Thomas Mann

The author Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955) was a prominent opponent of National Socialism. As early as on 17 Oktober 1930 he held an "Appell an die Vernunft" (appeal to reason) at the Beethoven hall in Berlin. When his lecture on "Leiden und Größe Richard Wagners", performed on 10 February 1933 in the Auditorium Maximum of the University of Munich, led to a "Protest der Richard-Wagner-Stadt München", Thomas Mann decided not to return to Germany from a lecture tour abroad in the spring of 1933. The author settled at first in Küsnacht on Lake Zürich, before he immigrated to the USA in 1938.

The Munich Villa in the Poschinger Straße 1, where Thomas Mann and his family had lived since 1914, was confiscated by the National Socialists on 25 August 1933. By that time, the children Erika (1905 – 1969) and Golo Mann (1909 – 1994), as well as their friends, had managed to rescue between half and two thirds of Mann’s private library and to bring it to Switzerland.

The remains fell into the hands of Nazi authorities, who then handed specific translations of Thomas Mann’s publications to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Among these were foreign-language editions of novels such as "Die Buddenbrooks" and "Der Zauberberg". Several books contain dedications by the translators to the author, who had personally signed two of these volumes. Differently to other Nazi loot, these books were not incorporated into the collections but stored separately and in their crates well into the post-war period.

Thomas-Mann-Haus in Munich

In accordance with the legislation for restitution issued by the Allies in 1947, the then Director General of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Gustav Hofmann (1900 – 1982, Director General 1948 – 1966), declared in the course of a voluntary disclosure of other "Aryanised" collections the receipt of this contingent of books. As a result, contact between Thomas Mann and Gustav Hofmann was established which eventually led to a mutual and firm agreement concerning the books' restitution. The precise details would supposedly have been sorted out during a meeting in Munich on 29 July 1949, which Hofmann, however, had to cancel due to ill health. In the following years, neither side pursued the matter, which finally seems to have fallen into oblivion.

In 2007, the working group "NS-Raubgutforschung" received information that the translations were still missing from the library in Zurich and that their destiny remained unclear. Research undertaken in response revealed a surprising result: Thomas Mann’s books had remained at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and had been incorporated in the collections in 1969 with the commentary "Herkunft unbekannt" (of unknown provenance). It was possible to identify a total of 78 volumes as books formerly in Thomas Mann’s private library.

For the restitution procedure the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek contacted Frido Mann (b. 1940), Thomas Mann’s grandson and the family’s representative. According to his suggestion, Klaus Ceynowa, Deputy Director General of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, delivered the books to the Thomas Mann Archives in Zurich on 10 November 2008.

Thomas Mann Archives

The returned volumes continue to be displayed in BSB DISCOVER!.