Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2015 - 8/31/2015

Funding Totals

$33,600.00 (approved)
$33,600.00 (awarded)

The Life and Times of H.G. Adler (1910-1988): Poet, Novelist, and Holocaust Survivor

FAIN: FB-58094-15

Peter Filkins
Bard College at Simon's Rock (Great Barrington, MA 01230-1978)

H.G. Adler (1910-1988) was the author of 26 books of fiction, poetry, Holocaust scholarship, sociology, and religion. A survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, Adler published his monograph on the former in 1955. It was one of the earliest scholarly treatments of the Holocaust and remains a seminal work. Adler also went on to make important contributions to the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt and the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, as well as helping to found the International Auschwitz Committee with Hermann Langbein. Leaving his native Prague for London in 1947, he lived the rest of his life as a postwar exile, knowing and working closely with Elias Canetti, Franz Baermann Steiner, Hermann Broch, and Heinrich Boell. As a representative life of his times, his biography will speak to readers interested in prewar Prague, the Holocaust, postwar exiles, German literature, and the way that one life can connect to and stand for so many others.

Media Coverage

Witness of the Ghetto (Review)
Author(s): Helen Finch
Publication: Times Literary Supplement
Date: 2/28/2020
Abstract: An absorbing account of a scholar and survivor.

H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds (Review)
Author(s): Kristine Morris
Publication: Foreword Reviews
Date: 3/26/2023
Abstract: Born in Prague to a mother who became hospitalized for severe depression and a father who was unable to care for him, young Adler boarded with various families, resulting in an unstable, unhappy childhood. Withdrawing into himself, he discovered a love for literature and nature that sustained him throughout his life. With racial and nationalist tensions flaring, Adler, a Jew, felt himself to be an exile in his native land, writing that “the very ground that one so casually refers to as one’s ‘homeland’ sank away beneath my feet.” To protect his inner life from the harshness of a world in turmoil and despair, he learned to find or create an oasis around himself no matter where he was; this ability was to prove essential to his surviving several concentration camps, including Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Compounding his suffering, the writer, scholar, radio essayist, and key contributor for the prosecution in the trial of Adolf Eichmann lost his beloved first wife to the gas chamber whe

The Witness (Review)
Author(s): Benjamin Balint
Publication: The Jewish Review of Books
Date: 2/26/2019

H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds (Review)
Publication: Kirkus Reviews
Date: 12/28/2020
Abstract: A well-deserved celebration of a courageous and determined public intellectual.

Chad Gibbs, Review of Peter Filkins's "H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds" (Review)
Author(s): Chad Gibbs
Publication: George L. Mosse Program in History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Date: 2/26/2023

Damion Searles on Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries and Peter Filkins on H.G. Adler (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Francesca Rheannon
Publication: The Writer's Voice
Date: 3/28/2019
Abstract: Podcast Interview - We talk today with Damion Searls about his acclaimed translation of Uwe Johnson’s landmark of 20th Century literature, ANNIVERSARIES, now in English for the first time. Then, we welcome Peter Filkins back to Writer’s Voice; we’ve spoken with him before about his translations of the works of H.G. Adler. Now, he tells us about his biography of Adler, H.G. ADLER: A Life in Many Worlds.

History Is Written by Those Who Write It Down (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Peter Filkins
Publication: The Academic Minute
Date: 8/20/2019
Abstract: Nationwide radio broadcast on NPR.

Peter Filkins - H.G. Adler (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Seminary Co-op Bookstore
Publication: The Seminary Co-op
Date: 4/17/2019
Abstract: In this authorized biography, H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds, Peter Filkins examines the life and work of one of the first writers on the Holocaust. Adler’s literary genius as a novelist is now widely recognized, following Peter Filkins’s translation of his Shoah trilogy – Panorama, The Journey, and The Wall, as well as 2016 publication of his seminal 1955 monograph Theresienstadt 1941-1945: The Face of a Coerced Community. Adler (1910-1988) came of age in the cosmopolitan Prague of the 1920s, witnessed the Nazi menace of the 1930s, and suffered through the full gamut of atrocities found in the camps. His is the story of a generation that fell victim to one of history’s darkest chapters, but also of a mind that saw how history was shaped by social forces still threatening our everyday lives through the power of technology over the individual, the controlling role of government, religion, and the media, and the struggle to maintain simple human decency in menacing times.

Author's website listing 2019 readings and talks (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Peter Filkins
Date: 2/26/2019
Abstract: List of 33 talks & readings delivered in 2019 at universities, bookstores, and book festivals in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany.

Associated Products

H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds (Book)
Title: H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds
Author: Peter Filkins
Editor: Norman Hirschy
Abstract: The biography of H.G. Adler (1910-88) is the story of a survivor of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and two other concentration camps who not only lived through the greatest cataclysm of the 20th century, but someone who also devoted his literary and scholarly career to telling the story of those who perished in over two dozen books of fiction, poetry, history, sociology, and religion. And yet for much of his life he remained almost entirely unknown. A writer's writer, a scholar of seminal, pioneering works on the Holocaust, a renowned radio essayist in postwar Germany, a last representative of the Prague Circle of literature headed by Kafka, a key contributor to the prosecution in the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Adler was a man of his time whose times lived through him. His is the story of many others, but also one that is singularly his own. And at its heart lies a profound story of love and perseverance amid the loss of his first wife, Gertrud Klepetar, who accompanied her mother to the gas chamber in Auschwitz, and the courtship and extended correspondence with Bettina Gross, a Prague artist who escaped to the Britain, only to later learn that her mother had also been in Theresienstadt with Adler before her eventual death in Auschwitz. His delivery of a lecture in Theresienstadt commemorating Kafka's sixtieth birthday, and with Kafka's favorite sister present; the nurturing of a younger generation of artists and intellectuals, including the Israeli artist Jehuda Bacon and the Serbian novelist Ivan Ivanji; the preservation of Viktor Ullmann's compositions and his opera The Emperor of Atlantis, only to see them premiered decades later to world acclaim; and the penury of postwar life while churning out the novels, poetry, and scholarship that would make his reputation - all of these are part of a life survived in the moment, but dedicated to the future, and that of a man committed to helping human dignity survive in his time and that to come.
Year: 2019
Access Model: Open market sales.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-022238-3
Copy sent to NEH?: No