galizia. She passed away in about 1930 after living alone in an isolated house outside of town and managed very well up to the last, when she fell asleep in her armchair at the age of 106! Her last name (after that of her husband) was, it seems to me, Goldhammer. In the family, it was told that when she reached the age of 70 (approximately), oil was discovered in one of the plots of land that belonged to her (according to the Yiddish expression, "the plot began to whistle for joy"). Some oil concerns proposed that she sell the plot, but she refused. This was in the days of the Hapsburgs at the beginning of the century.

    After much pleading, she agreed to sell the plot on condition that she be paid 25 zlogys (or kronen or pounds?) every month till the day of her death. In those years, that was, seemingly, a big sum. Representatives of the company jumped at the bargain, most certainly thinking – "Today she’s over 70; how much longer will she live?" Grandmother continued to live and live and would joke – "I’m still alive only so that the Goyim will have to pay."

    I remembered another story, not so amusing: One of Grandma’s relatives was Morale or Motti Wagner, a high officer in the Austrian Army during WWI and the possessor of an Iron Cross (a high distinction). When the Germans entered Strij in 1941, he put on his Austrian officer’s uniform with the cap and sword and presented himself before the German commander of the city to request him to order that the killing of the Jews cease. A Gestapo member in the room took out a pistol and shot him on the spot.

    It’s hard to talk about the war years between 1939 and 1945 in a letter, about what happened to us, to my wife Bathsheva and me. But maybe we’ll succeed in summarizing isolated experiences and write you about them in forthcoming letters.

Best regards and best wishes,

Bathsheva and Nahum

P.S. Thanks very very much to Albert Waldinger for the translation. We were very good friends of his father, Fredl May his memory be blessed. Thank you for the Newsletter. Keep up the good work!

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