Circles: Erika and Klaus Mann

Gustaf Gründgens, Erika Mann, Pamela Wedekind, Klaus Mann

This latest instalment of my bloody-minded exercise in making semi-legible diagrams of semi-marginal figures in cultural history was inspired by the above photo, posted on paris/berlin. It shows Erika and Klaus Mann, the eldest of German novelist Thomas Mann’s six children, with actors Gustaf Gründgens and Pamela Wedekind. As the caption notes, “At the time of this photo, Erika was engaged to Gustaf but was having an affair with Pamela, who was engaged to marry Klaus, who was romantically involved with Gustaf.” Also they were appearing in a play, Anja und Esther, which was written by Klaus and was based on the affair between Erika and Pamela.

Got that?

Klaus, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, Erika and Ricki Hallgarten, shortly before the latter’s suicide.

Andrea Weiss’s highly recommended 2008 book In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain tells the story of the two inseparable Mann siblings, their committed anti-fascism and years of exile from Nazi Germany along with the dense web of connections they shared. These include Klaus’s numerous lovers, the astonishing collection of people living at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights in the 1940s, as well as Erika’s lavender marriages and late-life switcheroo to unfeigned heterosexuality. Both Pamela and Erika, daughters of famous writers, ended up with men of approximately their fathers’ age. And along with all these real-world relations there were fictional variations on the same themes, including the aforementioned Anja und Esther and Klaus Mann’s most famous work, Mephisto. When it comes to the Manns (it’s hard to resist writing “the Menn”), a diagram can only be a gross simplification, but here is my attempt.

click through for a more legible view

Further reading
Faustian act (Gustaf, Erika, Klaus and Mephisto)
Strange Flowers guide to Berlin: part 2 (Gustaf Gründgens)
Ravaged angel, Three shows, Strange Flowers guide to Berlin: part 4, Schwarzenbach in English, Annemarie Schwarzenbach | The South, 1937, A life spent searching, Pearls: Annemarie Schwarzenbach, Death in Persia (Annemarie Schwarzenbach)
Pearls: René Crevel
Rex Luna, Let them eat kuchen, Sewell on Ludwig, Ludwig at the movies, An eternal mystery, Circles: Ludwig II/Sissi (Ludwig II)


  1. Erika! What a traitor. Now I have to hurry up and get Weiss’s book to learn about this tragic late-life switcheroo. I don’t know how much more I can take after waking to find this factoid on top of the arrest of cinematic treasure Lindsay Lohan.

  2. When I found out that Klaus and Rene Crevel were lovers, well, I had to lie down for a while. So much tragic beauty!

    Great work on the chart, by the way. Where would we be without you to keep things “straight”?

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  4. minkyung yim

    thank your for the diagram! really impressed

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