Survivor STORY

Edna (Erna) Grunebaum Adler was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her father was arrested and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp after Kristallnacht. He was released several weeks later because he had earned a medal during the First World War. Within two weeks of his release, the family escaped to Rotterdam, Holland, where her father’s brother lived. The family was granted shelter in a refugee camp until their papers allowing immigration to the United States were finalized. The Grunebaum family immigrated to America in January, 1940, settling in New York.

In 1951, Edna met her future husband, Lou Adler, the son of one of the circle of German Jewish refugees with whom Edna’s parents were acquainted through her father’s work as a representative for a drugstore. Edna and Lou were married a year later and moved to Connecticut, where their first two sons were born. Several years later they moved to Atlanta, where a third son was born. The Adlers had nine grandchildren, and Lou died in 2011.

Leaving Europe

Kristallnacht, my mother, what happened to have been my mother's birthday and we had a small party for her. And one of her brothers was there from out of town, whose wife called him to tell him to please hurry home. They were smashing the store windows in their store. And neighbors came from our apartment building to tell my father to go into hiding. And then, later on that evening the Gestapo came into our house looking for my dad. Looking, closets, under beds, every place and told us that if he didn't report the following morning at a certain place that they would just pick up my mother and my sister and I. So my father surrendered and was taken to Buchenwald, where he was for approximately 3 weeks. And was released because he was, he served in the First World War and had gotten a medal. We were given, I think, four weeks to leave the country. My father had a brother in Holland who was able to get us out into a refugee camp in Rotterdam. And we stayed there for a year until our papers were finalized. And in January of 1940 we came to the United States.

Making a Living and Learning English

Because my mother, when we came here we were basically penniless. And my dad went as a door-to-door salesman for the Fuller Brush Company. Mother went to clean houses, my sister went to work in a factory… I went to school.

Well, how did you learn English. Did you just get thrown in?
Literally, yes, I was thrown into a public school and not knowing any English there was a teacher in the... I was supposed to be in the third grade. There was a teacher in the first grade who had a little bit of a knowledge of German and I was put into that class until I was able to move up to the proper grade.

Racism and Race Relations

Especially during the war, when we were on the street, I would not let my parents talk any German.

This is in New York.

Yes. And In the apartment house we lived in I remember, one time some of the children I guess my age who lived there, this horrible time…I remember once they drew a swastika on our apartment door, because they didn't know the difference between German Jews and Hitler's Germans.

Edna Grunebaum Adler