The second of seven children, Jermie was born to poor, religious Jewish parents at a time when Selo-Solotvina was part of Hungary. Orphaned as a young boy, he earned a living by working at odd jobs. In the 1920s he married a woman from his village. Together, they moved to Liege, Belgium, in search of better economic opportunities. There, they raised three daughters.
1933-39: In Liege the Adlers lived in an apartment above a cafe, and Jermie and his wife ran a successful tailoring business. Their children attended the French-language public schools. When war began in Poland in 1939, his wife was fearful, even though Belgium was a neutral country. It brought back troubling memories of her village being overrun during World War I.
1940-44: The Germans occupied Belgium in 1940. To bypass the rationing system, Jermie would buy butter and eggs from the local farmers, who then pretended to the authorities that they'd been robbed. When Liege's Jews were forced to register in 1942, Catholic friends helped the Adlers obtain false papers and rented them a house in a nearby village. Jermie fell ill and on Friday, March 3, 1944, he checked into a hospital. While he was in the hospital, the Gestapo arrested his wife, two daughters, and a nephew.
Jermie returned to Liege after it was liberated by U.S. troops on September 8, 1944. All but his eldest daughter were killed during the war.