George Tabori Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The son of journalist Kornel (Cornelius) Tabori and Elsa Ziffer, George Tabori was born May 24, 1914, in Budapest, Hungary, and raised in a Jewish, though secular, family. Coming of age during the nascence of the Nazi Party in Europe, Tabori completed high school in 1932 and then traveled to Berlin, where he worked in a hotel for two years. He returned afterward to Budapest but decided that his interest in writing and journalism would be more easily pursued in London.

Tabori spent the war years serving as a journalist and war correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation and the British army, not realizing that his own life would be irrevocably altered by the rise of German leader Adolf Hitler. As Tabori would later describe in his moving memoir, My Mother’s Courage, his father, Kornel Tabori, was deported to Auschwitz, and his mother, Elsa Ziffer, only barely escaped the same fate. Although George Tabori was safe in London, he would be haunted ever after by his father’s 1944 murder—a scenario that would be played out endlessly in his tragedy The Cannibals.

After the war, Tabori emigrated to the United States, where he began writing novels and adapting plays for the Hollywood film industry. Although he was married twice in the United States (first to Hanna Freund, whom he divorced in 1954, and then to the actress Viveca Lindfors, whom he divorced in 1970) and had three children (John, Lena, and Kristoffer, both by his second marriage), he never truly felt at home in America. Therefore, it was no coincidence that when a German theater agent offered to stage The Cannibals, a play set in a concentration camp, in Europe, Tabori found the idea to be too compelling to ignore. Moving in 1968 to Germany, he pursued an extensive career in the theatre, finally culminating in the acquisition of his own drama company in Vienna. Tabori died in Berlin in 2007, at the age of 93. He was survived by his children and his fourth wife, actress Ursula Hopfner.