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December 1: Mistress of the Circus

December 1, 2016

Carola Williams, entrepreneur and equestrian performer (from age 3) of a 300-year-old German circus family, the Althoffs (non-Jewish), who harbored Jews in their three traveling circuses during the Nazi era, was born in North Rhine-Westphalia on this date in 1903. According to Dominique Jando at Ciropedia, “Since the Middle Ages, there had been a great tradition of Jewish . . . circus dynasties,” but under Nazi rule, “two of Germany’s preeminent circuses, both owned by Jewish circus families, disappeared. . . . Yet whereas [several German] circus luminaries . . . like many other prominent German entre-preneurs, chose to join the NSDAP (Nazi Party) in a move of self-preservation, Carola, Franz, and Adolf Althoff acted quite differently. . . . When they had to subject their circuses to the many routine inspections conducted by the Gestapo and other Nazi authorities, Franz and Carola hid their Jewish wards in a double wall built in the circus’s pantry wagon, while Adolf was famously known to quietly fetch his and tell them to ‘go fishing’ . . .” In 1995, Carola’s brother Adolf, a renowned elephant trainer who was the last alive of the four Althoff siblings, was named among “the Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem. Carola lived to 84.

“[S]he ran from 1945 to 1968 a very successful circus, which presented elegant shows with excellent artists and outstanding equestrian and animal acts, and was a breeding ground for three of the best animal trainers of the second half of the twentieth century.” --Dominique Jando