Erika Mann
1905–1969

Erika Mann
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Ah yes, Erika Mann, an opinionated bad ass, born in 1905 in Germany. She was an actor, writer, director, and racing car driver, and ferociously attractive. As an adult, she moved to Berlin to live in the artists Bohemian lifestyle. She moved with her brother Klaus who she pretended was her twin, even though he was older than her. In Berlin, Erika became a successful actor and Klaus dove into his career as a writer. The two were inseparable. Klaus would write plays that Erika performed in and they even traveled the world together.

 

As the Nazi party gained power, both Erika’s work and her brother’s fell under critisizm. When her father, who was also a writer and already in excitle in America, did not speak out supporting her or Klaus she wrote him a nasty letter. She saw absolutely no reason her father shouldn’t publicly support her and her brother and took his silence as a personal offense.

 

When Hilter was elected as Chancellor, Erika started an anti-facist cabaret called the Peppermill. Her brother Klause and lover Therese Giehse were her co-founder but Erika did most of the writing. Erika and Therese worked together seamlessly, a brilliant creative duo supporting and inspiring each other. 

 

In front of you, you may find a cabaret scene on the stage. Feel free to change the pieces and put your own act onto the stage.

 

The Peppermill lasted two months in Munich before it was shut down in 1933. Erika then moved out of Germany, being the last member of her family to leave the country. In 1936, The Peppermill reopened in Zurich and became a rallying point for other German exiles. The Peppermill would also have a short run in the United States but didn’t do well because at the time the US population generally had no idea what was going on in Europe. With the rise of the Nazi regime Eirka’s whole family slowly moved out of Germany. They all hoped it would be temporary and wanted to get back home. 

 

Erika’s work had been so controversial that her German citizenship was revoked. Anticipating this, Erika arranged a marriage of convenience with W.H. Auden, a gay poet. This granted her British citizenship. Auden actually became a very good friend and spent a lot of time with the family. He even went as far as helping Erika’s partner Therese find a similar arrangement with the writer John Hampson. 

 

During the war, Eriak a workd as a correspondent. She made broadcasts from the UK in German for the German people. She painted for them a picture of what would happen if they won or lost the war, neither were pretty. Then she tried to persuade them that the only good solution would be to for the german people to stop this regime themselves.

 

Erika eventually moved to America where the rest of her family was living in exile. There she supported her father and helped him navigate business negotiations in English, which was a new language for him. 

 

When Nuremberg trials took place Erika attended each day and later covered the war crime trials in March 1946. She felt the importance of these trails and saw that she could play an important role as a political writer.

 

Her strong political voice got her branded a comunist during the red scare in the United States. This happened to many artists and became a bit of a witch hunt. Erika Mann was fiercely opinionated and always ready to fight for what she believed in.