Adi Bader sel. A. (1931-2023)

The following is based on my hesped (Jewish eulogy) for my father Adi, who passed away in Düsseldorf on 19 February 2023 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Köln-Bocklemünd on 23 February 2023.

My father Adi was born in 1931 as the third child of Fischel Bader (1898-1942) and his wife Sara née Sibirski (1907-1931). His older brothers were Martin, later called Menashe, and Georg. Adi’s grandparents on both sides were Polish Jews who had settled in Köln (Cologne) around the beginning of the 20th century.

Adi spent the first years of his life in a Jewish children’s home, following the death of his mother Sara barely a month after his birth. He did not learn of her existence until many years later. The mother my father remembered from his early childhood was Sara’s sister Regine née Sibirski (1909-1942), who had married Adi’s father in 1935. The same year, the couple had Adi’s younger brother Kurt (1935-1942).

Adi at the Cologne Jewish children’s home in 1931
Adi (2nd from right) with his family in 1935

Thus, without Adi being aware of it until much later, the beginning of his life was marked by feelings of grief, loss and uprootedness.

When the survival of the young Bader family was increasingly being threatened under the Nazis, my grandparents tried to emigrate with their children to the US. When they were unable to obtain a visa, the couple decided to have their three eldest sons taken to what they assumed to be safe havens in other countries. Adi is thought to have been smuggled into Belgium on a barge in the second half of 1939. By May 1940, Georg had also arrived in Belgium. Martin reached Palestine by Youth Aliyah at the end of 1939.

The last known photos of Martin and Georg in Cologne (in 1938)
The last known photos of Fischel, Regine and Kurt in Cologne (in 1939)

In Belgium, Adi was first taken in by a Christian foster mother, Maria van Uffelen in Kapellen, whom he affectionately called ‘Moe’ (short for mother). Adi would often recall in later years that his brother Georg came to visit him at Moe’s. When it became too dangerous to keep Adi with her, Moe gave him into the care of the Jewish community. Initially, Adi was now placed in Monsieur Tiefenbrunner’s children’s home on Rue des Patriotes in Brussels. Later he spent several years in the Jewish children’s home run by Madame Blum-Albert in Wezembeek-Oppem. During the final phase of the war, Adi and the other children were given false identities. Together with a few others, Adi was then sent into hiding in a convent in Louvain. After the liberation, the children returned to Wezembeek-Oppem.

Adi (1st from right) in Wezembeek-Oppem about 1943, wearing the yellow star

The years my father spent in Belgium, especially his period in hiding in Louvain, shaped him for the rest of his life. As I now understand, the events of those early years ensured that he would forever feel and act like a hidden child. What he shared with whom in later years, whom he confided in, and how he presented himself to others would forever be influenced by these early life-threatening experiences. And it was not until quite late in his life (initially when he had turned 71 and then again last year) that he started to share essential details of the first decades of his life with his children. My brothers and I are grateful that our father lived long enough to enable us to gain these deeper insights into his life.

On 20 June 1942, the Nazis deported my grandparents Fischel and Regine and their young son Kurt, together with 1,161 others, from Köln to Minsk. The family is believed to have been murdered in the killing field at Maly Trostenets, outside of Minsk, shortly after their arrival on 24 July 1942.

My father’s brother Georg had been in the care of a non-Jewish children’s home in Antwerp. On 21 September 1942, he was arrested during a raid of the home. Only 5 days later, on 26 September 1942, he was deported on transport XI from Malines to Auschwitz, where he is believed to be have been murdered shortly after his arrival on 28 September 1942.

The last known photo of Adi’s brother Georg in Belgium (Source: Kazerne Dossin)
Georg on the deportation list (Source: Kazerne Dossin)

In November 1945, Martin (now called Menashe), the only other survivor of the family, found out about Adi’s whereabouts. With the help of the brothers’ uncle Heini, Adi was brought to Palestine without further delay. Adi, whose mother tongue had been German, who had then had to learn Flemish in Kapellen, and finally had to switch to French once at Monsieur Tiefenbrunner’s home, was now suddenly faced with the challenge of having to acquire yet another language, namely Hebrew.

Adi about 1946 in Palestine, visiting his uncle Heini at Kibbutz En Harod
Adi in Israel about 1956

After 11 years in Israel, where my father had trained as a precision mechanic, he moved back to Europe. In 1957, he met Jewish kindergarten teacher Edith née Devries, a survivor of Theresienstadt, and married her in 1959. Over the following years, the couple, who lived in Cologne, had three sons. In the mid-1960s, the family moved to Edith’s birthplace of Weeze in the Lower Rhine region. In 1967, their daughter was born, the youngest child of the family. Adi had trained as a master watchmaker during his years in Cologne. Together, my parents now ran a jewellery shop, which many in Weeze still remember fondly to this day.

Adi as a watchmaker in Weeze about 1968
Adi and Edith at the entrance to their home and shop in 1968

My father’s warm nature, positive mindset and wonderful sense of humour were highly appreciated not only by his Weeze neighbours, friends and customers, but also by members of the British Royal Air Force squadrons stationed there and their families. Due to his extraordinary willingness to help others, during these years he often provided assistance to the Italian (so-called) guest worker families in Weeze. He also not only acted as a volunteer interpreter for Israeli prison inmates but went out of his way to address their broader needs and concerns. Adi was, as an acquaintance later said, an institution in Weeze.

In 1985, my father moved to Paris where he was employed as a watchmaker for a couple of years. In 1987, however, he returned to Israel and lived first in Jerusalem and later in Tel Aviv. In 1999 came Adi’s final international move. Once again, he packed up his belongings, including his watchmaking workshop, and made his way back to his native Köln. There, at the age of 67, he managed to find new work opportunities as a watchmaker and to renew his network of professional contacts.

On 17 February 2023, my father, now residing in a retirement home in Düsseldorf, celebrated his 92nd birthday. His family and many other people who knew and loved him took the opportunity to congratulate him and enjoyed their chats with him, not knowing that these would be their last. Just like he had been for most of his life, on this day too Adi was a multi-faceted person. He expressed great joy and gratitude for the attention he received from well-wishers. But in one or two more personal conversations, he shared that different feelings were moving and upsetting him on that day. They were the emotions that had accompanied and shaped his life from cradle to old age: feelings of grief, loss and uprootedness.

Adi assessing a watch in Düsseldorf in November 2022
On Adi’s wall when he passed away: photos of his murdered family members, with a note he had added recently (“All Murdered”), and a photo of him with his Moe after his return to Europe

Adi died on 19 February 2023, only 2 days after his birthday. We, who as his family have been fortunate enough to know and love all facets of my father, will forever cherish his memory and will always appreciate how he mastered the great challenges of his life.



NB: The initial version accidentally included a photo of Martin and Georg from earlier than stated. I have now replaced this photo with two photos from 1938, the last known photos of them in Cologne.

* Where applicable, images are hyperlinked to their source website.

Published 3 March 2023

© Ruth,, 2023