Biography of Albert & Sophie Adler

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Albert and Sophie Adler

Memories of My Father and Mother

Albert Adler was born in his ancestral house in Bad Mergentheim,  Württemberg, Germany, to Adolf Adler and the second wife of Adolf. When Albert was three years old, his father died of typhoid fever, leaving his mother with many stepchildren. The first Mrs. Adler and Mrs. Fanni Adler, second wife of Adlolf Adler, had given birth to seventeen children. Approximately thirteen survived. Albert's mother continued their "Spezereien Geschäft" grocery and "sundry" item store singlehandedly.

Those children that were almost fully grown or very poorly behaved were sent to America on a boat to seek their fortune as best as they were able. One "full" older brother, Siegfried, was sent to the "Land of Opportunity,” America, since the mother could not handle him. He was lost, never to be heard from again. Among other misdeeds, Siegfried had taken Albert's earnings from him (Albert and Siegfried had worked as young boys dealing with "Hopfen und Malts" - ingredients for manufacturing beer), leaving young Albert penniless. Consequently, when Albert visited the once a year fair, he could not buy anything to eat. As a result, he was so hungry that he took a candy bar from one of the merchant’s tables and had to run many miles home to escape being beaten by the owner.

Aside from Siegfried, Albert had the following surviving whole siblings: Meta, Rosa, Adolfine. Albert was the fourth in the family constellation, with the youngest being "Fine" (Adolfine). The latter fell into a lake while ice skating, became very ill and was mostly bedridden, ending in a nursing home after her mother's death.

Rosa was the head laundress in a Jewish hospital. She could not find a husband since there was no dowry to give her because her mother was too poor to do this for any of her brood, including the step children. Rosa was very bitter. She did have a friend or two to make life a little less harsh for her. She missed having male companionship and her anger was felt by her poor mother. She once challenged her poor overworked parent and accosted her with the following words: “You should have thrown me against the wall upon birth rather than keeping me to suffer."  It was following that accusation that the Mom had a heart attack and died. Albert always held that against his sibling, although he remained responsible for his sisters when needed. He was most responsive to Adolfine because of her helplessness in addition to having given the promise to his mother that he would take care of her when necessary.

Another full sibling was Meta Meier, who lived with her family in a nearby town, and who gave birth to Senta, a daughter (and possibly some other children).

Albert lived in the attic of their four story home. The first floor was the business, the second and third were separate apartments. The family house was in an excellent location on the Markt Platz where tourists came to shop (Bad Mergentheim was a place for tourists where people with various ills came for cures by drinking the water from the wells of this well known tourist resort in Southern Germany. Albert lived on a straw bed and had to suffer cats, which scratched him as he was in a fitful sleep. The cats were there to kill the mice that attempted to make their abode in the home.

Albert left home at age fourteen since he was sent for apprenticeship to a Jewish family who had a business and who trained Albert in return for the labor that the young man contributed to his "teacher." He ate with the family, and when he did not like the food, he would stuff it into his pockets.

There were a number of humorous episodes that occurred during his apprenticeship. One was that he praised the very tough Matzoh Balls that the mistress of the home made. She gave Albert an extra portion as a result of his politeness. He stuffed them in every pocket and as he arose from the table, the liquid from the dumplings escaped from his pants and embarrassed him.

When his apprenticeship ended, he helped his mother until he had to serve in the German army, since World War One had begun. He was an A number one soldier, and saved a number of lives; one was outstanding, since he rescued a soldier in a body of water and had to cut off his one arm to save his life. He swam this man out of the ocean into safety. He received a number of medals for his bravery! Albert was a very talented and a very quiet, gifted man. He could not become an officer, only an "Unter-Offizier" because he was Jewish. He accepted that without holding the Nazis responsible. Those were the rules of the times. Anti-semitism existed long before Adolf Hitler came into power.

After four years in the German Army and the end of the First World War, he had to spend another year to "muster out" involved folks. Following that, he took over the business at home in Bad Mergentheim. He was then the head of the household. His mother had died (she was a severe diabetic) and he had to ascertain that his sisters were "taken care of.” His was a shoe store — it had replaced the multifaceted business that his mother had handled. The merchandise were shoes and Stiefel (leather boots), mainly for farmers/laborers.

Life was difficult for the Adler family. Money was never plentiful, family lived miles away. Anti-semitism existed always in Germany, and religious and other freedoms were nonexistent.

In January of 1933, Hitler came into power, The world changed for the Neubauer/Adler family as well as for every Jewish person in Germany.

Boycotting Jewish stores and destroying them was one of the brutalities that the Jewish owners had to bear. The heads of these establishments had to see their businesses destroyed along with their livelihood. They had to go like peddlers from door to door, attempting to sell what was left of their wares. Jewish men were beaten, their beards and hair torn out of their faces, and the injuries to their bodies were indescribable. Invalids were destroyed.

Jews had no more medical help and destruction was the fashion. All Jews had to take on the names of Sarah and Israel for their middle names. There was no way of hiding. Through my mother's courage and lingual knowledge she was able to get her nephews and husband out of the clutches of the Nazis. Her oldest nephew, Moritz, was an orphan she was able to send to Sweden with his eighteen year old wife. The second brother went across the border of Germany and from there to Czechoslovakia and ultimately to Israel. Her husband she was able to send through the underground to Belgium and ultimately to the USA, where his two stepbrothers lived. She gave her last cent and spared nothing to get her beloved family out of the clutches of Hitler and his brutal Nazi gang. Her money ran out and her sister Mathilde and a host of other family members were killed, stuffed into gas ovens and dismembered. Anything they still possessed was stolen including any gold. fillings in their teeth. Those were brutally tom from their mouths, leaving the poor forgotten souls bereft of their very last possessions. There ultimately was nothing left for them but the gas ovens.

Sophie, with her three young offspring ranging from two to twelve years of age, made it to Aachen, and then crossed into Belgium by night and fog without a "Groschen"(coin or penny) to their names. Belgian soldiers came along and gave their portions to the two little girls who were starving while they sat on benches in the Belgian train station. The pieces of white bread given and the cups of coffee would never taste as delicious as that day! !!! Mother and two year old Manfred were feverish and waited for transportation to take them to England. They spent a night in the enormous kosher kitchen of a Belgian Synagogue and all ate a good meal. From there transportation took them to London England. There a wonderful single Christian lady moved out of her home to make space for the four homeless refugees. She sent them milk and bread to keep them alive, and did not care if the children stepped on her white rugs. She bought each child a dress and the boy some trousers to have something to wear other than their torn clothing. She was more kind than I have ever seen in any one human being.

In London we saw the air balloons all over the sky, which were to protect the residents from a missile attacks. After approximately six weeks, the four refugees moved to Southampton to await the boat that was to take them to the Promised Land --- America! The ship was full. There were no more spaces to take anyone. With much weeping, begging and persuasion, and the help of Mr. Cartwright, a social worker, the four Adlers were admitted. They coaxed the captain so that their newly found friend, a bachelor, was also admitted. There were loud warnings that the ocean was laced with weapons of destruction which could sink the ship in seconds. Nevertheless we were frightened and thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to be spared. We prayed daily that nothing should happen to us and we promised "hashem" that we would follow in his footsteps forever.

After eight long and fearful days lying in the bottom of the boat on benches, we reached the promised land, where father waited on the shore to embrace his missed & beloved wife and children! ! !



The History of Sophie Neubauer Adler

Sophie Neubauer was born on January 15th 1897, in Barscz Chekkeh, Hungary, the youngest child of Moritz Neubauer and Rosa Kohn. Moritz was a "Grossbauer" (farm owner), an accomplished violin player, and very much in love with his wife and little girl.

In addition he had two other daughters: Frieda, Mathilde and one son, Salamon. Rosa had lost many children before and after birth, since science had not taught us how to retain infants both born and awaiting birth.

Sophie loved her dad, the farm, her Mother, and a dog called Susso. The dog followed her everywhere and ate every kind of garbage, including animal feces. They also had a farm boy who was to tend the animals. He was cruel to these creatures and was known to have torn a horn out of a cow’s head, to the terror of little Sophie.

At Pessach time, Lisanke, a cleaning lady, would come all dressed in white to help to "Kasher" the house, and cleanse it of all Chometz that was possibly around. She would always entice little "Schofka" by promising her a present, an edible plum man (Plutzermendele). "Es wird sein mit rosinkes, ein Mund mit Mandeln, etc" It was to have eyes made of raisins and a mouth made of almonds, etc. Sophie's eyes would brighten and she could figuratively taste the plum creature dissolve in her mouth.

When Schofka (nick name for Sophie) was six years old, the family moved to Breslau, northern Germany, since Salamon had studied in Germany and wanted to be a gentleman and make a living as a merchant rather than a farmer. He opened a small "Strumpf Fabrick," stocking factory. The move was very difficult for the dad, Moritz "Aposchinko,"(an endearing term that his children called him). After some time, Moritz had to return to Hungary to close his farm, etc. At that time the man was in his early or mid fifties. He died there suddenly, to the grief and shock of his wife and children. At thirteen, Schofka had lost her violin teacher, her very beloved father and her hopes for living happily ever after. She was able to continue her violin lessons, and became a very skilled violinist. In later years, shortly before Hitler annihilated all Jews, she was invited to be a violinist in the Berlin Orchestra. The Nazi regime killed all of this. She had to go to farmers to barter for food for her fatherless female driven family.

Her brother eventually had married a very "high hat" Jewish woman, "Die Gnaedige," and produced Grete, one daughter. The beloved Salamon lost his life while he was a soldier in the German army during the First Word War. He was "sorely missed" by Sophie, her sisters, and their mother.

Frieda, the oldest sister, had married and produced two sons, Moritz und Martin. She had met her beloved husband while attending a Shive Besuch (a visit to a mourner's family) . Frieda was kindness and goodness personified. Her spouse was killed during the war when her boys were very young children. She raised them alone and died before son Martin was "Barmitzwahd." The older son was approximately fifteen at the time. The Barmitzwah of Martin was a very sad event. Oma (grandmother) died a half year later.

Both mother and daughter died of cancer — the one of intestinal cancer and the other of breast cancer. It was now Mathilde's turn, a beautiful blond, artistic single old maidish type of woman to become the "mother"/care giver of the two teen age survivors, Moritz and Martin. Mathilde had lost her husband, who became very ill after one year of marriage and had to be institutionalized. Mathilde had won many prizes for her artwork, her paintings. The boys’ grieving, acting out and shenanigans were too much for her!

She struggled with their boyish pranks. In the summer the "boys" visited with Sophie and the Adler family. Ursel became especially fond of Moye because he told her stories, especially at a time when she was ill with rheumatic fever and had to remain in bed. She especially liked the story he told about the "Tapferes Schneiderlein," The brave tailorwho killed seven flies with one single stroke of his hand.

Hitler came into power too soon in 1933 and began tormenting the Jewish population in Germany and eventually in all of Europe. Everything was taken from the Adler family. Jews were beaten physically and eventually killed in gas ovens, shootings, and other indescribable brutalities. On Yom Kippur 1939 Sophie and her three children escaped death by walking over the boarder at Aachen. Albert had been helped with Sohie's brains, ingenuity and knowledge of Yiddish in getting him to Belgium and eventually to America.

Life was no picnic for Sophie. Arriving in a strange land, with a new culture, not speaking the English language, she had to depend on Albert's sixty dollar a month income (the rent in the small house they occupied was forty dollars). Stretching the twenty dollars was very difficult. She had to pluck the chicken that they had for the Schabbes (Sabbath) dinner.  Her children lacked friends, being ridiculed from the Jewish and other inhabitants in the tiny town in which they were sent.  The family suffered poverty and the loss of any "Yiches" they ever had; having to feel beholden for anything the Jewish population did to give them the opportunity to escape the Nazis was no small task.

Sophie did many free services to repay for the promises that these folks had made to keep Sophie and Albert's family off the public dole. Sophie not only baked a cake from frozen material for a celebration that one family had, she also sent her two young daughters to help the folks in cleaning their houses without pay. Daughter Ursel, not quite ten years old, cleaned a whole house full of venetian blinds for a Mervis family in gratitude for having signed a piece of paper that if anything went wrong they would be partially responsible, so that the family could exist. For washing the blinds, Ursel was given a handful of hard candy.

Sophie had to listen to the complaints of her children, did not understand the language, and had to watch her beloved husband work in a dairy cooler from sunrise to sunset. She had no violin to play, to uplift her spirit, and no outlet for the grief she felt leaving her only living sister to be murdered by the Nazis. Nevertheless she was happy to be in America, saved from the criminals who had stolen all of her earthly goods, her dignity and the last of her brethren that she loved.

Sophie adapted. She was determined to be useful. She learned the language on her own, albeit with a German accent, and got whatever jobs she could find.  She worked in a button store, a drape store, lost jobs because of her accent and because her clothing were not stylish enough, etc.,etc. Life was hard.

Sophie died of salivary cancer which had been misdiagnosed by a "cancer specialist." The. disease had metastasized. Her son, the love of her life, did not visit her in the hospital. She clung desperately to her beloved Albert; her mind led her into a psychotic darkness. Her sense of responsibility was so strong and so overwhelming that the Friday morning before Schabbat, she cooked a meal so that Albert should not be without. This wonderful, brilliant, generous woman died two days later, she was sixty-eight years old.

 She was the person who had saved her family, and trusted her spouse to precede them all to America (since the whole family had no affidavit). She got her nephews out of the concentration camps, one over the border on skis, the other through her skill and giving her last cent to rescue him, bribed a lawyer, traveled and walked by night and fog from Breslau to Cologne, to the border of Aachen; saw a man standing in line in front of her beaten to death by the Nazi brutes; dragged her three children across the
border to Belgium; sat with a high fever in the Belgian train station, and ultimately went to London, and to Southampton. In addition with the help of a malach (an angel), a social worker, a Mr. Cartwright, who with her help convinced the captain of the SS Washington to let her unto the overcrowded ship, she managed to help another passenger, a desperate Jewish man, to also be included, and thus saved another soul, another human being.

Sophie was indeed an "Esches Chaye," a woman of worth. She was a rare human being.

She gave of herself, first and foremost helped her family at any cost, without second thought, she also assisted those in need. Gratitude was not given her. Her one daughter adored her; her older daughter was angry with her and moved a continent away and held her mother responsible for whatever did not go smoothly.  Her son scorned her, and held her responsible for her poverty and his difficult times. He became financially successful. He had no use for his mother, his father, nor his siblings, when he became an adult.

Sophie received no accolades during her time on earth. She lives in my memory as one of the kindest, brightest, most giving people in the universe. She saved the lives of her husband and three children.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles, including The American Drug Culture (with Dr. Thomas S. Weinberg & Dr. Gerhard Falk, 2018).

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