Heinrich Mann (1871-1950), one of the foremost German writers of the twentieth century, lived almost penniless and seemingly forgotten in Los Angeles for nearly a decade before his death in 1950. Heinrich Mann was the elder brother of Nobel Prize winning novelist Thomas Mann. Despite his name and literary stature, Heinrich Mann remained virtually unknown in this country. By contrast, in pre-Hitler Germany, Heinrich had been both respected by fellow writers and popular with readers, perhaps even more so than his brother.
Heinrich Mann began actively pursuing a career in writing in the 1890s after failing as a publisher's apprentice. He first began as a critic and editor, then turned his talents to short stories and novels. The novel Im Schlaraffenland (In the Land of Cockaigne), published in 1901, proved his literary skill. Although he had achieved a degree of literary success in the period before World War I, his works were not widely read. Not until Der Untertan (The Patrioteer) appeared in 1918 did he experience popular success. In the United States, Mann never gained wide recognition as a writer; and he is still best known for the 1930 film "The Blue Angel," which was adapted from his novel Professor Unrat (Small Town Tyrant).
As the Nazis assumed power in February 1933, Mann was one of the first intellectuals to flee Germany. His close ties to France made his exile in Southern France relatively easy and allowed him to continue writing for an appreciative audience. Mann remained in France until the country fell to German occupation, whereupon he and his wife, Nelly, fled Europe. For Mann, then nearly seventy years old, the escape across the Pyrenees on foot was extremely arduous.
Like most German exiles during World War II, Mann faced great financial difficulties in the United States. Away from European soil, he lost much of his sympathetic French audience, not to mention his larger readership in Germany. Luckily, his first year in Los Angeles was free of hardship because of a one-year contract with Warner Brothers Pictures previously arranged for Mann by fellow exiles. However, after the completion of this contract, and until his death in 1950, Mann was without a regular salary and was dependent on assistance from his family and friends.
Heinrich Mann lived in several locations during his decade in Southern California. He and his wife lived first in Beverly Hills at 264 S. Doheny Drive and between 1942 and 1948 at 301 S. Swall Drive. It is in this home that his wife, Nelly, committed suicide in 1944. For his final two years, Mann lived in Santa Monica at 2145 Montana Avenue.
Mann died in March 1950 shortly before his scheduled return to Europe. He was buried in Santa Monica at Woodlawn Cemetery. However, in 1961 his remains were removed and relocated to former East Berlin.
In spite of the difficulties which he faced, Mann wrote some of his greatest works during his years in exile, including Die Jugend des Koenigs Henri Quatre (1935; Young Henry of Navarre), Der Atem (1949; The Breath) and his autobiographical Ein Zeitalter wird besichtigt (1945; An Age is Examined).
Heinrich Mann's years in Southern California: 1940-1950.