Pearls: Erika Mann


I felt like an American, lived like an American, and to all practical purposes was an American. . . . I lived and worked in the United States, and since I wished to go on doing so I deemed it only fair to add myself legally to the good people of this country. My [citizenship] application was made almost four years ago. Ever since then an investigation has been going on that could not help casting doubts upon my character, gradually ruining my career, robbing me of my livelihood and, in short, changing me from a happy, busy and fairly useful member of society into a humiliated suspect. […] Personally, I am at a complete loss as to what may have prompted the investigation to take on such disastrous proportions. […] I had to witness the gradual destruction of all I had built up in more than a decade. This spectacle was all the more painful since it involved the third existence I had made for myself. Nazism drove me from my native Germany where I had been quite a success; Hitler’s growing influence in Europe caused me to leave the continent which I had been touring with my own show for more than a thousand performances; and now I find myself ruined—through no fault of my own—in a country I love and whose citizen I had hoped to become.

Erika Mann, committed anti-fascist born on this day in 1905, describes the FBI’S harassment

Further reading
Circles: Erika and Klaus Mann
Faustian act



  1. ❤ Have been reading Klaus Mann in the last few years but not yet poor Erika. Thank you. EF

  2. How to live in such a climate. I am glad I am in BYC but what this unleashes here remains to be seen? Civil war yet again. The disunity and racism on all sides black and white and brown has brought us to this sorry state.

  3. Frau W.

    I looked around a bit to try and find more details about Erika’s relationship with the FBI. There is much to read in passages from “Communazis”: FBI Surveillance of German Emigré Writers by Alexander Stephan and Jan Heurck, found at this very long Google link: id=ofMH_WJfxtQC&pg=PA97&lpg=PA97&dq=Erika+MAnn+citizenship&source=bl&ots=0Xc2C7PLig&sig=0hx4tXWn2bEHpZIWkHxwUb1Jntc&hl=de&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiw7s3Hn5zQAhVHVRQKHar1CAsQ6AEISjAF#v=onepage&q=Erika%20MAnn%20citizenship&f=false

    • Thanks for this. There is a good deal more to say about Erika Mann’s involvement with the FBI – including the fact that she actually spied for them for a while to try and root out known or suspected Nazis among the exile community. I cherry-picked the above quote for its dispiriting parallels with today’s horrible news.

  4. Linda

    James, this is just off the top of my head, but I do not believe the FBI existed in 1905. As I recall, it came into existence shortly after WWI, under Herbert Hoover, who remained head until the 60s.

  5. Thank you dear James, for your rigorous, thought provoking and moving information. As always, a pleasure opening your newsletter. Your true fan. Francesco

  6. leeparis

    Thanks to the Wikipedia, I learn that the FBI began in 1908 as the Bureau of Investigation and morphed into the FBI in 1935. J. Edgar (not Herbert) became director of the BOI in 1925 and of the FBI in 1935 until 1972. I recall that a recent biopic has a youhg J. Edgar working as a cataloguer at the Library of Congress. He certainly is somewhat of a Strange Flower in his own right.

  7. Pingback: All I’ve got is a s-s-s-single bed | Strange Flowers

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