Jo Mihaly(Elfriede Alice Kuhr)

Fotografie: Jo Mihaly Mütter
Jo Mihaly in her dance mothers, photographed by Leonard Steckel, 1930
Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln, © Edition Memoria Verlag + Sammlung, Thomas B. Schumann, Hürth bei Köln

Jo Mihaly(Elfriede Alice Kuhr)

Das mag überhaupt einen großen Teil meiner eigenen Zeit als Tippelschickse ausmachen, nämlich wirklich ein grenzenloses, ja ein brüderlich-schwesterliches Verhältnis zu denen, die so entsetzlich ohne einen Halt waren. Ich fühlte mich zu ihnen hingezogen und das, ich schwöre dir, das ist heute noch genau dasselbe!

[That may very well account for a large part of my own time as a street girl, a truly boundless, sibling-like relationship with those people who were so horribly without a place to stop. I felt drawn to them and that, I swear to you, is still the case today! (ed. trans.)]

Jo Mihaly, Michael Arpad und sein Kind (Michael Arpad and his child), 1981

Bornon 25 April 1902 in Schneidemühl, Germany, now Polen
Diedon 29 March 1989 in Seeshaupt, Germany
RemigrationFederal Republic of Germany
ProfessionDancer, Writer

Jo Mihaly: This is the name a Romany family gave to the then 10-year-old Elfriede Alice Kuhr. It means: one of them. This was a special honour for young Elfriede Alice; she had campaigned for the interests of the Romany family in a letter of complaint to the mayor of her place of birth. All her life, Jo Mihaly felt she was one of them, someone who crossed the boundaries of society, particularly in the years of exile. For this reason, she choose the Romany name as her stage name when she started her career as a dancer.

After her school graduation in 1916, she completed an education as a nurse in the childeren's and infant's home in Schneidemühl. From 1918 until 1920, she lived without a permanent residence. In 1920 she moved to Berlin and began to study dance. After her dance training, she joined the touring company led by Otto Haas-Heye and performed in small cabarets and circuses throughout the Weimar Republic. She became acquainted with the jewish actor Leonard Steckel while dancing at the Volksbühne in 1927.

When he left Germany in 1933, she went with him. They found refuge in Zurich. Her husband found a job there at the Schauspielhaus theatre there. Meanwhile, Mihaly attended to the emigrants who were detained in Swiss camps. In 1943, she founded the Cultural Society for Emigrants in with her fellow campaigners and was involved in the new foundation of the Protective Association for German Writers in Exile in Switzerland. In Switzerland, she worked on the novel Hüter des Bruders and published articles under pseudonyms. In October 1945, she travelled with a book shipment to Germany and participated in cultural rebuilding.

Selected works:
Hüter des Bruders (novel, 1942)
Wir verstummen nicht. Gedichte in der Fremde (poems, 1945)
Die Steine (novel, 1946)
Weihnachtserzählungen (short stories, 1970)
..da gibt’s ein Wiedersehen! Kriegstagebücher eines Mädchens. 1914-1918 (autobiography, 1982)

Further reading:
Hardt, Yvonne: Politische Körper. Ausdruckstanz. Choreographien des Protests und die Arbeiterkulturbewegung in der Weimarer Republik. Münster: Lit Verlag 2004
Schultz, Kristina: Die Schweiz und die literarischen Flüchtlinge (1933-1945). Bern: Akademie Verlag 2012
Stark, Niklaus: Jo Mihaly und die Würde des Menschen. Eine illustrierte Biographie. Basel: Porzio-Verlag 2011