It is something of a paradox that my “personal story” will mainly deal with politics, even though politics are by no means my main interest. I have never been a member of a political party, nor have I ever cared about the devious arguments and dubious intrigues of career politicians. My view of modern society's most pressing issues is emotional rather than intellectual, humane rather than dogmatic. I am not a partisan, nor would I be any use as a crusader. My political views and actions have always been guided more by my personal experiences and impulses. The only “principle” I adhere to is my stubborn belief in a basic moral ideal – truth, honour, decency, freedom, tolerance. (ed. trans.)
Erika Mann, Ausgerechnet Ich, 1943
“Well, it's a girl,” wrote Thomas Mann after the birth of his first child on 9 November 1905, adding that he would have found a son “more poetic... a continuation and new beginning” of himself. He was to completely revise this fatherly opinion over the years that followed. The cabaret artist, children's book author, war correspondent and political journalist Erika Mann ultimately became her father’s favourite. Unlike her brother Klaus, the “valiant, glorious child” never stood in the shadow of the great author, who was fascinated by her dramatic talent. Erika Mann’s cabaret moved her father to tears and drove him to agonising conflicts of political conscience.
Yet this exhibition will tell another story, that of Erika Mann herself. It is set amid the momentous events of the 20th century; it deals with politics, occasionally brings in the family, and testifies to the passion and dedication of an actress and journalist whose work is highly relevant today.