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Verstrengelde Levens : De eeuwige ballingschap van Erika en Klaus Mann

By A.H.A.M. Paffen


This thesis is about the influence of exile (1933-1945) on the lives and work of Erika (1905-1969) and Klaus Mann (1906-1949), the eldest children of the German writer Thomas Mann. The Mann siblings seemed to have coped better with the hardship of exile than most of their German refugee colleagues. There are a number of reasons in favour of this statement. The most important one is that their lives before exile were in many ways comparable with their lives as refugees. They lived as free spirits -Erika as an actress and Klaus as a writer- in Berlin in the 1920's, went on a world tour in 1927 and travelled in Erika Mann's Ford through Europe and Morocco. They were both curious and restless by nature. The second reason is that during their exile they were politically very engaged. They seemed less attached to their homeland and were capable to transform their talent -writing and performing- and use it for the fight against fascism. Through cabaret, lectures, articles and books in German and English they tried to open up the eyes of the people and governments of Europe and America for the danger of fascism. Finally the Mann siblings, contrary to many other German intellectuals, did try to integrate during their American exile. They learned the English language and were engaged as lecturers. They also wanted to become American citizens and even were engaged as war correspondents in the US army during the Second World War. Most German refugees didn't want to integrate because they thought and hoped that the war would soon be over and they could return to Germany.\ud \ud In my opinion and contrary to other research on Erika and Klaus Mann, the siblings first drifted apart after 1945 -so after the ending of the war and after the end of their exile- and not already during the first years of exile. It's tragic but very understandable that the end of exile meant the beginning of their estrangement. Because of their provisional lifestyle and because of their political engagement the period of exile had been extraordinary productive for them. After the war during the McCarthy area and the beginning of the Cold War their professional careers became in jeopardy because they were suspected of communist sympathies. They were denied to enter and do research in post-war Germany and Erika's application for American citizenship also lingered on until 1950 when she finally decided to withdraw her application. They both felt disillusioned and bitter and now for the first time turned away from each other. Finally after an unsuccessful attempt in 1948 Klaus succeeded at killing himself on May 21 1949. Erika was devastated by her brothers death and left America with her parents. Until her own death in 1969 she lived at her parents home in Switzerland and was among other things busy collecting Klaus' correspondence and preparing an edition of his articles

Topics: Letteren, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann, exile, Germany, National Socialism, World War II
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2007
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