Thursday, January 14, 2016



My father, Hugo Adler (b.1895), the youngest child of the Adler family, was born to a traditional Jewish family in Ceske Budejovice. His father, Jacob died in 1926, and his mother, Josephine (born Rind), raised her family of 5 children working as a Swiss cheese agent. She was exterminated in Auschwitz in 1943, as were 2 of her sons and their families; Maximilian Adler, a university professor of ancient Greek history and Arthur Adler, a traveling agent for meat products. The third brother, Leopold returned sick from the First WW and died before I was born.

My mother, Zdenka (b. 1907), was born to a Czech family from Northern Bohemia, who immigrated to Germany, because of poverty and unemployment.

My father studied medicine in Vienna during his service with the Austro-Hungarian army on the East front and after receiving his diploma from the University of Prague in 1919, specialized in treatment of tuberculosis in Vienna and Prague. He became the founder and director of a new tuberculosis hospital (Weinman's Stiftung) in Usti nad Labem in the early 30s until the occupation of the Sudeten border area in1938, after the Munich accord. He met my mother as a patient in the hospital and they married in 1930.


I was born on October 24, 1931 and my sister, Hanna, on July 9, 1934. We lived in a villa, which my parents built in a nice neighborhood in Klise, Usti, where I went to a Czech primary school until 1938.

Our life was of an average Jewish assimilated family, though my parents led a modest life, supporting their poorer relatives. The language at home was Czech, but many of our friends also spoke German, so we became bi-lingual.

In 1938, after the Munich accord our father was mobilized to the Czechoslovakian army and stationed in the Eastern part of Slovakia.

In late 1938 we escaped in the middle of the night when the Nazis who occupied all of the Sudeten areas expelled all Jews, screaming "Juden raus, Juden raus!" (Jews out!)

We left with only a couple of suitcases and traveled with our neighbor, Dr Clement in his car to one of his clients in Svetla nad Sazavou. We stayed there until father was demobilized from the Czech army.

Then we went to grandma's home in Ceske Budejovice. I continued at a local school, and became friendly with the Freund family whose father was a pediatrician in Budejovice and a long time friend of my parents. They all went to the concentration camp in Terezienstadt and from there they were deported to the death camp of Auschwitz, where they were murdered, except for their youngest son, Honza, my best friend, who miraculously survived the hell and is now living with his family in Canada. 

In Budejovice I continued at the primary school. My mother, returning in 1938 from a short trip to Linz in Austria to visit my father's sister, Ida Kafka, urged our whole family to immediately leave Czechoslovakia to any foreign country ready to accept us, because she fully believed that the Nazis would carry out their threat to exterminate the Jews of Europe. 

None really believed her, except for my aunt's family in Linz who managed to escape to the USA and my father who wrote to all of his acquaintances in the USA, Great Britain and Scandinavia requesting a visa to emigrate. Finally a friend of him in Norway, Dr. Jorgen Berner, who was at that time the chairman of the Norwegian Medical Association, sent us and nine other young Jewish doctors a visa to Norway.


We immediately packed our belongings and set out for the supposedly short journey by train and ship to Norway. The winter of 1939-40 was extremely cold and upon our arrival at the Baltic Sea harbor of Sassnitz in northern Germany we discovered that the sea was frozen and that the ferries to Sweden could not sail.

We had to look for some accommodation in Sassnitz and my mother, without any hesitation, boarded the German cruise ship Deutschland which was anchored (it was frozen in) for the winter in the harbor. With an excellent German dialect she convinced the shadow crew to accommodate us in one of the luxury cabins, where we stayed free of charge until some days later, when the Swedish icebreaker Queen Victoria managed to get through to Sassnitz and we continued our journey to Trelleborg in Sweden. 

We arrived in Oslo in the beginning of 1940. My sister and I were accommodated in a children's orphanage, managed by a humanitarian organization. We did not know the language, the food was unfamiliar and the temporary separation from our parents did not ease our predicament.

After several weeks, my father was offered a position as an assistant doctor at the lung hospital in Talvik, Altafjord, in the northern district of Finnmark. After sailing one week along the coast of Norway, we arrived in the small village of Talvik (in the county of Finnmark), which would become our home during the difficult years of German occupation. We lived in Norway until the winter of 1944. 

My sister Hanna and I were attending primary school in Talvik, which at that time had a population of 200 people, mostly farmers and fishermen. I remember my first days at school, with pupils who were older than me and a head taller. People in Talvik lived a secluded life. They did not follow the news on Nazism and the War in Europe and certainly did not have any idea about the persecution of Jews. We were one of two Jewish families in Finnmark. (There was an Austrian dentist there as well.) 

One of my schoolmates, Helge, teased me during one of the breaks at school and called me Hitler! Helge was one year older and much stronger than I, but I attacked him on an ice pick on the seashore hitting him severely, until our schoolteacher, Andreas Bredal Pettersen rescued both of us in a row boat. Never was I called Hitler again! Helge, the son of the local police chief and his brother, Tore, became my best friends until this very day.

One day Helge approached me and offered me a cigarette. He decided to start smoking on his 12th birthday. I joined him of course, almost suffocating. The next day he told me that he had stopped smoking, because he felt he was grown up enough. I never smoked a cigarette again!

At one of my birthday parties which we celebrated in our small flat in the farm that was attached to the hospital we invited some of my best friends. Suddenly a severe storm broke out and because the ground was icy, my friends were blown away and found later in a ditch several hundred meters away. The winters were very cold, with temperatures dropping to minus 40 degrees C and were often buried in 2-3 meters of snow. We had to walk along ropes, stretched from house to house in order not to get lost in the snow storms.

The people in Talvik were very friendly and accepted us among them. We learned the language and participated in all the games, fishing, hiking, plucking berries in the mountains and skiing in the winter. We often went to the mountain cabins during hunting seasons and after a short time we felt at home. The different climate of long and cold winters, with no sun, did not bother us, but were difficult for our mother, who became depressed during the dark months.

The winters were very beautiful during the long, cold and clear nights when we observed the beautiful colors and intricate movements of the aurora. The aurora looked like a moving drape seen from below. The light was sufficient to read a book. Our neighbor's daughter Åshild, who was approximately my age, with whom we played most of the time, was superstitious and believed that if she would point her finger at the aurora, she would be lifted by it to heaven. I, of course wanted to see it and so we held her finger by force pointing into heaven. To our disappointment, nothing happened. 

My father worked in the hospital and soon became renown and loved by his patients for his professional skills and his caring and warm attitude. He was one of those typical family doctors, who understood that medicine involves more than technical skills.

Talvik Hospital

In April 1940 the German army invaded Norway and in the subsequent months occupied all of the country. The Norwegians fought bravely, but they had no chance against the overwhelming force of the Wehrmacht and of the German navy.

In the spring of 1940 an alarm was sounded in the village and the news spread that German warships entered Altafjord and were approaching Talvik and Alta, the district center. Immediately 10-15 militiamen, equipped with WW- I outdated "Krag-Jorgensen's" rifles boarded a small coal cutter in the harbor. 

Krag-Jorgensen's rifle

The Norwegian flag was hoisted on the mast and all schoolchildren sang the Norwegian national anthem. The small motor boat disappeared in the distance, but returned after one hour with the fearless warriors totally heartbroken. The German sailors of the destroyer, observing the futile attempt of the pathetic Norwegian militiamen, started laughing and throwing down potatoes on them. They returned to the quay and unloaded the rifles, which were greased, packed and sunk under the quay. 

A couple of days later the German army occupied our small village. At night 2 of my best friends and I sneaked under the quay, the German sentry pacing overhead and fished out the box with the old rifles. We hid them in the safest place we could think of, in the spire of the local church. From then on we cleaned the weapons every Sunday and practiced aiming the rifles at imaginary German soldiers.