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Jacobs, Richard



  • Usage: 1924 - 2008


Richard Jacobs, nee Ryszard Mieczyslaw Jakob, was born in Wloclawek, Poland in 1924. His parents, Irena Spiro and Kopel Jakub, were prosperous, secular Jews. Kopel Jakub ran a branch of a grain training business and Irena, the daughter of a leather merchant, had attended finishing school. Richard was educated in a German language gymnasium until his early teens when his family began to flee Poland. The family attempted to flee Wloclawek in a caravan with two horse-drawn carriages but were caught by Poles and turned over to the Nazis. The men in the family were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Richard and his mother, Irena, were initially sent to the Lublin Ghetto and then reunited with Richard’s father in the Warsaw Ghetto.

During the family’s time in the Warsaw Ghetto, Richard’s mother was sent on a transport out of the ghetto which he understood as going to Auschwitz. After that, his father helped him escape the ghetto with forced papers that identified him as Ryszard Jablonski (a common Polish surname). Alone on the streets of Warsaw, Jakob survived by squatting in abandoned apartments. In the spring of 1943 he was arrested as a vagrant and as part of a criminal work gang sent into the Warsaw ghetto to clean up after the failed uprising. Eventually he met a physician who was serving as a Polish Army doctor, Dr. Jablonski, who had a Jewish wife and daughter in the Warsaw Ghetto. Amused by Richard’s nom de guerre Jablonski helped him become a Polish Army medic.

After the war, Ryszard Jablonski went to study at Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. He married Dr. Jablonski’s daughter, Irena Jablonski who was also studying in Munich. Together they had one son, Stephen. After receiving his degree in 1949, Jablonski immigrated to the United States with the assistance of an uncle, Morris Wolf, who was a dentist in New York City. Jablonski changed his name to Richard Jacobs and received his D.D.S. degree from New York University in 1952 and had a private dental practice with his uncle in New York City from 1956-1959.

By the early 1960s, Jacobs got divorced and married Ruth Federbusch, another Holocaust survivor. They moved to California where he received his MPH in public health from the University of California in 1961. Jacobs then went on to receive his PhD from the Medical College of Virginia in 1964, and his MS in Orthodontics from the University of Illinois in 1965. In 1966 Dr. Jacobs became Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. He served as Assistant Dean, Associate Dean and as the Acting Head of the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Iowa.

Ruth Jacobs committed suicide in 1991, and Jacobs remarried Kathleen Smith in 2001. After a struggle with Parkinson’s, Jacobs passed away in 2008 in Iowa City.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Richard Jacobs papers

Identifier: IWA1027

Associate Dean of the College of Dentistry and Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Iowa in Iowa City who, as a young Jewish man, escaped the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland.

Dates: 1935-2015