They were circus people. Adolf's family had owned the renowned Althoff circus in Germany for more than 200 years, and he himself had been born in the family's circus wagon. In 1939, he established his own circus, traveling throughout Europe with 90 performers and their families. That summer of 1941, a young girl visited Adolf during a stop in Hesse; Irene Danner was descended from another famous circus dynasty, the Lorch family. Despite having a German father serving in the military, her mother's Jewish heritage sealed her fate with the Nazi government. Adolf Althoff did not hesitate. He hired Irene using a false identity, and in the following months also took in her mother and sister. Throughout the remainder of the war years and despite numerous Gestapo searches, the whole circus kept the secret, and the Danner family survived. After the war, Adolf Althoff's explanation for his choice was quite simple, "There was no question in our minds… I couldn't permit them to fall into the hands of the murderers. This would have made me a murderer." On January 2, 1995, Yad Vashem recognized Adolf Althoff and his wife, Maria, as Righteous Among the Nations.
top of page
bottom of page