Events | Talk: Past Deeds, Political Horizons — Thomas Mann and Post-War Germany

Los Angeles | June 2, 2019 | 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

German Federal Archives

When Thomas Mann embarked on a journey to his former homeland in 1949, Germany seemed intent on drawing a closing line under the legal reconditioning of crimes committed during the Nazi regime. With support from all political parties, the West German Parliament passed a general amnesty favoring tens of thousands of Nazi perpetrators whose crimes were deemed minor. That same year, the East Germany’s provisional parliament enacted a law waiving punishment of former members of the Nazi Party and of the Wehrmacht.

Despite the country's outward attempts to turn over a new leaf, Thomas Mann regarded denazification in Germany as a farce. Four years after the end of the war, he was deeply pessimistic: „Everything that, for a moment, (…) felt a need to hide in 1945 is once again boldly rearing its head.“ At the same time, most Germans were willing to vote for democratic parties. The chance to establish a free constitutional order, however, was limited to the West.  

Renowned historian Norbert Frei will focus on Thomas Mann’s literary work in the context of Germany’s social psychology in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Moderation: David Kim (UCLA).


Norbert Frei is Chair for Modern History at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena and the director of the Jena Center 20th Century History. Professor Frei obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Munich in 1979 and was, among others, Kennedy Fellow at Harvard University (1985/86), a Member of Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2008/09) and Theodor Heuss Professor at the New School for Social Research in New York (2010/11). Currently, Norbert Frei is Gerda Henkel Visiting Professor at Stanford University. Most recently, he is co-author of „Zur rechten Zeit. Wider die Rückkehr des Nationalismus“ (At the right time. Against the return of nationalism, Ullstein Berlin 2019).

David D. Kim is Associate Professor of German at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also affiliated with the UCLA International Institute. His scholarly interests range from the age of Enlightenment to the present day with emphases on postcolonial and translation studies, digital humanities, international human rights, and political and cultural theories.


Thomas Mann House
1550 San Remo Drive
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
By invitation only.

An event by Thomas Mann House, UCLA Humanities and USC Libraries.


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