For a long time Golo Mann was considered to be a non-practising homosexual. His biographers did not want to admit anything else. Yet one could read in Thomas Mann’s diaries which friends Golo brought home. Sometimes even Thomas Mann thought they were particularly attractive. Golo Mann was always very discrete, only in letters to his friend Manuel Gasser he was more obvious and admitted his desires and affairs.The exhibition in the Schwules Museum is following these traces. In one room Golo Mann’s youth and the family circle are portrayed. In the centre is the difficult relationship with the father, which had a strong effect on his life. Also the relationship with the brother and sister was not always easy.
Klaus and Erika were the admired older ones, who were dedicated to the younger one just when it suited them. Golo Mann noticed that Dad and Mom did not have a clue of pedagogy. His education took place in the Salem boarding school. But even there, with all the physical discipline, with his likings for art he could not make his mind up. This situation lasted all his life. He always felt strange, not belonging to anything.
Golo Mann promoted at Karl Jaspers on Hegel. His university career was disrupted because of the take over by the nazis, and he followed his family in exile. When the nazis took his nationality away, he accepted the offer, with both the parents and a younger brother and sister, to become a Czech citizen, and worked as a lecturor and a teacher at French universities and supported his father with the distribution of the Maß und Wert (“Touchstone and Value”) magazine, which was published in Zürich. When Thomas Mann went to America with his family, Golo stayed behind in Switzerland; later he was detained in France and could escape with his uncle Heinrich Mann. For a short time he lived in New York with his brother in law, W. H. Auden, in a gay commune, together with Benjamin Britten, Peter Sears, Paul und Jane Bowles. Being in exile in America, Golo Mann was an important supporter to his father, he took over the reviews the Sorcerer did not like, edited his lectures and helped with the mail. In the USA he also worked as a professor in Literature and History. When the USA stepped into the war, like his brother Klaus, he went to the army and was occupied as a propaganda officer.
Golo Mann’s development from being Thomas Mann’s son to a public figure in the German Federal Republic is the central issue of the second room. Here the historian, whose books became best sellers, is being praised. His Wallenstein got a big reception from the readers, was made into a film and was, because of the literary form, looked upon suspiciously by the historians’ guild. Again, Golo Mann felt not belonging to others. Quiet early, with the recognition of the effects of the Second World War, he engaged himself in politics. In 1953, the lecture he gave in the Goethe Institut in Rome on the recognition of the new (European) borders led to a interpellation in the parlament. In Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which he supported, most of the times he got a fragile political affiliation. In the beginning he sympathized with the revolting students, but later he rejected their increasing revolutionary fury. Memories of the Weimar republic showed up. Unadjusted like Golo Mann was during his life, he ended up on chancellor-candidate Franz Josef Strauss’s side for a short time. The common intellectual rejection of Strauss he considered to be a targeted hate campaign, which he, as a democrat, even with mixed feelings, had to resist. Then, again for private reasons, he became a German citizen. In Switzerland he could not adopt his friend Hans Beck. He was asked for his political opinions. The ceremonies, prizes and requests, which were difficult for him to avoid, and kept him from his literary profession. Angry tongues, which replied to his omnipresence in the media, talked about the German Cassandra.
Simultaneously with the exhibition, the Fischer Verlag will publish the wonderful Golo Mann biography by Tilman Lahme. The exhibition is the confirmation of, and has many further guidelines from the biography, not just about Golo Mann’s love life. We are grateful to the author and the publisher for the availability of the biography in advance.
Curator: Wolfgang Theis