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He studied at Wittenberg and in 1566 fought against the Turks, then pushing into Europe. In 1568 his brother William the Silent took up arms against Philip II of Spain and Adolf fought beside him in Brabant. Adolf then joined the force under his brother Louis of Nassau in the north, where he died at the battle of Heiligerlee. The Spanish troops at Heiligerlee were commanded by Arenberg. Heiligerlee was a Dutch victory, but this was nullified when Alva beheaded counts Egmont and Horne in Brussels on 5 June 1568.