Erwin Edgar Emil Hartwich was born on 20 December 1923 in Leipzig, the son of wealthy Jewish parents. His mother Charlotte (née Mislowitzer), a doctor’s daughter from Schneidemühl (now Piła, Poland), was a qualified medical laboratory assistant. His father Hans, who was born and raised in Berlin, was a dentist and ran one of the largest non-private dental practices in Leipzig.
For the first ten years of his life, Erwin Hartwich lived with his parents and elder sister Rita in an apartment above his father’s dental practice in the Plagwitz neighbourhood of Leipzig. After the Nazis assumed power, his father lost his licence to treat statutory health insurance patients and so was deprived of much of his clientele. Those who continued to consult him were eventually driven away by Nazi Party supporters living in the building, who insulted and threatened them, until the practice was left virtually abandoned. In December 1933, Erwin and his sister went with their mother to Prague, where she had taken a commission to work on a series of bacteriological tests at the Pasteur Institute. Moreover, they had heard of the possibility of his father becoming a partner in a practice there, which his mother intended to pursue. Erwin and his sister went to school in Prague for two years. In late 1935 they returned with their mother to Leipzig as their father’s hope of working in Czechoslovakia had been dashed.
One-and-a-half years later, Erwin’s father died after a short, severe illness, aged only 46. Erwin’s mother then tried in vain to find work as a laboratory technician or receptionist in Leipzig. Exposed to constant harassment by her neighbours, Charlotte Hartwich decided to take her children to live in Berlin, where Erwin’s paternal grandparents lived. Initially, they lived as subtenants in an apartment at Duisburger Straße 5 in Wilmersdorf. In early 1938, they moved to Solinger Straße 3 and a short time later to Solinger Straße 10, where they lived as subtenants of the Schwerin family. At about the same time, in spring 1938, Erwin’s 17-year-old sister Rita emigrated to England. One year later, Erwin also emigrated to London, aged 15. He was one of over 10,000 Jewish children to be saved by a “kindertransport” to England between November 1938 and the start of the Second World War. While most of these children and adolescents never saw their parents again, Erwin Hartwich’s mother was lucky enough to manage to flee to England, too. She arrived in England in July 1939 on a transit visa, intending to travel on with Erwin and Rita to the United States, where Erwin’s uncle Ernst Mylon (originally Mislowitzer) worked at the medical institute of Yale University. They were prevented, however, by the outbreak of war. The ship they were scheduled to travel on could not depart, and Erwin remained in England for several years.
He became a solider in the British army, serving in India, Kenya and South Africa, and learning Urdu and Swahili. He rose to the rank of sergeant major in a regiment responsible for clearing mines. In spring 1946 his mother and sister finally emigrated to the United States, where Rita married an American the same year. When Erwin had completed his military service, he joined his family in New Haven, Connecticut. He changed his name from Erwin Hartwich to Edgar Hartley. In 1957 he married Bea Teitelman, a native of New Haven. They had three children – Alan, Larry and Holly. Edgar Hartley worked in a clothes store before opening his own store, Hartley’s, in Middletown. Later, he worked for a supermarket chain for 25 years, becoming their vice president for the north-eastern US market. He became a grandfather of seven and was an active member of the Beth Sholom synagogue community in Hamden. All his life he was very proud of his time in the military and still volunteered for active service when he was 63. He was very interested in history and a keen skier even in old age. In April 2007 Edgar Hartley died, aged 83.