Special exhibition: Erika Mann

The dancing generation

Erika Mann as a racing driver
Erika Mann as a racing driver, 1931
ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Thomas-Mann-Archiv / Fotograf: Max Fez / TMA_0719
Special exhibition: Erika Mann

The dancing generation

Stage – desk – automobile, 1924 – 1932

And if I were asked to drive the car up a spiral staircase in front of a large crowd of people while declaiming Mary Stuart and composing a brief report on my “impressions” of this undertaking, I would certainly do it.

Erika Mann, Geht die Kunst nach Brot? 1931.
In: Erika Mann: Blitze überm Ozean. Aufsätze, Reden, Reportagen. Hrsg. von Irmela von der Lühe und Uwe Naumann. Reinbek 2000, S.99–101.

Erika Mann studied acting with Max Reinhardt in Berlin; engagements in Bremen, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich soon followed. In 1924, she and the other “poet’s children” Pamela Wedekind and Mopsa Sternheim began performing in the scandalous plays written by her brother Klaus, which were directed by Gustaf Gründgens. With her shingled hair and cigarettes, Erika Mann embodied the “New Woman” of the 1920s. She had a passion for travel and fast cars. She had also inherited the “family curse” of writing. In 1927/28, a world tour with her brother Klaus forced her to take measures to improve her finances. From then on, she regularly wrote commentaries and articles “just for the newspapers”. Yet politics and major world events could not be ignored forever; the rise of the National Socialists had been the subject of vehement criticism in Thomas Mann's house for many years. In January 1932, Erika Mann experienced the looming threat at first hand.

Further reading:
Irmela von der Lühe: Erika Mann. Eine Lebensgeschichte. Reinbek 2009.
Klaus Mann: Der Wendepunkt. Ein Lebensbericht. Mit unbekannten Texten aus dem Nachlass. Hrsg. von Fredric Kroll. Reinbek 2006.
Anna Rheinsberg: Bubikopf. Aufbruch in den Zwanzigern. Texte von Frauen. Darmstadt 1988.
Susanne Meyer-Büser: Bubikopf und Gretchenzopf. Die Frau der Zwanziger Jahre. Katalog zur Ausstellung des Museums für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Heidelberg 1995.