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)

Moni­ka, Michael, Golo, Katia, Thomas, Elis­a­beth, Eri­ka, Klaus Mann, 1927, Mona­cen­sia Archive


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.