Reporter brings famed relative’s ashes home

NPR has curious first-person report by correspondent Margot Adler about her efforts to return the ashes of her famous grandfather, psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, home to Vienna.

Margot Adler, the lone grandchild of the man best known for devising the concept of the inferiority complex, knew much about her famed ancestor but didn’t know where he was buried.

That’s because he wasn’t buried; in fact, Alfred Adler’s remains had been missing for more than 70 years, since he died of a heart attack in 1937 while lecturing in Aberdeen, Scotland, during a three-week visit to the University of Aberdeen.

“But over the years, a number of psychotherapists started searching,” Margot Adler says in her piece for NPR. “Christine Rosche, the head of the Alfred Adler Institute in Vienna, was one of those people. Over the years she had asked, ‘Where is the grave?’

“But the ashes weren’t in Aberdeen. The psychotherapists teamed up with John Clifford, the honorary Austrian consul to Scotland, and they looked some more. Then one day, they found a small wooden box containing the ashes in a crematorium in Edinburgh. It said, ‘Alfred Adler, founder of Individual Psychology.’ The crematorium was right near Clifford’s office.”

Because none of Alfred Adler’s four children were still living, Margot Adler had to prove to the crematorium in Edinburgh that she was the heir and could make the decision to take the ashes back to Vienna, near where Adler was born.

On July 12, 74 years after his death, Margot Adler was joined by about 100 people at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna for the ceremony. It’s the largest cemetery in Vienna; Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert are buried there.

There were other Adler relatives on hand, as well. Among them: Suzanne Hoogendijk of Amsterdam. At the age of 15, she hid from the Nazis for two and a half years. Now an 86-year-old former judge, Hoogendijk actually remembers Adler.

“He visited her parents, and she was irritated at the way her parents treated him like a guru,” Margot Adler related to NPR listeners. “They asked for advice about her education, and she remembers that he told them ‘to take care that I shouldn’t marry someone who was too neurotic.’”

The Austrian media peppered Margot Adler with question, asking over and over how her family didn’t know where the famous psychoanalyst’s ashes were?

“I think the real answer is this: In 1937, Alfred Adler’s favorite daughter had already been arrested in the Soviet Union and was in the gulag where she would die some years later,” Margot Adler says. “The Nazis were on the rise. The Adlers moved permanently to the United States in 1935. They weren’t religious.

“My family was more concerned with life and ideas than with ashes,” she told interviewers.

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