Mann, Thomas°

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MANN, THOMAS ° (1875–1955), German novelist and the leader of Germany's anti-Nazi intellectuals. Mann married Katia Pringsheim (1883–1980), whose parents were both of Jewish background: Alfred Pringsheim (1850–1941), professor of mathematics at Munich University, and Hedwig Dohm (1855–1942), the daughter of the famous feminist and author Hedwig Dohm (born Hedwig Schlesinger, 1831–1919), who had married in Berlin in 1853 the political and satirical publicist Ernst Dohm (formerly Elias Levy, 1819–1883), editor-in-chief of the satirical periodical Kladderadatsch.

It was the Berlin Jewish publisher, Samuel *Fischer, who launched Thomas Mann on his literary career. He introduced Jewish characters in many of his masterpieces, such as Koenigliche Hoheit (1909, Royal Highness, 1916), Der Zauberberg (1924; The Magic Mountain, 1927), and Doktor Faustus (1947; Eng., 1949). He withdrew his short story "Blood of the Walsungs" (Waelsungenblut, 1905), the original conclusion of which could be considered antisemitic, from publication after protests of his father-in-law and published it only as a private printing and with a different ending in 1921. Before the rise of Hitler he rarely wrote on Jewish matters, but his 1907 essay "Solving the Jewish Question" stood in the tradition of emancipation ideology by advocating mixed marriage and conversion. When Jacob *Wassermann, in 1921, voiced his despair at the prevalence of antisemitism in Germany, Mann answered his fellow-novelist that Germany was the country least suited for the growth of this evil. But from 1922 Mann warned of the Nazi danger. He called Munich as early as 1923 "the town of Hitler" and fought actively against the danger ("Kampf um Muenchen als Kulturzentrum," 1926; "Deutsche Ansprache. Ein Appell an die Vernunft," Berlin, 1930). When Hitler came to power, Mann, unlike his brother Heinrich (1871–1950) and his children, at first remained silent about the Nazi regime, hoping that it would not last too long. To wait things out he chose voluntary exile in southern France and Switzerland. In January 1936 he broke his silence on the persecution of German Jews in a leading article in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung. While disclaiming the appellation "philo-Semite," Mann expressed his repugnance for German antisemitism as the product of a racial myth designed for the rabble, and urged Jews not to despair: having survived many storms in the past, they would outlive this new oppression too. As a Czechoslovak citizen from November 1936, the Nazis deprived him of German citizenship in December, because of his "solidarity with Jewish associates." In response to the stripping of his title of Dr. h.c. of the University of Bonn, Mann warned in his published reply already in January 1937 of the coming war. During the early Nazi years he was at work on his prose epic Joseph und seine Brueder (4 vols., 1933–42, Joseph and his Brothers, 1934–45), the most profound treatment of this biblical theme in literature. He went to the United States in September 1938, teaching as an honorary professor at Princeton University, and moved to California in 1941. From the beginning of World War ii he broadcast from America through bbc London 55 speeches to German listeners ("Deutsche Hoerer!"). In 1942, when news of the extermination of the Jews reached him, Mann broadcast the information, hoping it would reach German listeners. In 1943 he called attention to the "maniacal resolution" of the Nazis to exterminate the Jews totally. He begged the United States not to cling bureaucratically to its immigration laws while millions of Jews were being massacred, but to prove by a modification of those laws that the war was indeed being waged for humanity and human dignity. He lived in California until 1952, when he moved to Switzerland. His public views on the Jewish question from the years 1936–48 were published in 1966 (Sieben Manifeste zur juedischen Frage, ed. by W.A. Berendsohn).

His eldest child, erika mann (1905–1969), trained as an actress, directed Die Pfeffermuehle, an anti-Nazi cabaret, from January 1933. She went into exile in February 1933 and was in the U.S. from 1936, became a war correspondent, and eventually settled in Switzerland. Her works include Zehn Millionen Kinder. Die Erziehung deutscher Jugend im Dritten Reich (1938) and Das letzte Jahr (1956), a biography of her father. She was an outspoken critic of post-World War ii German democracy. Her brother, klaus mann (1906–1949), an anti-Nazi writer and journalist, published two journals (Die Sammlung, 1933–35; Decision, 1941–42) and resumed his career in the U.S. Army as a propagandist. He wrote various novels and an autobiography, The Turning Point (1944; German ed., 1952). He and his sister also published Escape to Life (1939), about the talented victims of Hitlerism. Klaus Mann committed suicide in Cannes.


A. Eloesser, Thomas Mann, sein Leben und sein Werk (1925); K. Hamburger, Thomas Manns Roman "Joseph und seine Brueder" (1945). add. bibliography: H. Jendreiek, Thomas Mann. Der demokratische Roman (1977); S.D. Dowden (ed.), A Companion to Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain (1999), 141–57; D. Prater, Thomas Mann, A Life (1995) H. Kurzke, Thomas Mann. Das Leben als Kunstwerk (1999; Life as a Work of Art, tr. Leslie Willson, 2002); M. Dierks and R. Wimmer (ed.), Thomas Mann und das Judentum. Die Vortraege des Berliner Kolloquiums der Deutschen Thomas-Mann-Gesellschaft (2004).

[Sol Liptzin /

Dirk Heisserer (2nd ed.)]