Czech Center Museum honors 99-year-old Holocaust survivor
The Czech Center Museum Houston will honor 99-year-old Holocaust survivor Dr. Ervin Adam in a world premiere on Thursday, October 28 at the Czech Center Museum Houston, 4920 San Jacinto St.
Dr Adam, of Czech origin, has had a long and illustrious career. Professor Emeritus of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, he helped eradicate polio from his native country, established the role of herpes simplex 2 virus in cancer, helped launch the practice of geriatrics in Houston and continued to monitor women exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES)
during their pregnancies from 1940 to 1970.
Among many honors, Dr Adam received the Ceska Hlava (Czech Mind) Prize at a ceremony held in Prague in 2012.
The October event will feature newly discovered music composed and performed by Czech musicians while they were prisoners in the camps. The tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust will be performed by Houston Symphony cellist Louis-Marie Fardet and pianist Sherry Sheng. The event will reinforce Houston’s continued commitment to celebrating its diverse cultural landscape.
Dr Adam was born in what was then known as Sub-Carpathian Russia, in eastern Czechoslovakia. However, after the signing of the Munich Treaty in 1938, Hungary invaded the region in March 1939 at the instigation of Nazi Germany. Shortly after graduating from high school, Adam returned home to find his parents packing their bags under the watchful eyes of the Hungarian police.
His father looked at him and said in Czech: “Take your sister and disappear. He told the police he would go to his room to pack his bags. Instead, he and his sister jumped out the window and ran to his uncle’s house. He later learned that his parents had been executed in Ukraine in 1941. Adam managed to escape the Nazis until 1944 when the Germans occupied Hungary and he was captured and “deported”.
Adam was moved from concentration camp to concentration camp. While on his way from Auschwitz, two American GIs passed by on motorbikes, soon followed by American troops. He was released and when the military learned that he was from Czechoslovakia, he was taken to Prague. Of his family, only he and his sister survived.
Adam received a scholarship and completed his medical studies, where he met his wife, Vlasta, also a medical student. They completed their studies in Prague and started working at Bulovka, a hospital specializing in infectious diseases. In 1954, they both became assistant professors of infectious diseases at Charles University, focusing on polio. Neither of them were members of the Communist Party and in 1959 and 1960 his wife, Dr Vlasta Adam first, and then he was expelled from medical school for providing “medical education. -Insufficient policy ”to the students.
It was a big blow, but their involvement in polio got them other jobs; he at the Institute of Immunology, and she at the Institute for Continuing Education of Physicians. When news of the Salk vaccine became public, the government bought a supply from Canada, but it would not serve the entire population.
To expand the offer, Ervin Adam suggested they vaccinate with one-fifth of the recommended dose intradermally, rather than into muscle. The technique and the dose were protective. In 1959, Dr Albert Bruce Sabin had developed the live vaccine which was even more protective and could be taken orally. Blocked by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which would not approve clinical trials in the United States, he sought other partners.
Adam was a member of a polio research committee at the Czech Ministry of Health, and he and others were interested in the new vaccine. After a number of small studies, they vaccinated 250,000 people in 1959. “In 1962, studies in the general population and the environment (including sewage) showed that the virus was gone. wild type and that the disease had been eradicated from the country, “said Ervin Adam. The Soviet effort received more publicity, but Adam stresses that the Czechs were the first.
In August 1968, the Soviets invaded and the Adams realized they would have to leave their home country. With very little of their possessions, the doctors and their children, 11 and 14, traveled to Vienna.
Having initially accepted an offer from McGill University in Canada, the two men were contacted by Dr Joseph Melnick, a prominent polio and virus researcher who then headed Baylor’s department of virology. Two weeks later, the family was in Houston.
After passing medical license exams, he and his wife started a geriatric practice. He also began to study the herpes simplex 2 virus in relation to cervical carcinoma. A prospective study which began in cooperation with Dr Vladimir Vonka in the Czech Republic in the late 1970s demonstrated that the herpes simplex virus was not causal.
As the Iron Curtain fell and politics became less tense, Adam and his wife reconciled with the Czech Republic, although they never considered returning. In 1989, they both received the Gold Medal from the Faculty of Medicine of Charles University in Prague. He and his wife later claimed the pensions they were entitled to from the government of the Czech Republic and used the money to fund scholarships for medical students.
Dr Vlasta Adam died 10 years ago, but her husband continued to work limited hours until 2017 when he retired.
To purchase tickets for the event or to donate online, visit czechcenter.org
. Covid precautions will be respected.