On April 10, 2019, Munich’s City Council voted to realize artist Albert Coers’ design for a monument in honor of the Mann family at the Salvatorplatz (Salvator Square) in Munich. Coers’concept, entitled Streets Names Lights, was selected by an expert jury within the framework of a competition for Art in Public Space organized by Munich’s Cultural Department. Coers was one of eight international artists invited to submit a proposal.
The erection of a memorial to Thomas Mann was first initiated by the City Council in 2015: “The Munich citizen and important author Thomas Mann deserves a visible place of honor in the city which he made the center of his life. He lived here for a very long time, married here, built a house. He wanted to stay here.”
Since then, the scope of the memorial has expanded to include his family: “In addition to Thomas Mann’s historical significance for Munich, it has become clear that the thematic focus must not be limited to Thomas Mann alone. An artistic appreciation of the Nobel Prize winner without regard to his family context would be an exclusion of many interesting facets. For a broader, permanent artistic upgrading of public space, the literary significance of the entire Mann family must now be taken into account.” (competition brief)
The site for the monument, Salvatorplatz, is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Literaturhaus (Literature House), one of Munich’s central addresses for literature and literary exchange. The square is located in the old town between the Literaturhaus, the Salvatorgaragen (a landmarked parking garage from the 1960s) and the Salvatorkirche (Salvator Church) to the southeast.
The Manns and Munich
The idea of erecting a monument to Thomas Mann and his family at a central location in Munich has its roots in the importance of the city for the family – including the family’s ambivalent relationship to it – as well as the fact that the family has not yet had the presence it deserves in the visible culture of memory.
Born in Lübeck in 1875, Thomas Mann came to Munich as a young man in 1894 and lived here for over 30 years. Here he met his wife Katia Pringsheim and here is where their children – Erika, Klaus, Golo, Monika, Elisabeth and Michael – were born. Most of Mann’s literary works were written here.
After the National Socialists seized power in 1933, the Mann family was forced to emigrate and lived in exile for almost twenty years – first in Europe, then in the USA. The family’s villa in Munich’s Poschingenstraße was confiscated and Thomas Mann expropriated.
In 1952, Mann finally returned to Europe, to Switzerland – a return to Munich was completely out of the question for him. Already in decay, his former residence was torn down by the City of Munich with his personal consent. Thomas Mann’s estate was bequeathed to the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich. The extensive literary heritage of his children Klaus, Erika, Michael, Monika and Elisabeth Mann is archived in the Hildebrandhaus of the Monacensia (literary archives and research library) in Munich’s Bogenhausen neighborhood.