Abraham Adler was born in Hintersteinau, Hesse on May 4, 1891, now a district of Steinau an der Straße. He was the son of a shoemaker who also traded in livestock, cattle feed and seeds.1 Yissichor "Baer" Adler and his wife Fanny, a cousin of his, enabled their son Abraham to attend the Oberrealschule in Fulda from where he received his school-leaving certificate on February 25, 1910.2 He is described as brown-haired, blue-eyed, talented in drawing, painting, and in writing poetry.3
Abraham Adler studied at the Thora-Lehranstalt in Frankfurt am Main from April 1, 1911, to April 15, 1912. His graduation certificate commended his "assiduousness".4
He then took up university studies in Heidelberg, primarily at the Institutes of Botany and Zoology and the Institute of Physiology. He transferred to the University of Frankfurt am Main after seven semesters, where he matriculated for medicine on November 27, 1914. His low matriculation number - 542 - is evidence that he was among the first students to take up studies in Frankfurt after the university opened in the winter semester of 1914/15.5 After five semesters in Frankfurt, he took the state examination in medicine there in April 1917. After that, Abraham Adler applied to continue his studies at the Faculty of Natural Sciences. This was granted and he subsequently enrolled at the Faculty of Natural Sciences on June 4, 1917, where he remained until the end of 1920.6
Among Adler's academic teachers were Heinrich Quincke, a Frerichs student who had moved from Kiel to Frankfurt following his retirement,7 Ludwig Edinger,8 the former assistant to Kussmaul and Alfred Schwenkenbecher. Adler thanked all of them explicitly in his medical dissertation,9 which he had began working on in 1915. It was not published until 1919 under the title "Ueber den Druck in der Harnblase, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Funktion des Blasenmechanismus, dessen Physiologie und Pathologie" in "Mitteilungen aus den Grenzgebieten der Medizin und Chirurgie."10 The war and "a prolonged illness" had delayed its completion.11
Abraham Adler was drafted as a soldier in 1917, worked as a field surgeon in military hospitals, and received the Iron Cross, Second Class for his service.12
During Adler's time as a military doctor, his former superior, the director of the Medizinische Klinik in Frankfurt, Alfred Schwenkenbecher, wrote him an excellent reference. He praised Adler's excellent medical skills, his understanding not only of the practical side of the medical profession, but also of scientific issues. According to the reference letter, Adler was already supervising 40 to 50 beds by 1915.13
Schwenkenbecher later went on to enforce National Socialist policies. He became a member of the NSDAP, a professor in Marburg, and chairman of the DGIM Congress on New German Medicine in 1936. He was responsible for the expulsion of the DGIM committee member Julius Bauer from the professional society after the latter denounced the eugenic positions of the NSDAP as scientifically untenable.14
Increasing Hostility in Leipzig
Adler was awarded his license and his doctorate in 1918, after which he moved to Leipzig. There he initially worked as a physician for internal diseases at the university hospital.15 As part of this work, he conducted research on nephrological issues and contributed a chapter to the "Handbuch der normalen und pathologischen Physiologie."16 Although he mainly published on liver diseases, his hopes of becoming a professor were frustrated, probably because of growing anti-Semitism.17 As he hadmarried and started a rapidly growing family in the meantime, he decided to leave the university. He settled in Leipzig as an internist with his own practice in 1929. He was able to use in-patient beds in the private clinic of the Jewish orthopedic surgeon Hans Isidor Bettmann at Dittrichring 20a.18 He gave many a lecture on liver diseases at the Medizinische Gesellschaft Leipzig, of which he was a member. For the "Handbuch der normalen und pathologischen Physiologie" (1929) he collaborated with, among others, Alfred Schwenkenbecher, who later became a National Socialists, as well as Leopold Lichtwitz and Julius Strasburger who would be persecuted in the future.19
Adler was married to Trude Sachs. Her family was in the fur trade and had a store on the Brühl, one of Leipzig's oldest streets. Abraham Adler and his family were members of the Jewish Orthodox community. Adler joined several Jewish associations, such as the Israelitischer Schulverein and the Jüdischer Kulturbund.20 Thanks to his reputation, he became a well-known physician, especially in the Jewish communities of Europe, who frequently consulted him in case of medical problems.21 Because he injected drugs more frequently than many of his colleagues, he was nicknamed "Spritzen-Adler" (Syringe Eagle).22 Adler would occasionaly interrupt his traditional Norderney vacation for professional reasons.23 Even when he went on a short break to nearby Marienbad, patients were always waiting for him there as well.24
During his time in Leipzig, Adler first lived in the Straße des 18. Oktober, number 13, and at Philipp-Rosenthal-Strasse (renamed Kaiser-Maximilian-Strasse in 1934) 22 from 1928.25 His practice was located at Bosestrasse 2 until 1936, when the authorities forced him to move to less prestigious premises at Lessingstrasse 17.26
His 10-year-old son Sami had been attacked by Hitler Youth as early as 1933. Adler's brother-in-law Jacob Sachs fared worse, when he and his mother Nesse Sachs were attacked and injured in the open street the same year. The Sachs family with its numerous members, fled to places in Italy, France, Czechoslovakia and England. While his parents-in-law had already emigrated, Abraham Adler and his family remained in Leipzig initially, although the older children in particular, suffered from the intensifying anti-Semitism. Adler remained a sought-after expert, published and also still gave lectures.27
He was considering the option of emigrating to Palestine by late 1935. Adler traveled to Palestine and Egypt. He visited hospitals there in search of potential employment. The violent riots of 1936 in Palestine, however, caused him to abandon what was actually his favored emigration destination. He decided on England instead, but to the dismay of his father-in-law, who was already living in England, he took a long time in preparing for emigration. Jacob Sachs believed Abraham was "blind" to the danger.28 A Marienbad patient of Adler's, a rabbi, in a joint effort with Jacob Sachs, tried to convince the doctor that it was essential to emigrate as fast as possible. He would have to give up his life in Leipzig, which still seemed dignified to him, and be prepared to pay the high "Reichsfluchtsteuer" (Flight Tax) . Finally, in the course of 1936, Adler decided to take concrete steps. He asked his patients with connections in England to deposit fees there. Family members received private English lessons.29
The eldest sons, Bernhard and Salomon, were the first to move to England in early 1937. Initially to the friendly Lanzer family in the Jewish-majority London neighborhood of Stamford Hill, then to relatives in Golders Green and Portsdown Avenue. The father accompanied the sons, but returned to Leipzig.30 Abraham Adler again personally picked up his children Bernhard and Salomon in London for the following Passover festival. They celebrated together in the house on the now renamed Philipp Rosenthal Street for the last time. The two boys left Leipzig for good and went back to London via Harwich.31
Still Abraham Adler showed no haste to follow the two first-born sons to England with the rest of the family, although the basic decision to emigrate had been made. Trude Adler had been packing and preparing furniture and art for shipment for months. However, when Trude's sister Erna Steinburg's lawyer warned her in December 1937 that the Gestapo was preparing to search her house the following night, Trude Adler acted immediately. She boarded a train leaving Leipzig with her three children, who had remained with their parents. Still in great fear of being arrested on Reich territory, they reached Harwich on New Year's Eve. Abraham Adler followed a few days later. The family was together again for the first time in nine months, although their daily lives were divided between the London apartments of their grandparents and other relatives. After a few months, the Leipzig furniture also reached London, which admittedly did not all fit into the new home on London's Hope Lane.32
London as New Family Residence
Due to the high moving costs and the payment of the "Reichsfluchtsteuer," the family faced unprecedented financial difficulties, especially since Abraham Adler was not immediately allowed to practice medicine in London. Most of his papers were not recognized and he was forced to study medicine again – in a foreign language and according to different teaching methods – if he wanted to obtain a permit to practice medicine, which was by no means guaranteed. Giving up the medical profession was deifinitely an option, when unexpected help was found. The wealthy Max Ariowitsch, once a fur trader on the Brühl, had already left Germany in 1935, was one of Adler's patients and now generously supported him. Moreover, Adler succeeded in obtaining a paid research position at Guy's Hospital in London. He also visited patients abroad as usual, now mainly in Belgium and France. His main interest, however, had to be his studies, which took him to Glasgow and Edinburgh. As it was possible for people like him to take their exams after having studied for two years in Scotland, as compared to after three years in England.
Adler passed the exam on August 8, 1939. It is ironic that four weeks later the war began and the British government issued an emergency decree allowing medical graduates who had fled to the United Kingdom to practice medicine even without a new degree shortly after. This was intended to fill the gaps in civilian medical care created by conscriptions to the army.33
Abraham Adler was stripped of his German citizenship in January 1939.34 This decision also affected his wife Trude Adler, née Sachs (* 27.2.1899 Cranz/East Prussia) as well as his children Isachar Bernhard (* 20.3.1922 Leipzig), Salomon (Solomon, Shlomo, Sami) (* 29. 8.1923 Leipzig, † 20.10.2010 London), Klärchen (* 23.7.1927 Leipzig), Hans (* 7.8.1928 Leipzig) and Max (* 14.2.1930 Leipzig).35 Their daughter Dorothy was already born in London in 1938.36
Despite the obvious persecution, Abraham Adler's loyalty was tested at the outbreak of the war. The interrogation on November 11, 1939, ended with the clear verdict that Adler was unsuspicious of harboring sympathies for the enemies of the United Kingdom.37 But this by no means relieved the family of all worries associated with the war. As the German Luftwaffe bombed London with increasing frequency, the Adler and Sachs families left London. Abraham Adler found shelter with his family in Oxford. They returned to the capital after some time, however. The situation in Oxford was too difficult, especially with regard to practicing his profession and his children's schooling. There was also a lack of supplies, especially since the Adlers kept kosher and thus required kosher food. Adler took on duties as part of the "firewatch" in wartime London. He had to perform guard duties and provide assistance in the event of a bombing raid on the surrounding area.
The home on Hope Lane was remodeled so that a doctor's office could be established there. Despite the war, a sense of normalcy set in. Adler practiced in his own office, with his wife assisting him as a receptionist. Later the residential building and the practice could be separated, as had been the case in Leipzig. He opened a new practice in a good location in the West End (Forset Court), but kept the old one for Sunday and emergency services. Soon Adler was also able to purchase a car, which was a great relief in view of the many house calls. With his practice in the West End, he acquired new patients, including some prominent ones. Among them were the industrialist Sir Basil Tangye and the liberal philanthropist James de Rothschild, who temporarily housed 30 boys who had fled Frankfurt. Adler took over their medical care. It was through Rothschild that Lord Herbert Morriso, Labour MP, Churchill cabinet minister and later foreign secretary became Adler's patient.38
The Adler family also lived according to Jewish tradition in London. The rabbi, Talmud scholar and philosopher Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler became a close confidant. He became Adler's patient as he suffered from diabetes. He then also became the teacher of almost the entire family.39
Abraham Adler's immediate family that he had founded, survived the Nazi period and the war without physical harm, nevertheless Adler gradually learned of terrible losses. Several relatives had been murdered in Auschwitz including his sisters Hedwig Friedmann and Ross Rothschild. Another sister had lost her husband. Adler's mother Fanny had been deported to Bergen-Belsen with other family members; she died on her way to a British prisoner-of-war camp in Biberach in 1945. Adler helped in many ways. He took in a niece in his home.40
Abraham Adler was 54 years old at the end of the war, his son Salomon was about to take his medical exams, and the dream that the two of them could run a joint practice seemed about to come true. But Abraham Adler fell ill with cancer. He died surrounded by his family on April 16, 1948. He was buried in Enfield/Greater London.
His son Salomon, also a well-known London physician, was honored in an extensive biography in 2014.