Klaus Mann: The ‘Impossible’ Son of Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann (Part 1)

Dutch painter and writer Adrian Staleker wrote with a fine pen The magician’s son About the strange life of Klaus Mann. Stahlecker beautifully illustrated the story and published it himself.

Klaus Mann (1906-1949), openly gay and drug user, threw his heart and soul into the international intellectual and art scene during the interwar period. After the Nazis seized power in Germany, the Mann family found refuge in the United States. Klaus was a focus in the German immigrant and writers community there, but he was also at home in the Hollywood film world. He worked closely with his sister, Erica, but had a difficult relationship with his famous father, Thomas. A tormented soul, in spite of everything, is still trying to fulfill its ideals and be itself.


We often see children of famous parents go through life’s frustrations. Was this also the case with father Thomas and son Klaus?

Adrian StalkerParents sometimes expect more from their children than they can deliver. After the birth of his daughter Erika in 1905, Thomas wrote to his brother Heinrich: “This first child really should have been a boy. Alas it is a girl. A disappointment for me and between us I confess I would have preferred a boy… Why is it so hard to say. I feel I I live my son’s experience more poetically. It’s like a continuation and a new beginning for myself under new circumstances.”

When the long-awaited heir was born a year later, he was saddled with a heavy symbolic burden. He is given the name Klaus Heinrich, after the new character in Thomas’ recently published book Royal Your Highness. Thomas was initially proud of his son, who showed a talent for writing as a child. Klaus wrote notebooks full of stories about brave and strong heroes, but he grew up to be a brash, fanatical, and weak boy who did not fulfill his father’s wish. During his short life, he remained in the shadow of his famous father. For the spirit and fame of his son he could not match. This impossible task continued to haunt him throughout his life.


The symbiotic relationship with his older sister, Erika, was pretty cool. They even claimed they were twins. Was there anything in common between the two?

What Thomas did not find in his son Klaus, he found in his resolute and intelligent daughter Erica. After Klaus, two girls and two boys were born. At that time, children wore aprons: red for boys and blue for girls, indicating the difference between the sexes. In the case of Erika and Klaus, there was a typical distinction between male and female. They appear to have undergone a sex change.

As a child, Klaus admired his sister, who seemed to fear nothing and no one. She defended Klaus and sometimes dealt severe blows to boys who wanted to attack him. Erica was running around fighting with the boys, while Klaus was hanging out with the girls. As such, they often present themselves as adults as well. It will later be said that there is an incestuous relationship, which is not true. However, the pair complement each other perfectly.

Erica always spoke the loudest word in contrast to the shy Klaus. She was involved in auto racing and trained as an auto mechanic, which was considered a man’s profession at the time. Klaus: “With Erica I was part of a group of strangers, but she was always one.” Erica possessed a sense of reality and dynamism. Klaus, on the other hand, has been a manic-depressive all his life, playing with dolls until he was eleven and longing for his childhood, when he felt protected by Erika.


In 1925, Klaus Mann published his first play “Anja and Esther”, which was about lesbian love between two women. Where did the inspiration come from?

After World War I, women demanded the same rights as men. This was reflected in both demeanor and clothing: “Ditch the bra and ankle-length dresses.” Women wore short, backless, waist-length dresses and short, masculine haircuts. They smoked in public and threw themselves at the jazz music that blasted out of America. Waltzes and polkas have been replaced by Charlestons and Black Bottoms.

In 1922, a controversy over the book broke out in France not garcon by Victor Margaret. The new character is Monique L’Herbier. After another woman is impregnated by her fiancé, she breaks away from her hypocritical environment and throws herself into a series of sexual relations with both men and women. The book ended in a scandal that led to the removal of the prestigious Legion of Honor from the author. Klaus may have read the novel, which inspired him to write the play Anja and Esther.

Both Klaus and Erika were familiar with the gay and lesbian environment in Berlin. Successful gay director and actor Gustav Grundgens saw potential in the play. He was offered directing and acting. Erika played Esther and her friend Pamela Wedekind played Anja. The play, which was first performed in Munich and two days later in the Hamburg Kammerspellen, caused a great scandal. During rehearsals, Erika and Gründgens entered into a relationship and planned a wedding. Pamela and Klaus also got engaged. Gründgens saw this relationship as an attempt to pass it straight and resulted in Erika’s contract with Hamburg Kammerspielen.

The wedding night turned out to be a traumatic experience for Erika because her “femininity” and “masculinity” caused confusion. They ended up divorcing after three years, and Klaus’s engagement to Pamela was short-lived. The same was true of the same-sex relations between Gustav Grundgens and Klaus, and those between Pamela and Erika.Erika, however, founded the cabaret group “Pfeffermühle”, for which Klaus wrote the lyrics.The cabaret was a huge success and was mainly aimed at countering the rising National Socialism.

a relationship

What was the relationship between Klaus Mann and Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo?

Klaus was initially a bit of a fan of Marlene Dietrich, who became world famous in the 1930’s for her role as a nightclub singer in “Der Blaue Engel”. in his notes The turning point He writes: “With a constant instinct, the German film company UFA explored the legs of Marlene Dietrich, who appeared sensationally in Der Blaue Engel.” On January 5, 1936, he recorded a gramophone record with the number Peter on it. On March 20, while staying in Amsterdam, he wrote: “Went to film Desire with little talented Marlene Dietrich and cute Gary Cooper.”

He was more enthusiastic about Garbo’s Anna Karenina: “She looks amazing sometimes.” In New York, he saw Lubitsch’s comedy Ninotschka in 1940, and again liked Garbo’s face. In 1929, Garbo was the first to introduce the androgynous style, wearing men’s clothing, such as the tuxedo. It later became a trademark of Marlene Dietrich, who is known to have had affairs with both men and women. It is likely that Klaus was attracted not only by the beauty of both actresses, but also by their androgynous ways of dressing and Dietrich’s low voice.

decadent and wild

Berlin was a brutally decadent 1920s era. Does this also apply to Klaus Mann?

The Weimar Republic (1918-1933) was an era of extremes. The new state was saddled with heavy debts from the First World War, there was hyperinflation, there were many casualties and on every street corner I saw war invalids. At the same time, it was the era of the “roaring twenties”, wild nightlife, a booming film industry and women’s liberation. In Morocco (1930), Marlene Dietrich wears a suit and tie and kisses a woman.

This “wild” image of Berlin was accessible to small groups of the avant-garde, because German society was conservative. Gays generally had to proceed with caution and people met in clandestine bars and private clubs, which were raided on a regular basis. Well-paid male prostitutes profited from international sex tourists, and Berlin was known for cocaine abusers and addicts living on the edge.

Tomorrow Part Two: The parents don’t come to his funeral.

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