Most people with even a passing acquaintance with German literature will be familiar with the most famous works of Thomas Mann, such as “Buddenbrooks”, “The Magic Mountain” and “Death in Venice”. Monika Mann, who was born in 1910, was the fourth and “unloved” child of Katia and Thomas Mann. After her birth, her father wrote to his friend Walter Opitz: “If I become a father again for the fifth time, I will douse myself with petrol and set myself alight” – a threat that he never actually carried out.
Monika Mann published novels such as “Das fahrende Haus: Aus dem Leben einer Weltbürgerin” and “Der letzte Häftling” – neither of which was translated into English – but never attained anything like the same success as her father. She was the subject of much scorn from her own family for her breakthrough work “Past and Present: Recollections”. According to her mother, Katia, this biography of the Mann family contained many false portrayals. Her sister even banned her from writing anything else about the family, but she continued to do so anyway. Monika Mann died in Leverkusen in 1992.
In this brief letter, Monika Mann asks her friend Margret to send her some candles.
At its Anniversary Auction from 2 to 6 July 2019, Auktionshaus Felzmann was auctioning a total of 13 letters containing private correspondence sent by Monika to her friend Margret Sippold. A unique proposition for collectors of cultural, literature and thematic philately.
The letters from Thomas Mann’s daughter found their way to Felzmann through Beatrice Schnitzer, whose father was Margret Sippold’s attendant. “They ended up with me because Monika Mann had no heirs and I came across the letters among Margret Sippold’s papers.” Ms Schnitzer originally approached Felzmann with a postcard album (circa 1900) from another inheritance (Lot 7304), and then the conversation turned to the Monika Mann letters. Yoska Meinokat, philatelist and head of Commercial Management at Felzmann, recognised at once the uniqueness of this material: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for stamp collectors and people with an interest in the lives of Thomas Mann and his children to acquire these unique specimens.” Beatrice Schnitzer was previously unaware of the treasure trove that she had received: “The letters had been gathering dust for several years in the cupboard. I moved house recently and did a little online research into who Monika Mann was.” Not even her father was aware that Monika was the daughter of Thomas Mann. “Margret Sippold had often spoken about Ms Mann but it was always about her holidays on the island of Capri”, recalls Ms Schnitzer, who hopes the letters end up in good hands: “I am not a collector. I hope someone will be happy to have the letters in their collection – otherwise they may well have been thrown away.”
In the period 1972-1975, Monika Mann wrote these letters (Lot 7250) from Capri, Italy, to Eschweiler in Germany. In the mid-1950s, she moved to the Italian island, where she lived with a fisherman for more than 30 years. Her friend Margret visited her there for a week every year.
In the letters, she always addressed Margret as “Ma chérie” and, for example, planned trips with her or asked her to send two candles because of the frequent electricity blackouts in Capri. In a letter dated 25 March 1973, she wrote: “Cheeky of me to ask, I know ... but I need you to send me two candles – brownish beeswax, 3 centimetres in diameter. Can you help me out? I’m sure you will.”
Monika Mann crossed out her father’s name on Katia Mann’s writing paper. Monika was the black sheep of the family and did not have a good relationship with her father.
One of the letters was sent by Monika Mann from the main family residence near Zurich, where Thomas Mann and his wife Katia are now buried. Monika used personalised writing paper with the address “Ms Thomas Mann, Kilchberg am Zürichsee, Alte Landstrasse 39” – the paper had been designed for her mother, who was known as “Ms Thomas Mann”. However, Monika crossed out the name “Thomas”, writing in her own name instead.
Further specimens can be found in the picture gallery: