A few days ago, the municipality of Sanary-sur-Mer in the south of France made a contribution to the memorial for the Mann family with the lamp or candelabra, as historical lamps are often called. In autumn 2020, I visited the former emigration site of the Mann family.
The candelabra came well packed from the Fonderie de Roquevaire, which had restored it, and was received at the Bauhof in Munich, measured – and labelled. As a small side effect, the letters in my name got mixed up and I became a „Cors(ican)“.
On 3.9.2021 Albert Coers will give a lecture on the memorial for the Mann family, at the online conference „Vor Ort: Erinnerung, Exil, Migration“, annual conference of the Gesellschaft für Exilforschung in cooperation with the NS-Dokumentationszentrum München, 3.–4.9.2021.
The annual conference 2021 deals with places of exile and migration and their relation to cultures of memory and stimulates exchange between exile research and other research fields dealing with (forced) migration and flight.
More information, program and registration here.
The monument to the Mann family consists of an
assembly of street signs named after members of the Mann family as well as
streetlamps from those streets. The signs and lamps come from Munich, where Mann spent a
majority of his life, but also from other cities and places related to the Mann
The internationality of the family is reflected in
the signs and lights – beginning in Munich and radiating out
to other cities in Europe, the USA, and South
America – as well as the family’s worldwide literary
presence and significance. This is also evident from the different street names
(Via, Rue, Rua). The arrangement is based on the topographical position of the
individual cities in relation to one another and forms an imaginary map. The monument
addresses the commitment to a specific place but also aspects of emigration,
mobility and frequent change of place as well as transnational cosmopolitanism,
for which the family can be regarded as a forerunner and example.
The point of departure is Munich, the center of the
family’s life for many years, where there are several streets and squares named
after members of the family: Thomas Mann but also Erika, Klaus, Elisabeth and
Golo. Some of these streets are located in less-frequented neighborhoods, new
housing estates or on the periphery and thus have little presence in the
collective memory. These street signs, together with the streetlamps to which
they are attached, are brought to the center of the city and assembled as a
group at the Salvatorplatz (Salvator Square),
where they are more visible and come into contact with one another in a kind of
“family reunion.” At the same time, they refer back to their original locations
so that the monument as a whole emphasizes its connection to urban structures.
A new sign will be created for Katia Mann, for whom
no street has yet been named. This will make “Mrs. Thomas Mann” more visible in
relation to the city in which she was born and whose family – the Jewish Pringsheim family – like the Manns,
lost their property and had to emigrate. Giving her a street name in the
monument anticipates what would otherwise be a lengthy process. This mixture of
reality and fiction references literary procedures practiced by Thomas and
Circa fifteen street signs and streetlights
are planned. In
addition to those from Munich, others will demonstrate the span
between Europe and North and South America and will establish connections. One
street sign comes from Paris. Another from the city of Lübeck, the birthplace of Thomas Mann as
well as the setting for Buddenbrooks. A streetlamp and
sign from Klaus-Mann-Platz in Frankfurt
(the location of a monument to persecuted homosexuals) serves as a reference to
an aspect of the identity of several family members. Rome is present as the residence of
Thomas (and Heinrich) Mann at a young age. The South American link (Thomas Mann’s
mother Julia came from Brazil) is represented by a streetlamp and
sign from São Paulo. One lamp will come from Nida, Lithuania, the preferred summer retreat of
the Mann family. A lamp from Sanary-Sur-Mer on the Côte d’Azur, the first place
the family emigrated to in the 1930s, represents the family as a whole. Two
streetlamps come from the United States:
one from New York,
near the former Hotel Bedford, where members of the Mann family stayed. Another
from San Remo Drive
in Los Angeles
refers to the villa Thomas Mann built there in 1942, in which he lived until
his return to Europe. A streetlamp from Kilchberg near Zurich establishes a link to the residence
of Thomas and Katia as well as Erika (for whom a street in Zurich is named) and finally Golo.
Research trips to the respective locations are part
of the project, as is a book publication that documents, conveys and
supplements the background and development of the monument, including the
current situations of the street signs and streetlights on site.
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 (Clegg & Guttmann, Albert Coers, Annika Kahrs, Michaela Meise, Michaela Melián, Olaf Nicolai, Timm Ulrichs, Paloma Varga Weisz). The monument is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
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.
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.