Today Esther is a published author and poet as well as a scholar of Judaism and Hebrew teacher at Orchard Cove in Canton, MA. Her experiences living in the community have inspired her to become a prolific poet. She participates fully in community spiritual life and is an avid reader of history and biography. Her warmth, vitality and intelligence shine through with other residents.
But Esther’s life story almost wasn’t except for the defiance and survival skills she displayed as a child in the city of Breslau, Poland during WWII. Hers is a remarkable story of resilience featured in a new German documentary titled “We are Jews from Breslau: Young Survivors and Their Fates After 1933” which recently premiered at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival.
Now 90 years of age, Esther is one of fifteen residents of Breslau interviewed for the film who survived the Nazi occupation of their city until it was completely seized in 1941.
The Breslau Jews maintained a stance of defiance and sought to persevere as a cohesive group with its own institutions. They categorically denied the Nazi claim that they were not genuine Germans, but at the same time they also refused to abandon their Jewish heritage. The Jews of Breslau refused to abandon either their institutions or the values that they had nurtured for decades.
Esther wrote in 2014, “Growing up during the years that Hitler came to power presented a special challenge to the Jewish community, individuals of very age and affiliation. It affected my parent’s livelihood. I was recruited to help since I did not look Jewish; I was the one who protected my younger brother against thugs from the Hitler Jugend. While I was probably afraid, I nevertheless reacted without hesitation. The restrictions against Jews reached every phase of life. The realization that one should leave Germany slowly impacted even many of those who felt more like Germans than Jews.”
As a young child, Esther vividly remembers "The Night of Broken Glass" (Kristallnacht) on November 9, 1938 a massive coordinated attack by Nazis against Jews across Germany. Her father had left for the United States with a visitor’s visa the month before. In the middle of the night, the family was awoken by loud sounds in the hardware store beneath their apartment. Due to Esther's blond hair and green eyes, it was deemed safe for her to go outside first the next morning only to discover that Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues of Breslau largely destroyed.
Soon after this night, Esther said, “I made the decision that I could not wait much longer, that there was not a future for me in Germany.” Her opportunity to leave came in April 1939 at the age of 15 when, with a group of other children, she traveled to Palestine with the Zionist organization Aliyat Noar. She was a student the first two years, then stayed for seven more years living on a kibbutz where she received training in education, writing and theater. “To understand my life’s journey,” said Esther “I was a Zionist from the time that my mother carried me in her womb.”
During this time Esther’s family was able to escape to America. In 1947, Esther left for America as well and met her husband, Shimon, on her journey by ship. In America, Esther obtained her degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary and worked as educational coordinator for the Jewish National Fund. She also raised three children with Shimon. Esther said she is proud that her children, “Have learned from our example to be charitable, to never forget the Shoah, and to live as role models for their own children.”
“We are Jews from Breslau: Young Survivors and their Fates after 1933,” a feature documentary by Karin Kaper and Dirk Szuszies, will be shown in 2017 at Orchard Cove. The showing will be attended by Esther Adler. Please check our “What’s Happening” events calendar for dates to be scheduled or call 781-821-1730.