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Grande dame of Swiss cabaret dead at 90

Elsie Attenhofer, the grande dame of the Swiss cabaret who campaigned against anti-Semitism in World War II, died earlier this week at age 90, her family announced Friday.

This content was published on June 18, 1999 - 18:59

Elsie Attenhofer, the grande dame of the Swiss cabaret who campaigned against anti-Semitism in World War II, died earlier this week at age 90, her family announced Friday.

The cause of death was not disclosed but relatives said Attenhofer died at her home near Zurich on Wednesday after a long illness.

Attenhofer began her stage career in Zurich's Cabaret Cornichon soon after it was founded in 1934 in reaction to the Nazi rise to power in Germany. The theater aimed to keep the extreme right at bay in neutral Switzerland.

Attenhofer's politics put her on the "black list" of the Nazi Gestapo secret police, but she endeared herself to famous German author Thomas Mann, who took refuge in Switzerland from the Nazis.

He once wrote that he "fell in love with her" and noted in his diary that he "always had a weakness for her."

During World War II she wrote a play, "Who will cast the first stone," to attack Swiss anti-Semitism. She said she wrote it "out of outrage over the cruelties inflicted on the Jews" by the Germans.

Attenhofer told a Swiss Radio interviewer that she had written the piece, even though she wasn't an author, because well-known Swiss writers Max Frisch and Friedrich Duerrenmatt had failed to tackle anti-Semitism.

After the war she performed elsewhere in Europe and in Israel.

She also starred in Swiss films and published memoirs and autobiographical stories.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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