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Germany's 'most famous smoker' dies at 79

December 19, 2017

Friedhelm Adolfs became the unlikely face of renters' rights for his protracted legal battle with his landlady. Adolfs refused to leave the apartment he had lived (and smoked) in for four decades.

BdT Deutschland Raucher Friedhelm Adolfs
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Germany's "most famous smoker" Friedhelm Adolfs died in Düsseldorf at the age of 79, local media reported on Tuesday. Adolfs became famous as the face of renters' rights for his years-long battle with his landlady over his smoking habit.

"I think all the trials played a role," his friend Ferry Weber told German news agency DPA.

Adolfs became the unlikely hero of smokers and renters across Germany when his landlady first tried to evict him in 2013. The pensioner had been living (and smoking) in his Düsseldorf apartment for some 40 years at that point.

Although renters who inhabit a dwelling for such a prolonged period of time enjoy special rights against eviction in Germany, the owners of Adolfs's apartment argued that he was refusing to comply with codes like opening his window whilst smoking, and that his smoking was disturbing the peace.

His lawyer Martin Lauppe-Assman thus dubbed his client "Germany's second-most famous smoker," after the late chain-smoking Chancellor Helmut Schmidt who died in 2015.

The case even made it all the way to Germany's Supreme Court in Karlsruhe, who sided with Adolfs in his appeal against eviction. The justices criticized the lower court for not making a site visit during the original trial, and said that the owners had provided no evidence that the pensioner was disturbing his neighbors.

The final blow to his landlady's case came in September 2016, when a state court in Düsseldorf issued a final ruling in Adolfs's favor.

The case ignited a nationwide debate about smokers' rights as more and more public locations prohibit smoking in a country where the rate of tobacco consumption is still relatively high.


Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.