Portland Place (Marylebone)

Art historian Bruno Adler was born in Karlsbad, Bohemia, on 14 October 1888 into a Jewish family. His father was editor of the social democratic newspaper Volkswille. From 1910 to 1916, he studied art history, literature, and philosophy at universities in Vienna, Erlangen and Munich, acquiring his doctorate in 1917 with a dissertation on the origin of woodcuts. From 1919 to 1924, Adler lectured on art history at the Bauhaus and between 1920 and 1930 he taught at the Weimar Saxon-Grand Ducal Art School.

After the Nazis seized power, he was forced to flee to Prague. In 1936, he went to England. Writing under the pseudonym (and anagram) Urban Roedl, he released a biography of Stifter with the publisher Ernst Rowohlt, who was afterward prohibited by the Nazis from working, having been charged with disguising Jewish writers. Adler taught at Bunce Court School, a German-Jewish school in Kent founded by refugee Anna Essinger with help from British Quakers. It was a haven for many young children who had arrived on the Kindertransports. During the war, Adler worked in the German Service of the BBC at Broadcasting House, Portland Place, which had begun broadcasting in German in September 1938. Among its early contributors were novelist Thomas Mann.

Under the guise of literary entertainment, these German-language programs produced British propaganda, using established native-speaking writers in exile. Adler created the satirical ‘Frau Wernicke’, a program broadcast from summer 1940 to January 1944. The lead role, disgruntled Frau Gertrud Wernicke from Berlin who launches hilariously subversive tirades against the Nazis, was voiced by the exiled German actress and cabaret artist Annemarie Hase. It became one of the most popular programs of the BBC’s German Service. After the war he edited the monthly German-language magazine Neue Auslese aus dem Schrifttum der Gegenwart. In 1958, Adler, again writing as Roedl, re-issued his 1936 biography of Stifter. He died in December 1968.

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