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Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann in 1929
Thomas Mann in 1929
Born (1875-06-06)6 June 1875
Free City of Lübeck, German Empire
Died 12 August 1955(1955-08-12) (aged 80)
Zürich, Switzerland
Resting place Kilchberg, Switzerland
  • Novelist
  • short story writer
  • essayist
Period 1896–1954
Genre Novel, novella
Notable works Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain, Death in Venice, Joseph and His Brothers, Doctor Faustus
Notable awards
Spouse Katia Pringsheim
Children Erika, Klaus, Golo, Monika, Elisabeth, Michael
Relatives Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann (father)
Júlia da Silva Bruhns (mother)
Heinrich Mann (brother)


Paul Thomas Mann (UK: /ˈmæn/ man, US: /ˈmɑːn/ mahn; German pronunciation: [ˈtoːmas ˈman]; 6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized versions of German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Arthur Schopenhauer.

Mann was a member of the Hanseatic Mann family and portrayed his family and class in his first novel, Buddenbrooks. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann and three of Mann's six children – Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann – also became significant German writers. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he moved to the United States, then returned to Switzerland in 1952. Mann is one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur, German literature written in exile by those who opposed the Hitler regime.


Buddenbrookhaus Luebeck (Germany) by night
House of the Mann family in Lübeck („Buddenbrookhaus“), where Thomas Mann grew up; now a family museum

Paul Thomas Mann was born to a bourgeois family in Lübeck, the second son of Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann (a senator and a grain merchant) and his wife Júlia da Silva Bruhns, a Brazilian woman of German and Portuguese ancestry, who emigrated to Germany with her family when she was seven years old. His mother was Roman Catholic but Mann was baptised into his father's Lutheran religion. Mann's father died in 1891, and after that his trading firm was liquidated. The family subsequently moved to Munich. Mann first studied science at a Lübeck Gymnasium (secondary school), then attended the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich as well as the Technical University of Munich, where, in preparation for a journalism career, he studied history, economics, art history and literature.

Children of Thomas Mann and Katia Pringsheim
Name Birth Death
Erika 9 November 1905 27 August 1969
Klaus 18 November 1906 21 May 1949
Golo 29 March 1909 7 April 1994
Monika 7 June 1910 17 March 1992
Elisabeth 24 April 1918 8 February 2002
Michael 21 April 1919 1 January 1977

Mann lived in Munich from 1891 until 1933, with the exception of a year spent in Palestrina, Italy, with his elder brother, the novelist Heinrich. Thomas worked at the South German Fire Insurance Company in 1894–95. His career as a writer began when he wrote for the magazine Simplicissimus. Mann's first short story, "Little Mr Friedemann" (Der Kleine Herr Friedemann), was published in 1898.

In 1905, Mann married Katia Pringsheim, who came from a wealthy, secular Jewish industrialist family. She later joined the Lutheran church. The couple had six children.

Pre-war and Second World War period

Mann' summer cottage in Nidden, East Prussia (now Nida, Lithuania), now a memorial museum

In 1912, he and his wife moved to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, which was to inspire his 1924 novel The Magic Mountain. He was also appalled by the risk of international confrontation between Germany and France, following the Agadir Crisis in Morocco, and later by the outbreak of the First World War.

In 1929, Mann had a cottage built in the fishing village of Nidden, Memel Territory (now Nida, Lithuania) on the Curonian Spit, where there was a German art colony and where he spent the summers of 1930–1932 working on Joseph and His Brothers. Today, the cottage is a cultural center dedicated to him, with a small memorial exhibition.

In 1933, while travelling in the South of France living in Sanary-sur-Mer, Mann heard from his eldest children, Klaus and Erika in Munich, that it would not be safe for him to return to Germany. The family (except these two children) emigrated to Küsnacht, near Zürich, Switzerland, but received Czechoslovak citizenship and a passport in 1936. In 1939, following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Mann emigrated to the United States. He moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived on 65 Stockton Street and began to teach at Princeton University. In 1942, the Mann family moved to 1550 San Remo Drive in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The Manns were prominent members of the German expatriate community of Los Angeles, and would frequently meet other emigres at the house of Salka and Bertold Viertel in Santa Monica, and at the Villa Aurora, the home of fellow German exile Lion Feuchtwanger. On 23 June 1944, Thomas Mann was naturalized as a citizen of the United States. The Manns lived in Los Angeles until 1952.

Anti-Nazi broadcasts

The outbreak of World War II, on 1 September 1939, prompted Mann to offer anti-Nazi speeches (in German) to the German people via the BBC. In October 1940, he began monthly broadcasts, recorded in the U.S. and flown to London, where the BBC broadcast them to Germany on the longwave band. In these eight-minute addresses, Mann condemned Hitler and his "paladins" as crude philistines completely out of touch with European culture. In one noted speech, he said: "The war is horrible, but it has the advantage of keeping Hitler from making speeches about culture."

Mann was one of the few publicly active opponents of Nazism among German expatriates in the U.S. In a BBC broadcast of 30 December 1945, Mann expressed understanding as to why those peoples that had suffered from the Nazi regime would embrace the idea of German collective guilt. But he also thought that many enemies might now have second thoughts about "revenge". And he expressed regret that such judgement cannot be based on the individual.

Last years

Thomas Mann Grave 2005-03-26
The grave of Thomas, Katia, Erika, Monika, Michael, and Elisabeth Mann, in Kilchberg, Switzerland
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-32373-0006, Schweiz, Beisetzung Thomas Mann
Thomas Manns funeral 1955.

With the start of the Cold War, he was increasingly frustrated by rising McCarthyism. As a "suspected communist", he was required to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he was termed "one of the world's foremost apologists for Stalin and company". He was listed by HUAC as being "affiliated with various peace organizations or Communist fronts". Being in his own words a non-communist, rather than an anti-communist, Mann openly opposed the allegations: "As an American citizen of German birth, I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged 'state of emergency'. ... That is how it started in Germany." As Mann joined protests against the jailing of the Hollywood Ten and the firing of schoolteachers suspected of being Communists, he found "the media had been closed to him". Finally, he was forced to quit his position as Consultant in Germanic Literature at the Library of Congress, and in 1952, he returned to Europe, to live in Kilchberg, near Zürich, Switzerland. He never again lived in Germany, though he regularly traveled there. His most important German visit was in 1949, at the 200th birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, attending celebrations in Frankfurt am Main and Weimar, as a statement that German culture extended beyond the new political borders.


Following his 80th birthday, Mann went on vacation to Noordwijk in the Netherlands. On 18 July 1955, he began to experience pain and unilateral swelling in his left leg. The condition of thrombophlebitis was diagnosed by Dr. Mulders from Leiden and confirmed by Dr. Wilhelm Löffler. Mann was transported to a Zürich hospital, but soon developed a state of shock. On 12 August 1955, he died. Postmortem, his condition was found to have been misdiagnosed. The pathologic diagnosis, made by Christoph Hedinger, showed he had actually suffered a perforated iliac artery aneurysm resulting in a retroperitoneal hematoma, compression and thrombosis of the iliac vein. (At that time, lifesaving vascular surgery had not been developed.) On 16 August 1955, Thomas Mann was buried in Village Cemetery, Kilchberg, Zürich, Switzerland.


Mann's work influenced many later authors, such as Yukio Mishima. Joseph Campbell also stated in an interview with Bill Moyers that Mann was one of his mentors. Many institutions are named in his honour, for instance the Thomas Mann Gymnasium of Budapest.


Thomas Mann early
Mann in the early period of his writing career
Mann, Thomas – Buddenbrooks, 1909 – BEIC 3277013
Buddenbrooks (1909)

Blanche Knopf of Alfred A. Knopf publishing house was introduced to Mann by H.L. Mencken while on a book-buying trip to Europe. Knopf became Mann's American publisher, and Blanche hired scholar Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter to translate Mann's books in 1924. Lowe-Porter subsequently translated Mann's complete works. Blanche Knopf continued to look after Mann. After Buddenbrooks proved successful in its first year, they sent him an unexpected bonus. Later in the 1930s, Blanche helped arrange for Mann and his family to emigrate to America.

Nobel Prize in Literature

Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929, after he had been nominated by Anders Österling, member of the Swedish Academy, principally in recognition of his popular achievement with the epic Buddenbrooks (1901), The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg, 1924) and his numerous short stories. (Due to the personal taste of an influential committee member, only Buddenbrooks was cited at any great length.) Based on Mann's own family, Buddenbrooks relates the decline of a merchant family in Lübeck over the course of four generations. The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg, 1924) follows an engineering student who, planning to visit his tubercular cousin at a Swiss sanatorium for only three weeks, finds his departure from the sanatorium delayed. During that time, he confronts medicine and the way it looks at the body and encounters a variety of characters, who play out ideological conflicts and discontents of contemporary European civilization. The tetralogy Joseph and His Brothers is an epic novel written over a period of sixteen years, and is one of the largest and most significant works in Mann's oeuvre. Later, other novels included Lotte in Weimar (1939), in which Mann returned to the world of Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774); Doctor Faustus (1947), the story of the fictitious composer Adrian Leverkühn and the corruption of German culture in the years before and during World War II; and Confessions of Felix Krull (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, 1954), which was unfinished at Mann's death. These later works prompted two members of the Swedish Academy to nominate Mann for the Nobel Prize in Literature a second time, in 1948.


Throughout his Dostoevsky essay, he finds parallels between the Russian and the sufferings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Speaking of Nietzsche, he says, "his personal feelings initiate him into those of the criminal ... in general all creative originality, all artist nature in the broadest sense of the word, does the same. It was the French painter and sculptor Degas who said that an artist must approach his work in the spirit of the criminal about to commit a crime." Nietzsche's influence on Mann runs deep in his work, especially in Nietzsche's views on decay and the proposed fundamental connection between sickness and creativity. Mann held that disease is not to be regarded as wholly negative. In his essay on Dostoevsky we find: "but after all and above all it depends on who is diseased, who mad, who epileptic or paralytic: an average dull-witted man, in whose illness any intellectual or cultural aspect is non-existent; or a Nietzsche or Dostoyevsky. In their case something comes out in illness that is more important and conductive to life and growth than any medical guaranteed health or sanity... in other words: certain conquests made by the soul and the mind are impossible without disease, madness, crime of the spirit."

Political views

During World War I, Mann supported Kaiser Wilhelm II's conservatism, attacked liberalism and supported the war effort, calling the Great War "a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope". In his 600 page long work Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man (1918), Mann presented his conservative, anti-modernist philosophy: spiritual tradition over material progress, German patriotism over egalitarian internationalism, and rooted culture over rootless civilisation.

Later, in Von Deutscher Republik (1923), as a semi-official spokesman for parliamentary democracy, Mann called upon German intellectuals to support the new Weimar Republic. He also gave a lecture at the Beethovensaal in Berlin on 13 October 1922, which appeared in Die neue Rundschau in November 1922, in which he developed his eccentric defence of the Republic based on extensive close readings of Novalis and Walt Whitman. Thereafter, his political views gradually shifted toward liberal left and democratic principles.

Mann initially gave his support to the left-liberal German Democratic Party before shifting further left and urging unity behind the Social Democrats. In 1930 he gave a public address in Berlin titled "An Appeal to Reason", in which he strongly denounced Nazism and encouraged resistance by the working class. This was followed by numerous essays and lectures in which he attacked the Nazis. At the same time, he expressed increasing sympathy for socialist ideas. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Mann and his wife were on holiday in Switzerland. Due to his strident denunciations of Nazi policies, his son Klaus advised him not to return. In contrast to those of his brother Heinrich and his son Klaus, Mann's books were not among those burnt publicly by Hitler's regime in May 1933, possibly since he had been the Nobel laureate in literature for 1929. In 1936, the Nazi government officially revoked his German citizenship.

During the war, Mann made a series of anti-Nazi radio-speeches, published as Listen, Germany! in 1943. They were recorded on tape in the United States and then sent to the United Kingdom, where the British Broadcasting Corporation transmitted them, hoping to reach German listeners.

Views on Russian communism and Nazi-fascism

Mann expressed his belief in the collection of letters written in exile, Listen, Germany! (Deutsche Hörer!), that equating Russian communism with Nazi-fascism on the basis that both are totalitarian systems was either superficial or insincere in showing a preference for fascism. He clarified this view during a German press interview in July 1949, declaring that he was not a communist, but that communism at least had some relation to ideals of humanity and of a better future. He said that the transition of the communist revolution into an autocratic regime was a tragedy while Nazism was only "devilish nihilism".

Literary works


1905: Fiorenza 1954: Luther's Marriage (Luthers Hochzeit) (fragment - unfinished)

Prose sketch

1893: "Vision"

Short stories

  • 1894: "Gefallen"
  • 1896: "The Will to Happiness"
  • 1896: "Disillusionment" ("Enttäuschung")
  • 1896: "Little Herr Friedemann" ("Der kleine Herr Friedemann")
  • 1897: "Death" ("Der Tod")
  • 1897: "The Clown" ("Der Bajazzo")
  • 1897: "The Dilettante"
  • 1898: "Tobias Mindernickel"
  • 1899: "The Wardrobe" ("Der Kleiderschrank")
  • 1900: "Luischen" ("Little Lizzy") – written in 1897
  • 1900: "The Road to the Churchyard" ("Der Weg zum Friedhof")
  • 1903: "The Hungry"
  • 1903: "The Child Prodigy" ("Das Wunderkind")
  • 1904: "A Gleam"
  • 1904: "At the Prophet's"
  • 1905: "A Weary Hour"
  • 1907: "Railway Accident"
  • 1908: "Anecdote" ("Anekdote")
  • 1911: "The Fight between Jappe and the Do Escobar"

Novelistic Study

  • 1899: Avenged (Gerächt)


  • 1901: Buddenbrooks (Buddenbrooks – Verfall einer Familie)
  • 1909: Royal Highness (Königliche Hoheit)
  • 1924: The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg)
  • 1939: Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns
  • 1947: Doctor Faustus (Doktor Faustus)
    • 1949: The Origin of Doctor Faustus (Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus) - autobiographical non-fiction book about the novel
  • 1951: The Holy Sinner (Der Erwählte)


Felix Krull

  1. Felix Krull (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull) (written in 1911, published in 1922)
  2. Confessions of Felix Krull, (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull. Der Memoiren erster Teil; expanded from 1911 short story), unfinished (1954)

Joseph and His Brothers (Joseph und seine Brüder) (1933–43)

  1. The Stories of Jacob (Die Geschichten Jaakobs) (1933)
  2. Young Joseph (Der junge Joseph) (1934)
  3. Joseph in Egypt (Joseph in Ägypten) (1936)
  4. Joseph the Provider (Joseph, der Ernährer) (1943)


  • 1902: Gladius Dei [de]
  • 1903: Tristan
  • 1903: Tonio Kröger
  • 1905: The Blood of the Walsungs (Wӓlsungenblut) (2nd Edition: 1921)
  • 1912: Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig)
  • 1918: A Man and His Dog (Herr und Hund), sometimes translated as Bashan and I
  • 1925: Disorder and Early Sorrow (Unordnung und frühes Leid)
  • 1930: Mario and the Magician (Mario und der Zauberer)
  • 1940: The Transposed Heads (Die vertauschten Köpfe – Eine indische Legende)
  • 1944: The Tables of the Law – a commissioned work (Das Gesetz)
  • 1954: The Black Swan (Die Betrogene: Erzählung)


  • 1919: The Song of the Child: An Idyll (Gesang vom Kindchen)
  • 1923: Tristan and Isolde


  • 1915: "Frederick and the Great Coalition" ("Friedrich und die große Koalition")
  • 1918: "Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man" ("Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen")
  • 1922: "The German Republic" ("Von deutscher Republik")
  • 1930: "A Sketch of My Life" ("Lebensabriß") – autobiographical
  • 1950: "Michelangelo according to his poems" ("Michelangelo in seinen Dichtungen")
  • 1947: Essays of Three Decades, translated from the German by H. T. Lowe-Porter. [1st American ed.], New York, A. A. Knopf, 1947. Reprinted as Vintage book, K55, New York, Vintage Books, 1957.
  • "Nietzsche's Philosophy in the Light of Recent History"


  • 1937: "The Problem of Freedom" ("Das Problem der Freiheit"), speech
  • 1938: The Coming Victory of Democracy – collection of lectures
  • 1938: "This Peace" ("Dieser Friede"), pamphlet
  • 1938: "Schopenhauer", philosophy and music theory on Arthur Schopenhauer
  • 1940: "This War!" ("Dieser Krieg!"), article
  • 1943: Listen, Germany! (Deutsche Hörer!) – collection of letters

Compilations in English

  • 1922: Stories of Three Decades (24 stories written from 1896 to 1922, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter in 1936).
  • 1988: Death in Venice and Other Stories (trans. David Luke). Includes: "Little Herr Friedemann"; "The Joker"; "The Road to the Churchyard"; "Gladius Dei"; "Tristan"; "Tonio Kroger"; "Death in Venice".
  • 1997: Six Early Stories (trans. Peter Constantine). Includes: "A Vision: Prose Sketch"; "Fallen"; The Will to Happiness"; "Death"; "Avenged: Study for a Novella"; "Anecdote".
  • 1998: Death in Venice and Other Tales (trans. Joachim Neugroschel). Includes: "The Will for Happiness"; "Little Herr Friedemann"; "Tobias Mindernickel"; "Little Lizzy"; "Gladius Dei"; "Tristan"; "The Starvelings: A Study"; "Tonio Kröger"; "The Wunderkind"; "Harsh Hour"; "The Blood of the Walsungs"; "Death in Venice".
  • 1999: Death in Venice and Other Stories (trans. Jefferson Chase). Includes: "Tobias Mindernickel"; "Tristan"; "Tonio Kröger"; "The Child Prodigy"; "Hour of Hardship"; "Death in Venice"; "Man and Dog".
  • 2023: New Selected Stories (trans. Damion Searls). Includes: "Chaotic World and Childhood Sorrow"; "A Day in the Life of Hanno Buddenbrook"; "Louisey"; "Death in Venice"; "Confessions of a Con Artist, by Felix Krull—Part One: My Childhood". Review by Colm Tóibín



TMI Research

The metadatabase TMI-Research brings together archival materials and library holdings of the network "Thomas Mann International". The network was founded in 2017 by the five houses Buddenbrookhaus/Heinrich-und-Thomas-Mann-Zentrum (Lübeck), the Monacensia im Hildebrandhaus (Munich), the Thomas Mann Archive of the ETH Zurich (Zurich/Switzerland), the Thomas Mann House (Los Angeles/USA) and the Thomo Manno kultūros centras/Thomas Mann Culture Centre (Nida/Lithuania). The houses stand for the main stations of Thomas Mann's life. The platform, which is hosted by ETH Zurich, allows researches in the collections of the network partners across all houses. The database is freely accessible and contains over 165,000 records on letters, original editions, photographs, monographs and essays on Thomas Mann and the Mann family. Further links take you to the respective source databases with contact options and further information.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Thomas Mann para niños

  • Erich Heller (esp. s.v. "Writings on Thomas Mann", "Life in letters")
  • Patrician (post-Roman Europe)
  • Terence James Reed's Thomas Mann: The Uses of Tradition (1974)
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