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Elfi Hornby

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Elfi Hornby (born in Munich, Germany)

Early Life[edit]

Hornby’s father had opposing political convictions against Hitler’s and the current German regime’s beliefs, causing her family to live in the fringes of society and only have access to part time, lower income jobs. At 4 years old Hornby was enrolled in ballet school. Her mom had wanted her daughter to peruse a life in the theater, something she felt she had been denied. Hornby was dancing on the stage by age 6, and by age 10 she was giving solo performances all over Bavaria.

Life During the War[edit]

The war started when Hornby was a teenager, and after serving the mandatory “Pflichtjahr” that most young Germans were forced to serve Hornby got a job dancing for the Deutsche Theater in Munich. After the show closed in Munich Hornby traveled to Berlin where she continued to dance with the company. In an effort to avoid a factory job Hornby signed with the Molkow Ballet as the war began to escalate directly on German soil. The Molkow Ballet was a traveling dance company affiliated with the Berlin Opera. Hornby was forced to sign on as an apprentice with a three year contract due to the fact that she was only fifteen at the time and considered a minor. While performing with the Molkow Ballet Hornby traveled through many parts of Germany, including occupied zones. At age sixteen in 1943 Hornby and the company left Berlin and started a new tour through eastern Germany. Two weeks into their tour of eastern Germany, the Molkow Ballet company received a summons to audition before the German Military High Command in Poznan, Poland. Hornby and the members of the company knew that the military would occasionally draft shows for entertainment for the troops, and the company was anticipating being sent to a safe zone such as France or Belgium. To the horror of the whole company the ballet was to be sent to the Russian front, one of the bloodiest battle zones.[1]

Movement to America[edit]

After surviving terrifying years of war, and returning home to find her family and friends close to starvation, Hornby decided to try and pursue a better life in America. In 1949 Hornby made the decision to leave Munich and move to Omaha, Nebraska where her first husband Robert waited. Hornby wrote about her experience in America in her book, So, This is America.[2]

Ballet Career[edit]

Elfi Hornby was enrolled in ballet lessons at age 4, by age 6 she was dancing on stage, and at age 10 she began touring around Bavaria doing solo performances. As a young girl Hornby began her career by joining Deutsche Theater in Munich, and later traveling with the company to Berlin. When the war began, Hornby tried to hold on to her life of dance by signing on as an apprentice with the Molkow Ballet, instead of being forced into a factory job like many others during the war time. Molkow was a traveling company, which allowed Hornby to travel across all parts of Germany.While under the apprenticeship contract as a minor Hornby had to complete a State-approved program for artist. This included not only dance training, but also courses in art history, music theory, and learning the ideology of the Nazi Party and the names of the leaders within it. In 1943 the Molkow Ballet company Hornby was with were summoned to audition before the German Military High Command in Poznan, Poland. The dance company was sent to the Russian front lines where Elfi danced for the last six months of the war. Following the war Elfi fell ill and was sent back to her family. With little prospects or money Elfi felt she should start dancing for the American troops stationed by her home to bring in some income for her family.[3] After the demands of the American soldiers became too much Elfi joined a Hungarian circus group and traveled with them. Upon moving to America Elfi opened her own dance school and also founded the Children's Dance Theater, known today as Omaha Dance Theater.[4]

Writing Career[edit]

Elfi Hornby has published three books surrounding the circumstances of her life, Dancing to War, Shadow of Defeat, and So, This is America. Dancing to War starts when Elfi is 16 years old, and centers around her experiences as a dancer performing for German soldiers on the Russian front during WW2. She continues her tale in Shadow of Defeat, which tells of her experience upon returning home to her family and dancing for the American soldiers. Her final book, So, This is America, concludes her tale and expresses her movement and life in America.


  1. Hornby, Elfi (2004). Dancing to War (2nd ed.). E. Hornby. Search this book on
  2. Hornby, Elfi (2006). So, This is America. E. Hornby. Search this book on
  3. Hornby, Elfi (2003). Shadow of Defeat. E. Hornby. Search this book on
  4. "Federal Way author describes life as dancer for Germans during WWII". Federal Way Mirror. Federal Way Mirror. Retrieved 22 May 2018.

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