ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Thomas-Mann-Archiv / TMA_2412

Thomas Mann: "Democracy Will Win!" | Traveling Exhibition

"It is a terrible spectacle when the irrational becomes popular," said Thomas Mann in his famous speech at the Library of Congress in 1943. His resistance is inspiring and relevant today, as we witness the fundamental values of democracy once again being called into question, and that populism and nationalism are putting our democratic society under massive pressure. The exhibition Thomas Mann: Democracy Will Win! sees itself as a contribution to the current debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Thomas Mann House in Pacific Palisades, California forms the spatial and metaphorical center of the exhibition. The house which served as a sanctuary in his exile, allowed Thomas Mann to campaign for a new understanding of democracy. Today, the house is once again serves as a place of intellectual exchange and transatlantic understanding.

The first part of the exhibition presents Thomas Mann's political biography in its development from being a monarchist to a powerful opponent of National Socialism and committed champion for democracy. Photographs, texts, excerpts from the famous radio addresses "Listen, Germany!" and original exhibits trace his intellectual, political and spatial paths.

The second multimedia part connects this history to the present. What makes a political person? How does one become a supporter of democracy? How does one defend one's stance? Examples from the recent past, films and interviews, tweets and quotes from personalities from politics, pop, literature and society - such as Greta Thunberg or Saša Stanišić, Donald Trump or Barack Obama, Igor Levit or Edward Snowden - illustrate the importance of the question: How can we defend and sustainably strengthen democracy as the only possible form of society? This is a task that is more important than ever today, in times of global migration and climate change.

The terms Beginnings, Zeitgeist, Affirmation, Action, and Responsibility structure the exhibition - and show the ambivalences that even a democratic system cannot eliminate. Thomas Mann's life offers numerous points of departure for examining the state and future of democracy - while adhering to Mann's dictum: "DEMOCRACY WILL WIN!"

Previous stops:

Since 2020, the exhibition has already traveled to the following locations:

Literaturhaus München

Goethe-Institut, New York City

Bowdoin College, Boston

Dartmouth College, Hanover

Goethe-Institut, Boston

Goethe-Zentrum, Atlanta

Northwestern University, Chicago

Carleton College, Northfield

Kansas University, Lawrence

University of Notre Dame, South Bend

Princeton University, Princeton

Are you interested in hosting the exhibition next? Contact us at and download our information flyer below.

An exhibition by Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House e. V., in cooperation with Literaturhaus München, and with support by the German Federal Foreign Office.