This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on August 29, 2007 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral
History Project. The interview is being recorded at 6029 McNaughten Grove Lane
in Columbus, Ohio. My name is Carol Skolnik and I am interviewing Marty Adler.
Interviewer: I looked over your bio and it looks like you were born in Germany?
Interviewer: Tell me when and where you were born and the circumstances of your family of
Adler: Well I was born in Fulda, Germany which is north of Frankfort, a couple of
hours not more, in June of 1928.
Interviewer: June what?
Adler: 29th, 1928. I’m an only child and born to the family of Adler, Albert Adler, being my father of course, Hedwig, my mother. Albert had two sisters. They both migrated to this country earlier. One was Mrs. Baum and the other one was Mrs. Goldmeier, Molly Goldmeier and Betty Baum. They came before we did. My dad always said he was going to be the last one out and he was. We came here in December of 1938, landed on Christmas day. Landing was my father, myself, my grandmother and my grandfather who were my dad’s parents.
Interviewer: What were their names?
Adler: David and Lena Adler. My dad was in a concentration camp for 19 days in Buchenwald and we were able
to get him out because we had a visa to get to this country. At that time
Germany was not in war with the U.S. so they had to leave him out, plus a few
dollars here and there helped along the way. The minute he got out, within 24
hours, we were on a boat to this country.
Interviewer: Why was he in a concentration camp?
Adler: Well during that time all the Jews were. He was not the only one. The only
ones that weren’t taken out of that city or the small community we lived in,
were my grandfather and grandmother, David and Lena Adler. They didn’t touch
them at that point in time but I’m sure as time when on they probably would
have. My mother stayed behind for 90 days to close up the house, to put all the
furniture, ship all the furniture, pack it and get everything ready to come to
this country, by herself, which in retrospect now I think it was the bravest
thing that anybody could do.
She had, I think, three sisters, one of which went
to Palestine back in the 20’s, 1928. She was a nurse. She met her husband on
the boat going to Palestine which is now Israel, was married, had two children,
Micah and Dena. They were born there so they’re Sabras. The others all
perished in the concentration camp. One of the wife’s husband by the name of
Max Hess was also taken to the concentration camp, I don’t know which one but
one of them. He was in a German concentration camp for about four years or five
years and then when the Russians liberated that area they took him and put him
in a Russian concentration camp for another four or five years.
Interviewer: You were talking about some other members of the family who went to Palestine.
Adler: That was, I think her first name was Meta.
Interviewer: Last name?
Adler: That would have been Katz.
Interviewer: This was who, do you remember?
Adler: My mother’s sister. Then she had two others, or possibly three, I’m not real sure, one of which was married to a fellow by the name of Max Hess.
Interviewer: Did you say Max?
Interviewer: Okay. So Jews were in concentration camps even in 1938?
Adler: Sure even earlier than that, he was one of the last ones that was taken.
Interviewer: Do you remember what life was like then with Jews going to concentration
camps? You were 10 when you came?
Adler: Yes, prior to that the school that we went to of course we could no longer go
and we all had to go to a parochial school which was back in ’36 or even ’35
when that happened. Going to school, early on, was no problem. Closer as you got
to the late 30’s, ’37, ’38 you could see problems coming. Kids would yell
at you. Some of them tried to pick a fight with you just because you were
Interviewer: The Gentiles?
Adler: Yes. The main things that I remember is the Crystal Night which we watched from our bedroom window.
Adler: Yes, we saw the synagogue go up in flames and when they burned the books and the other thing I remember when they took my dad away. That I remember very vividly. Other than that, being at my age, it’s kind of hard to recollect some of the things that went on.
Interviewer: Do you remember being frightened by those events you just mentioned?
Adler: Very much so.
Interviewer: Can you say more?
Adler: As a matter of fact, one of the Hebrew School teachers, I think his name was Metchnik, I’m not sure on that. He lived very close to the synagogue. He came to our house because of everything that was going on within that immediate area where the synagogue or the shul was. There was a lot of turmoil, a lot of problems, a lot of yelling, a lot of screaming, and a lot of people being beaten. He and his wife and children came to our house so they would get out of the area. Whatever happened to them, I don’t know. I just assume the worst probably. To get back to the other part of my familyMolly had two boys, Maynard and Burt. Maynard is a physician here in town, now
retired, and Burt passed away a number of years ago.
It’s just sad that we couldn’t get his history because he was older so he remembered much more than I can or than Maynard could. Betty had one son by the name of Eric and he’s now retired and lives out in California. Of course both of his parents are gone, obviously. Eric has three children, two boys and a girl. Burt has four children, three boys and a girl. Maynard has also four children with the same, three girls and one boy, just the opposite. Isn’t that interesting?
Adler: The one fellow that was Max had two children, a boy and a girl. Before he
went they shipped those kids out on what was then called the Childrens’
Transport, or Kinder Transport. They went to England and were adopted, so to
speak, by a family, not Jewish, name of Van Emden.
Interviewer: Could you spell that please?
Adler: I wish I could. I think it’s Van Emden, Emden. I’m not real sure
whether that’s correct. After the war the daughter of the Van Emdens married a
GI, moved to this country, and of course the children came along with them. They
stayed there for a number of years, with the family, as they matured. I
remember, I don’t know what the year frame was, but many, many years after
when Max got out of the concentration camp, at first they didn’t let him
contact. He was not allowed to contact anybody, went back to Germany because
they nursed him back to his health. He obviously was very skinny and probably
sick as well. One evening our phone rang and it was Max and he asked “I’m
alive, where are my children?” You can imagine what that was like.
Interviewer: What was it like?
Adler: Very emotional to say the least and my dad wasn’t sure who it
was, just somebody calling out of the clear blue. They started to talk and talk
about things in the past that only he would remember and then he found out and
it was who it was.
Interviewer: Max was your father’s uncle?
Adler: His brother-in-law, my mother’s sister’s husband. His wife perished and then there was another
sister, I can’t remember her name, but they’re all gone. They were all sent
to concentration camps all over the area, wherever they were sent. Basically it’s
pretty difficult to remember at my young age. You know between being as old as
ten when I got here, some of the things that happened.
Interestingly about ten years ago the city that I lived in, where I was born,
had a reunion where they brought back all the Jewish people that they could find
that were still alive and the siblings from that family back to the city. What
they did, they took the school that we went to and made it into a community
center with the synagogue being upstairs. I have a very interesting tape on that
which I should bring and let you all see it. Much of it you won’t be able to
understand because a lot of it’s in German. It was made by my daughter-in-law.
We went back for that “Renewal of Faith,” whatever they called it, I
don’t recall. The Mayor at that time was a fellow by the name of Dr.
Hamburger, just like the hamburger that we know.
To this day, he’s now retired
as well, from that day on he wrote us about two letters a year, to all the
people that were back, of what’s going on in the city and who’s doing what
to keep in touch with everybody. I’m sure I’ll get one before the holidays
because it seemed like they always came at that time. I remember about five
years ago, maybe not that long, I had asked him, I wrote him once. I said It’s
so difficult for me to read the German letters, I was ten. I speak it but it’s
very difficult for me to read and the vocabulary, of course if you’ve seen
some of the words are lots longer it seems like so I asked him to write it in
English. Since that time he now writes it in two languages. I get a letter, one
is in English and one is in German. I think the last one I looked at was I think
number 89 or something to that effect.
Interviewer: You kept all of them?
Adler: No, I have a couple of them. They have no meaning. It was interesting to go back to see what
was where and how the city has developed and responded. It has now quite a
sizeable Jewish community that came back, but many of the Eastern Jews from Bela
Rus, from Russia and so on. The lady that’s in charge of the community house
is not always sure whether the people that are coming are actually Jewish.
She has to try to trace and find out and ask questions and so on to see where
they came from, whether the mother was Jewish or the father or if they know
anything. Most of them can’t even read Hebrew because they had no upbringing.
They are now learning how to read Hebrew, what the holidays are like. I’ve
been back about four times now. I’ve taken my grandchildren back to show them
where I was born and show them the school I went to, go to the graveyard. There
are some of the family buried there like my great, great grandfather, (his)?
brother, also a lot of new graves which we noticed. She told us those are the
new Jewish people that came. They are not from German descent but they’re from
Interviewer: Can you remember when your father was in a concentration camp, how did your
family live? Did your mother have money? Did someone have to help?
Adler: Fortunately we did have money so that was not a problem. We lived in fear,
frankly, not knowing what was going on, not knowing where he was. He could have
been three blocks from the house, nobody knew. It was further than that but it
was so secretive. They took him away in the middle of the night. It wasn’t broad daylight.
Interviewer: Did they break into the house?
Adler: No, no, they came knocking. As a matter of fact
the one guy was not an SS guy, he was an army guy. He apologized that he had to
take my father. He said “I know you Mr. Adler, I’ve known you for a long
time but I have my orders to pick you up and I’m awfully sorry.” Yeh, it’s
amazing. You could see the difference between the regular and the SS, just by
their faces, by the meanness that came out of them…
Interviewer: The SS?
Adler: Yes, when you saw one of those you walked the other way because you were afraid because they would hit you for no reason, none whatsoever.
Interviewer: Your family, you know, your family and your cousins and aunts and uncles, how
did you celebrate Jewish holidays there? What kind of religious observance did
Adler: Well the synagogue that we belonged to was Orthodox and the community was
Orthodox. I remember that in the synagogue the men were downstairs and the women
were upstairs. Everybody had their own spot to stay in. I mean this was where
you sat. You had almost like a pew with a desk in front of you where you could
keep your books from one season to the other. I remember the Rabbi, he had a
special door where he came in. As a matter of fact his grandson is a Rabbi in
Israel now. I don’t correspond with him but sometimes throughout the year I
get a letter from him asking for a donation for the kibbutz or wherever he is.
They would celebrate. The city wasn’t that big, we walked everyplace. Back in
the 30’s not too many people had cars. They had horse and buggy. We celebrated
all of the holidays. We had a Succah in the back yard like everybody, worked
until Friday. After that Shabbos was Shabbos.
Interviewer: You had a Bar Mitzvah?
Adler: Absolutely, but my Bar Mitzvah was here. I came
here when I was ten.
Interviewer: Were there Bar Mitzvahs in your family?
Adler: Not that I can remember. I think we were all too young. The only one that
might have been could have been Eric but he lived away, probably three or four
hundred miles from where we were so to go there for a Bar Mitzvah was rather
difficult by train or by car. I don’t recall many of those, no.
Interviewer: You said your dad was in a concentration camp, how long?
Adler: 19 days.
Interviewer: 19 days, wow, that was lucky. You mentioned something about a visa. Do you know who
made the arrangements?
Adler: Sure, my aunt Baum, Betty Baum. They came over here I think in the early, I’m
sorry, late 20’s. They knew what was going on and they started to get visas
for both my family as well as the Goldmeiers. From the best of my knowledge
there’s some shirt tail relationship between us and a family in Cincinnati by
the name of Oscherwitz which is in the meat and salami business.
Interviewer: Yeh, I know exactly.
Adler: I don’t know what it is. It’s way out in left field, the
relationship, and they sponsored us. In those days when you got a visa from
someone they said we will take care of this family. They won’t become a burden
on the state or whatever. The first ones that came over were the Baums and the
next ones after that came the Goldmeiers. I think Maynard and his family came
over in early ’37. Then we came late in 1938. My mother came in March of ’39.
She had to close the house. Of course that was taken away from us with a gun in
your hand. When they came back we were able to get the house back and of course
sold it at that point in time. Some of these things I recall is what my dad, he
wouldn’t talk much about what happened to him. I remember one thing that he
said. They served them, the water that they gave him was very spicy to drink.
Interviewer: Spicy water.
Adler: Extremely spicy. So was the food and the food that they gave him was
pork. The Rabbi that was there in the concentration camp said “You have to
eat. You have to maintain yourself.” So everybody ate and that also was
spicy. Then after that came then If you had money you could get clear water, if
you had money. They would take money any which way they could. I remember him
telling me that story, also how many people. How they’d let one bunk on top of
the other. He told me he was in the middle of I think they said there were four
on top. Other than that he never told, not to me anyhow. I’m sure he told my
mother and my aunts and uncles over here more than what he confided or what he
could tell me. I wouldn’t understand it anyhow at that age, why people would
Interviewer: He never talked to you, even after you came to this country and when you were
maybe a little older?
Adler: No, not really. It seems like that’s an area that he just blocked out of
his mind. I remember seeing the numbers.
Interviewer: Numbers on his arm?
Adler: Right. I asked him what that was and he said that was an identification number for him. In the
daytime he told me they worked. At what, I don’t know.
Interviewer: What was your father’s occupation in Germany?
Adler: We were cattle breeders, cattle, horses and cows, just mainly those things.
Interviewer: Was Fulda kind of a rural area?
Adler: To a point, in Germany particular there’s a little city here and five miles
later there’s another one, there’s another one, there’s another one. My
mother was born in a city called Neuhof which was maybe, it seemed like far away
in those days, maybe 12 miles.
Interviewer: How do you spell that?
Adler: Neuhof. Her family had a butcher shop. How my dad and her met I don’t know but I know how they
courted. My aunts used to tell me that my dad had a motorcycle with a side car.
He burnt two or three of them up by traveling back and forth.
Interviewer: You mean two or three motorcycles?
Interviewer: Oh boy, that’s true love.
Adler: Yes, It was close but it was far away in those days. It’s like from here when somebody said 15
or 20 years ago, I think I’ll go to New Albany. That’s part of the country.
It’s hard to kind of pinpoint some of the things. The things that really stick
out in my mind was Crystal Nacht. You can see that fire. When they took my dad
and of course, some of the other unpleasantries that happened. In the city where
we lived there was a market. Farmers would come in with their cattle and people
would buy and sell, horses, cows and so on. I remember once, this was late,
probably in ’38, when the SS came down and took the market, separated the
Gentiles from the Jews.
If you couldn’t move quickly enough, they beat you with a club, just for no
reason at all. I remember my dad and my uncle that time coming back up the
street. I saw that but it was hard for me to comprehend why people would do
that. The kids that we used to play with “friends” quote, unquote,
after a while they wouldn’t talk to you. It was very hard for me to understand
Interviewer: Did you ever ask any of them why they didn’t talk to you?
Adler: They just said not allowed, just not allowed. That was very quickly. The
other thing that I would see is when they … there were a lot of Jewish shops,
stores, clothing stores and whatever, beautiful shops, where they would break
the windows and just ransack it. That was done about the same time they took my
dad to the concentration camp. I remember sometimes walking into the city. We
lived in the city. It’s hard to understand.
Interviewer: You mean like a small town.
Adler: You know, it’s like going from here a couple blocks, you’re in the city already.
You’d see the stores with a big SS and with Jude which is J. I gave Peggy
copies of my passport you know with a big J on it. You were identified rather
quickly. We lived in a house which we lived on the third floor and Maynard lived
on the second floor. They bought the house together. On the first floor were
odds and ends, like a little shop. Most of the houses in that city in that time
were of that style. Again I gave Peggy a picture of that. Maynard tells a story.
They flipped a coin who got the second floor and who got the third floor.
Interviewer: Which one was more desirable, the second?
Adler: The second floor, sure. The back yard was enormous, very large. We had a big area back there to keep feed, some areas
where we kept some animals, had another area where some of the help lived. How many I don’t know, maybe three or four guys that would work in the barn and take care of the animals. We also had a farm that was a little further away where most of the stuff was kept.
Interviewer: Do you recall what port you left from?
Adler: Sure, that I can remember. We left out of Hamburg and came on the U.S.S.
United States I think was the name of the boat.
Interviewer: U.S.S. United States?
Interviewer: Where did the ship land?
Adler: In New York.
Interviewer: Ellis Island?
Adler: No, at that time there was no Ellis Island. It was still there but we didn’t have to go
through it. They had closed it.
Interviewer: I should know that but I wasn’t sure. You arrived in New York?
Adler: The thing I remember in the morning, like maybe 7:00 or 8:00 when it got
light already because it was December, I was out on the deck watching, you see
the Statue of Liberty which at that time didn’t mean as much because I didn’t
know what it was. You could see the skyline as you start coming down the Hudson
and that was quite impressive, a big city, for a little kid like me. None of us
really spoke any English, I had a little bit in school. I remember we took the
train from New York at night and the next morning we arrived here.
Interviewer: I see, did anybody you knew or anybody in the family meet you at the train in New York?
Interviewer: They met you here?
Adler: Oh, sure.
Interviewer: Do you remember anything about the ship ride?
Adler: A lot of people were sick. It was very bumpy. The seas were rough, especially
going through the channel. I remember that very vividly. I remember going into
the dining room at night. I would ask my dad, where is everybody? I couldn’t
figure out. There were a lot of people on the boat but it was I guess a
difficult crossing, in December, late December; the cold, the winds were there.
It was kind of rough even though the boat was huge. I remember that. I remember
being dressed, going at night. I remember walking in Hamburg. My mother, my
father, and my grandparents were walking down this particular street towards the
boat. Somewhere I have a picture of that, I don’t know where.
Interviewer: When you and your dad were leaving?
Adler: And my grandparents.
Interviewer: And your grandparents.
Adler: My grandparents lived with us for a number of years till they
Interviewer: When you first got here, you moved to Columbus, you didn’t speak English?
Adler: Very little, maybe ten words, my parents, none whatsoever.
Interviewer: Where did you live? Where was the first house you lived in?
Adler: We stayed with my aunt, with the Baums, for probably a couple months. Then we
bought a house on Fulton Street with the Goldmeiers on one side. It was a
double, 865 East Fulton Street, 867 East Fulton Street. I don’t know if it’s
still standing or not. When my mother came we were already in the house. We were
able to finish putting all the furniture, all the furniture we brought,
everything came from Germany.
Interviewer: You were lucky to get it out.
Adler: Yes, in those days you were able to ship as much as you could. Everything was taxed. You had
to pay highly for that, of course the freight. Whatever you bought there was a
tax on it. What it was I don’t know but it was expensive I do recall.
Interviewer: Did you start school right away?
Interviewer: What was that like?
Adler: My first experience was I remember that I’m the only guy that had short
pants, that’s all we wore. I remember the first day I went to school and I
came home, I think about 11:00 in the morning and my mother wanted to know why I’m
home. I said, “Well school is out. All the kids went outside. They were in
the back playing in the yard.” I didn’t know, I couldn’t speak so I
thought I might as well go home. It was recess. There was a teacher at Fulton
Street Elementary that spoke German somewhat. and she tutored me. Little by
little you learn the language by listening and studying you learn. Fortunately
as time goes on you’re able to get better at it.
Interviewer: Were there other kids in the school you knew of who had recently come from
Adler: Not at that school, not at that time. Of course there were other kids that
lived in Columbus that came from Germany that I knew.
Interviewer: What did your father do when he came? How did he find a job?
Adler: There was an organization the name of which I can’t recall. They found him
a job with a company called Nelson Furniture. Now remember he spoke no English.
He started out as a shipping (clerk) opening furniture and moving it from here
to there. Little by little he worked his way back into a managerial position
with the company. They had I think four or five furniture stores at the time.
Not over night, mind you, I mean over a number of years. I recall that he would
save the cartons; you know when he opened boxes, save the cardboard and flatten
it out. We brought over a wagon, not like you can think of that as a Red Flyer,
but one that was like a large Conestoga wagon only in miniature. I would walk
down, we lived on Fulton Street. I’d walk and the store was at Fourth and
Main. I’d walk down there, pick up the cardboard and take it over to the junk
yards and sell it. That’s how I made some extra money. That was for some time.
Interviewer: You quickly learned English?
Adler: I don’t know how quickly.
Interviewer: You learned English. Your dad worked for Nelson Furniture Company. I see here that you
worked at Star Nelson.
Adler: Same thing, same company.
Interviewer: Was your dad still alive and working there when you started?
Adler: Yes, I worked on the weekends.
Interviewer: This was High School or after?
Adler: High School, a little bit afterwards and then I
went to the Army.
Interviewer: Right out of High School?
Adler: Not right out of High School but shortly thereafter. I had joined the National Guard unit at that time
because trying to figure out if you were going to get drafted or not so I joined the National Guard.
This particular unit that I joined was a regimental combat team, and real
gung ho, really, really ready to go. Then my first year of college I met a
fellow, a very famous guy by the name of Vic Janowitz who was a football player
at Ohio State. He and I went and joined the 37th Quartermaster
Company. I transferred and he joined in order to finish our schooling and not
get drafted and not get moved because I felt for sure that if they federalize
anybody they’re going to take this combat team that was full, ready to go and
well trained. As it turned out they took the 37th Division which I
was in. I thought they would take us if the Russians were at Broad and High.
That’s when they would call us. It didn’t work out that way so I was in the
Service for 14 months.
Interviewer: When did you get activated and where did you go?
Adler: I got activated in ’48 till end of ’49.
Interviewer: So you were about 20?
Adler: Yes. They sent me to school to learn how to move some of these big equipment. I was
in the Quartermaster where we took care of all the equipment and food and so on.
I was sent to school in
Fort Lee, Virginia to learn how to read the different crafts and how to
handle this equipment, whatever there is to learn about it. Then we went to Camp
Polk. By that time I was a Sergeant, Staff Sergeant and I went to Camp Polk.
From there, that’s where I spent the rest of my time, then I got out.
Interviewer: The war was over. Why did they activate your unit?
Adler: To fill up other areas. Korea was going on, the Korean War.
Interviewer: Korea had started? Excuse my lack of memory about dates for that.
Adler: Mine too, yes the Korean War was on. That was the reason for that.
Interviewer: You were in the United States for those 14 months or so. Did
you start at Ohio State before that or was that after?
Adler: No, before that, then when I came back I went right to work.
Interviewer: What did you study at Ohio State and why didn’t you go back?
Adler: Good question, stupidity.
Interviewer: Oh really.
Adler: Just general studies at the time, I didn’t know what I wanted.
With my dad in that business you know the door was open. I thought I’d go
in there and go to work for him so to speak, which I did. Things changed rapidly
after a while. Those stores weren’t doing as well as they used to. That whole
part of the area started to change. I did a couple of different things.
Interviewer: Before we go further would you talk a little bit about what your family life
and religious observances were here compared to Germany perhaps.
Adler: In Germany we belonged to the Orthodox Synagogue which I told you. My mother
was more religious than my father. He was more in the Conservative area. As we
became more Americanized so to speak we would drive on Shabbas although my dad
kept kosher all of his life, even during his travels. In other areas he loosened
a little bit so to speak, as did I. I think I probably fell between the
Conservative and the Reform, probably in that area a little more.
Interviewer: What synagogue or temple did your family belong to?
Adler: We belonged to Agudas Achim. The Goldmeiers who were very religious and Saul
remained that way, they belonged to Beth Jacob.
Interviewer: And still do.
Adler: They do, as do I. When Burt passed away I joined Beth Jacob so at the holidays I could be
Interviewer: Maynard is your cousin, first cousin?
Adler: Maynard’s mother and my father were brother and sister. Burt as I mentioned earlier, he passed away. Burt’s
been gone about four years.
Interviewer: Where did you have your Bar Mitzvah?
Adler: In Agudas Achim. In those days you had a Bar Mitzvah. You got a fountain pen
and new necktie and had a little party for some friends and that was it, not as
elaborate as it is today. Some of the Bar Mitzvahs, they’re insane what goes
Interviewer: I know what you mean. Another thing I wanted to ask you, did your parents, after they got here, pay
close attention to what was going on in Germany? Did they hear anything about
relatives or friends that they had known, what happened to them?
Adler: They were always trying to find out. As a matter of fact when we were in
Germany for the Reunion the Mayor at that time gave everybody, and I have it as
well, a list of all the people who lived there and where they went.
Interviewer: Somebody did a lot of work.
Adler: Yes, it’s amazing how many are in South America, from (Indistinct)
City and England and Switzerland but a lot of them in South America.
Interviewer: Would you say that a lot of your social life and religious life was centered
with the family here in Columbus?
Adler: Oh sure, very much so.
Interviewer: Did it get bigger, did a lot of the recent immigrants from Germany stick together?
Adler: There was a place called the either 571 or 575 Shop, a house on Rich Street close to
the old Shonthal Center. A lot of the women that came over to this country, to
Columbus, they had a bakery shop there and they would sell baked goods. My
mother worked there.
Interviewer: A paying job?
Adler: Yes, that’s how they made money. I don’t recall whether she worked five days a week or not but I know that she
worked there. I’m trying to think of the lady’s name that was sort of in charge of it, that started it, but I can’t.
Interviewer: That’s alright.
Adler: That was one of the things that kept the unit together. The other German Jews, so to
speak, that we came to know, as time went on, they looked up to my father for
many reasons. When they went to buy a house they always took him along to see
whether what do you think, how much should I pay, is it good, is it not good. He
was sort of a patriarch for some of the other people, I think.
Interviewer: How do you think that came about?
Adler: I just think he was respected in the community for what he was doing and the fact that he started from zero and got up to here and
learned the language. I don’t know. They stuck together. They were a very tight knit group.
Interviewer: How were the people from Germany who came around when you came treated by the
people from Germany who were here much longer?
Adler: It depends what you mean by much longer.
Interviewer: Many had been here before the turn of the century, some not much after.
Adler: Those we didn’t know. We stuck mainly with the people that were new immigrants that had the same problems you
had, that couldn’t speak the language and tried to do things. They worked together that way. Some of the old Germans that were here for 20 or 30 years I don’t even think they wanted to know who we were to be honest with you. They were afraid you might ask them for something they didn’t want to give you so they stayed away pretty much.
Interviewer: You came back from your service and you went to work for Nelson Furniture
Company. How did that evolve for you professionally?
Adler: Fair. The time after I came back from the service the next thing on my agenda
was I got married and had three children, one after the other, two, three years
apart, so you had to earn a living. During that time frame I remember my dad had
a stroke and passed away very young.
Interviewer: How young was that?
Adler: In 1961.
Interviewer: You told me you got married, you had three children and then your father had
a stroke and passed away.
Adler: I left the company at that time and went on the road as a traveling salesman
for a couple of years. It didn’t work out. It wasn’t my cup of tea, being
away from the family. Ultimately, a couple of other things in between, ultimately I went into the
Interviewer: Lets not get too far ahead because I see there’s more that happened. When
did you get married?
Adler: I’d have to look at my marriage license.
Interviewer: Approximately then.
Adler: ’53 or ’54.
Interviewer: And you were married to?
Adler: Barbara Wilson. I think we were married probably a good 16, 18 years before we separated.
Interviewer: Could you tell us the names and the birthdates of your children?
Adler: My oldest son is Jeff Adler who lives in Philadelphia. Next after that is
Barry who lives here in town and the youngest one is Craig. Without looking at
my calendar, I can’t recall exactly. I think Jeff was born February 3rd.
I have to look that up to be honest.
Interviewer: Okay maybe you can write some notes on
that and we can put in a little family tree in the folder. How old is Jeff now?
Adler: Jeff is 52.
Interviewer: And Barry is…
Adler: 49 and Craig is 46.
Interviewer: So 46 to 52 approximately. Okay so we’re married 16 years. That means you
were divorced about when? It was a divorce, correct?
Adler: Yes, like I said I think we were married probably 16 to 18 years so about close to the 70’s. For
some reason those dates escape me, it must not have been pleasant.
Interviewer: I see. Well you got three sons out of it.
Adler: Yes, Yes, three good ones.
Interviewer: How old were the sons when you were divorced? Were any of them still at home?
Adler: Just one, Craig was still at home. I think he was 14 at the time.
Interviewer: Did he stay with his mother?
Interviewer: Was that when you went on the road?
Adler: No, prior to that, I was on the road when I was still married.
Interviewer: I see. Do you think that had anything to do with the marriage?
Adler: Not really, I think there were other problems, other than that one. It might have
been a good omen to stay on the road. It just wasn’t my life.
Interviewer: The traveling, what were you selling and who were you selling it for when you
were doing that?
Adler: I was selling furniture for a company out of Orville, Ohio.
Interviewer: Ah, the Smuckers.
Adler: That’s right. I would have been better off to sell Smuckers.
Ultimately after I was there for about a year, he went out of business.
Interviewer: Oh he did?
Adler: Yes. Times were a little bit more difficult right at that period.
Interviewer: That was about when?
Adler: ’55 or ’56.
Interviewer: What next?
Adler: Next I did some, I don’t know how to recall it exactly, promotional work for different people. I did that for a couple of years.
Interviewer: What kind of promotional work, what does that mean?
Adler: I would develop a promotion for that particular store or that
Interviewer: You mean advertising?
Adler: To some degree, in that sense, it wasn’t an ad in the newspaper. As an example I did a promotion for a
Savings and Loan at that time where if you opened and account and you were under
16 you got $10 for the account.
Interviewer: So kind of like gimmicks?
Adler: Yes, commercial gimmicks. Again, I just couldn’t find my niche at that point in time.
Interviewer: How did you even get into that?
Adler: I don’t know, just stupidity, looking for something to do that I was good at.
Interviewer: Were you sending kids to college? Is that the point? That was before, never mind. So you did that roughly a year or so.
What happened next?
Adler: I developed an area, you see a lot of them today, they have these big box stores and within the box stores like an antique mall or gift malls. I had one of those.
Interviewer: How did you get into that?
Adler: One thing led to another from the promotion end of it as we fell right into it.
You had a big box, you went inside and divided the area into a sizeable area, 10x10s or 12x15s
or whatever, and you rented those out to different people. They were only open
on the weekends, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I did that for a couple
Interviewer: You did that for somebody else?
Interviewer: Are any of those places still around?
Adler: Not to my knowledge, a lot of new ones, but not that one. That
was one of the early ones.
Interviewer: So you did that for a couple years and then?
Interviewer: Travel? I see here Hamilton Road Furniture and Keenan Adler Interiors.
Adler: Right, I almost forgot about that. I started a place because I was in the furniture
business at 28 South Hamilton Road and had a store there with my dead one time
brother-in-law, Bob Schiff, he and I. Then they decided to widen the road. It used to be a two way highway…
Interviewer: Two lane?
Adler: …and now they made it a four lane highway. During that time you might
as well close the doors. I mean A. the dust and dirt and to get to the store, it
Interviewer: Business kind of fell off?
Adler: Business fell off quite a bit so that died very rapidly. From there I went to a place called Keenan Adler
Interiors which we had on East Main Street. Joe Keenan was a designer at
Lazarus, a very fine one and he wanted to get out. We’d known each other and
we decided on Keenan Adler Interiors, which we did.
Interviewer: He brought the designing and you brought the furniture expertise.
Adler: That’s right. He also had a lot of expertise in that. We worked quite well together. I sold my ownership to him
about two years later.
Interviewer: How did it go for those two years and why did you sell? Is that something you
want to talk about? If not, we’ll skip it.
Adler: It doesn’t matter. It went rather well at first then Joe had marital
problems caused by one of the ladies that worked for us. I couldn’t quite
tolerate that. It wasn’t my concern. What was my concern was the fact that things were slipping. Instead of
working he was out. When he went out for a job, instead of coming back within an
hour, they were gone for four and five hours. He was drinking at that time and I
wanted to get out of that atmosphere so I just sold out my shares.
Interviewer: That’s when you went into the travel business?
Interviewer: When did you form, you started Bexley Travel?
Interviewer: Why travel, why not another furniture store or something else?
Adler: I was looking for something that didn’t have inventory, for something that
didn’t have stock that wouldn’t turn green when it was supposed to be
yellow, whatever the case. The service industry, if you’re not an accountant or an attorney or a
professional person, there’s insurance which never caught my eye because I saw
too many failed with that, got into the business they sold their family and then
they were (Indistinct). I always enjoyed traveling. I said see what happens there. There
weren’t too many at that time, we started, 30 years ago, I started.
Interviewer: Thirty years ago, what year approximately?
Interviewer: Where were you located at that time?
Adler: We started out on Maplewood just south of Broad.
Interviewer: I remember that. You said 79?
Adler: ’79 or ’71.
Interviewer: Who’s we?
Adler: Just me.
Interviewer: Just you? So you had some funds to start a business from selling out?
Adler: That was owned by a local real estate firm and they wanted to take that whole area and
turn it into…there was a guy that had a beauty shop and needed more space, so
they moved and asked me if I would move into what is now Krogers, which I did.
Then from there when Kroger came along they wanted all that space so I had to
move there where I am currently.
Interviewer: Which is?
Adler: 2940 East Broad.
Interviewer: I see. When you started this travel business how did you decide what you were going
to do, what you were going to offer, who did you learn from? How did you learn
what to do?
Adler: In order to start a travel business you have to have someone that has I think
five years experience because you needed a license and you needed somebody that
had experience. I hired somebody and through her I learned and started to grow.
In those days the commercial entity was very good. In other words you went out
and made contracts with different companies to handle their travel because the
airlines were still paying commission in those days…
Adler: …which subsequently is no longer. We had a lot of commercial contracts. The leisure
business was alright, if we got some, fine, if not, okay because we were pretty
Interviewer: When you say leisure business what do you mean?
Adler: I mean people going on vacation.
Interviewer: So working with individuals?
Adler: I also noticed that with the airlines what they were starting to do and I
thought well I better move into another area of this business a little heavier,
which I did.
Interviewer: Which was?
Adler: Into the leisure.
Interviewer: The leisure.
Adler: Of course my two sons were with me at that time.
Interviewer: Which was?
Adler: Craig and Barry, the second and third. As the airlines started paying less commission, it went from
10% to 8% to 5% to zero.
Interviewer: When did that happen, when it went to zero? What
caused that trend?
Adler: We’re the only kind of business I know of that works
for a company and doesn’t get paid. When the airlines were losing money left
and right and they figured the best way to make up for some of those loses was
just to cut out the agencies. Even today I think the agencies still write or
produce probably 75% of all their business.
Interviewer: I thought the Internet interfered
with that a lot more?
Adler: Very little.
Interviewer: I see. Business from the airlines was falling off and you were relying more on leisure. Say more about what business
started being like then, the travel business.
Adler: More difficult, it takes more work. We’ve reduced our size as far as individuals. We don’t need as many
because we’re not doing that much commercial work anymore, so we’ve cut that back.
Interviewer: How many did you have at your peak?
Adler: At my peak, we had nine and now we have four or five, so we’ve cut back. That end of the business is starting
to get a little better as time goes on.
Interviewer: What is making that better, how’s
it getting better?
Adler: Longevity in the business, we’re known in the city. We’ve
been around 30 years. We’re not the new kid on the block. I don’t know how
many have closed in the Columbus area but at one time there were like 25,000
travel agencies throughout the country and now there’s probably about 18 or
19,000. So that’s where I am today. I’m now single. I have five
grandchildren, four girls and a boy.Two of them are now in the workforce.
Interviewer: Two of your grandchildren?
Adler: Right, one just started college. Jeff has three children.
Interviewer: Let’s go through with the spouses and the names of the kids.
Adler: Jeff is married to Debbie.
Interviewer: Do you know what her maiden name was?
Adler: Yes, if I can think of it.
Interviewer: We’ll put that on your paperwork.
Adler: They have three girls, Alexa, Amanda and Rebecca.
Interviewer: Their ages are approximately?
Adler: Rebecca is 23, Amanda is 21 and Alexa is 18. Rebecca works for More Magazine in
New York. She’s a journalist, graduated from Syracuse. Amanda, the one in the
middle, is in Chicago, works for Bain which is a consulting firm.
Adler: B-a-i-n. Alexa just started Tuesday at Indiana University. That’s where her mother and
father met. Amanda went to Indiana and now Alexa is going there. Then there is
Barry who’s married to Syd, her name is Sylvia, no children but they have a
dog. Then there is Craig who is divorced from Tammy and has two children, Joshua
a boy who is 16 and Stephanie who is 13.
Interviewer: You said Jeff is in California?
Adler: No, Jeff is in Philadelphia.
Interviewer: And Barry is here?
Adler: Yes, here.
Interviewer: And where is Craig?
Adler: Also here.
Interviewer: What we haven’t talked about is after your divorce and when you went into
these various business ventures were you involved in any community activities,
organizations and what were your hobbies?
Adler: Yes, I did a little United Jewish Appeal, I was in there. Hobbies? I try to
keep busy and try to make ? the main thing.
Interviewer: You didn’t have time?
Adler: I didn’t have time or the energy or the inclination I was by myself at that
time. You kind of shy away. Sometimes I think I became so much of a loaner at
that time because I was not happy with myself because of the turmoil in my
family. In Europe, in the olden days, if you were a German, maybe other
nationality as well, when you got married for better or for worse.
If the worse came you stayed married anyhow. Then you came to this country
where things became more modernized, your life is a little faster. With the
oncoming of TV and all these things, your whole cycle of life changes. I stayed
pretty much alone for a while.
Interviewer: I see here you made reference to, I don’t know what SKAL is?
Interviewer: What is that, a community organization?
Adler: No, SKAL is a worldwide travel organization, travel and tourism. It was
founded I think in Spain. I don’t know how many years ago, 1926 I believe.
There are I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 clubs all over the
world. I was President of the organization twice, not only once but twice. This
year the President goes to Turkey.
Every year there’s a world congress somewhere. Last year it was in Taipai,
this year in Turkey, next year I’m not sure where it’s held. People that are
in the travel industry, or the hotel industry or the car rental industry and
some of the other industries belong to this group and they meet. They expect
something like 2000 people in Turkey coming from probably 80 to 90 countries.
Interviewer: Where did you get to go when you were President?
Adler: Believe it or not, Munich. It worked out well for me because I speak the language and I was able to go over
there. The only thing, it didn’t bothered me, but even when I go back to
Germany occasionally, if I see somebody that has to be at least 85 or older, I
think was he or wasn’t he.
Interviewer: SS you mean?
Adler: Yes, where was he? So much of
that has died off. But still I think somebody that’s 85 today was around in
Interviewer: You just said something that prompted another question for me. You said you
still speak German. How has that happened? How were you able to maintain your
skills in German when you were 10 when you came here?
Adler: Two ways, I always spoke German, number 1. I could always tell when my mother
was angry with me because she would always talk half German, half English. It’s
your mother tongue, so to speak, once you have it unless you don’t use it all.
I had the opportunities to speak it here in Columbus occasionally. Fortunately
in my travels I would spend a lot of time in Switzerland, or Germany or Israel
and in Austria. Somebody asked me one time, when I go to Germany, what do you
feel? There’s a word for it in Germany called Wurzel which means roots. It’s
Interviewer: You still feel that?
Adler: You know what happened, you know what went
on but you still have a tendency, it sort of draws you back. You want to see
what’s going on. This is where you started life. As I mentioned to you I have
a cousin in Israel that I’m very close with. Her husband is from Austria and
speaks, I don’t know, Yossi speaks probably six languages. We try to see each
other every year somewhere whether they come here, whether we go there, whether
we meet in Europe.
Interviewer: That’s phenomenal, from that far away.
Adler: Yes, we try very desperately and
I probably talk to them at least once a month by phone.
Interviewer: By phone?
Adler: Yeah, they’ll call me, I’ll call them.
Interviewer: No email?
Adler: Yeah we do that but you want to hear their voice. Not only that, it’s a little easier to talk, a
little faster to talk than to type it all out. Dena has two children, a boy and
a girl. Let’s see Meron has two boys and Segal has three, a boy and two girls.
The twins are now in the army. Her brother has been married a couple of times at
least that we know of. They’re Sabras. Dena is now 75.
Interviewer: She’s your first cousin?
Adler: Yes, first cousin.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful, just wonderful. Out of
curiosity did you take German in High School?
Interviewer: Did you take another foreign language?
Interviewer: Maybe you didn’t have to.
Adler: I didn’t have to because they gave me a couple of tests which I passed.
Interviewer: You proficiencied out.
Interviewer: We’ve covered a lot of ground, what other kinds of things might you want to
Adler: Well the size of the family, from four children how we mushroomed out so to
speak. Between Maynard and Burt, they have eight plus grandchildren now. Eric has
three children and two, three, four grandchildren or five even. Me with three
children, I now have five grandchildren. So this small nuclear family of a
brother and two sisters has grown rapidly.
Interviewer: So that was three children, I thought you said four. You’re talking about your mother and her two siblings?
Adler: My mother, I think she had three sisters, I’m not sure.
Interviewer: Is that your father and siblings or your mother and siblings?
Adler: My father and his two sisters, between those three, they made X number of (Indistinct). Molly had two boys, Betty had one
boy and my parents had one boy. Between the four boys we certainly produced quite a sizeable nuclear family.
Interviewer: That’s some people that Hitler didn’t get.
Adler: Right, the other thing I think that’s kind of interesting that people
don’t do here, at least I don’t see it. When I see Maynard, I’m in my
seventies and so is Maynard. When we see each other we kiss each other. When I
see my children, we kiss each other. I feel sorry for the people or some of the
fathers that are so reserved that they can’t kiss their children.
Interviewer: Especially if they’re male.
Adler: Yes, especially if they’re male. It’s so sad because
if you can’t show your feelings, what are you going to do? Are you going to
take them with you? It’s difficult.
Interviewer: And your sons, the ones that have children, do they practice that with their children, of course you have mostly
Adler: Yes, which is wonderful, but even with my grandson. At first
they were a little standoffish but they see us do it and the same way with I see
the Baum family, Eric and his five. They live in California. He has one son that lives in New Jersey and the
other son and daughter both live in California.
Interviewer: We talked about you trying to write something up, a little family tree, and
you’ll give it to Peggy and she will put it in the box. By the way if you’re
ever interested in learning how to research family, you can research Holocaust
Adler: I think my son has done some of that, the one in Philadelphia.
He also did something, I have to call him and ask him. When we were in Germany
for the Reunion he worked around and tried to get some of the family to see who’s
who and where’s where, somewhat of a family tree. How far he got I don’t
know because we were small to begin with. I remember that when we were there the
attorney that used to work for our family was still alive.
Interviewer: In Germany?
Adler: Yes, during the Reunion he came and I introduced my son to him. The only problem is,
his name is Dr. Feldung, he couldn’t speak English and Jeff can’t speak
German so I sort of sat between them and introduced him. I said he’s also an
attorney. In German it’s called a Rechtsanwalt and all those have a doctorate.
Interviewer: You’re 79 years old. You’ve been in the travel business…
Adler: 30 years.
Interviewer: 30 years, How do you see your professional life, personal life right now? What kind
of things do you want to do that you haven’t done or want to do more of?
Adler: I think probably travel a little more, spend more time with the family. We’re
starting to spread apart. Amanda is in Chicago, Rebecca is in New York, the
other one is now in Bloomington. As a matter of fact Rebecca is getting married
in May of next year, God willing. You start seeing that and I keep thinking to
myself my father was 61 and I think my mother was 63 when they passed away.
I look at myself at 79, I’ve been blessed with all the extra years that I
got. I always thank God that I’m able to participate in these things. I hope I
feel good enough for the wedding that’s coming. I take one step at a time and
someone told me the other day, I forgot who it was, I said “How are
you?” He said to me “Above ground.”
Interviewer: I hear a lot of that.
Adler: Sometimes the simplest things have a lot of meaning.
Interviewer: Are you able to take time off to go visit your family sometimes?
Adler: Sure, fortunately.
Interviewer: That’s good to hear. So you want to travel more and spend more time with family.
Adler: I promised my two grandchildren here that I would take
them to Europe to show them because the three I’ve had there. I’ve had Jeff’s
kids, I’ve taken over there to show them. I want to do the same thing with
Josh and Stephanie, Craig’s kids.
Interviewer: When you took your three grandchildren did you take their parents at the
Adler: No, I just took the kids, well, I took Rebecca and I took Barry’s
wife. Then I took Amanda and Alexa at one time and Melissa and I. We traveled
together. When we go there first we go to so to speak the homestead where I show
them where I was born. This is the house I lived in and this used to be over
here, they put a street through there. This is where the synagogue was because I
have a placque there. There is where Crystal Nacht happened, the Dome, that’s
where they did everything. I walk around the city, take them to the Mayor’s
office, although there’s a new one now. When the other one, Dr. Hamburger, was
still there I had an open door. Then I take them for a tour. I take them to
various parts of the country so they can see a little of it. They’ll probably
never get back there again, They have no reason to.
Interviewer: Okay you’ve been divorced for a long time. What would you like to say about
your personal life other than family since then?
Adler: Well I’m very lucky. I met a young lady by the name of Melissa Dudley who’s
not Jewish but knows more about Judaism than many of my friends. A quick story
on that, we went to an Orthodox Bat Mitzvah and you know the girl is not allowed
on the Bima so on Sunday they had a little brunch for her where she could
deliver her speech. We came back and told this to a couple of our friends, I don’t
want to mention their names, and she said quote “It’s the first time she
ever saw a Mehitzah on a dance floor.” These two people said
“What?” She said “A Mehitzah.” She had to explain to them
what a Mehitzah was.
Interviewer: This is Dudley?
Adler: Dudley is her last name.
Interviewer: You told me that but since you referred to her as that, how did you meet her?
Adler: Strange story going back many, many years a friend of mine who ran Beulah Park, I knew
the gentleman, had a daughter who I knew quite well. She was in college I think
at the time and she wanted to know if I wanted to have my car waxed. I think it
was in the summer. I said free, sure. She said no, no, no, It costs you, I think
it was $30 at the time. I said okay so she came and brought her. That’s how I
Interviewer: She was a friend of the person? How long have you been together?
Adler: A thousand years, no, just kidding.
Interviewer: How long?
Adler: Oh about 20 at least.
Interviewer: Twenty years really?
Adler: Another little side which tickles me, when she’s able to go to
shul with me when she’s not in school, she’s a school teacher, she goes.
Frieda Adler, also a shirt-tail relation how I don’t know, we were sitting at
Beth Jacob. Men and women are divided as you know. One time Frieda says to me in
her little voice. She says “You know Marty I’d rather sit with Dudley
than with Miriam, Miriam Goldmeier.” I said “Why?” She said
“Well Miriam talks too much.” And she says
“Whenever I’m lost in the Chomesh Dudley knows exactly where the
Interviewer: How does she know?
Adler: She doesn’t know but Frieda thinks she knows because she’s very interested. It’s amazing.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we end?
Adler: No, not really, I’ll get the stuff together that you’ll probably fill in
when you edit this thing. I’ll get the tree that you want with names, as much
as I can. I know my grandparents’ name, my great grandparents, Maynard might
know but I don’t think so.
Interviewer: Has your son perhaps documented? You probably
know there’s geneology software?
Adler: Right, he may know that. I’ll find out from him. I’ll give him a call and see what he knows.
Interviewer: He might be able to email you some stuff.
Interviewer: On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you for
contributing to the oral history project. This concludes the interview.
* * *