Thomas Mann (1875-1955) and his daughter Erika upon their arrival in New York in 1939.
For democracy to triumph, it must fight, said Thomas Mann, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, a good 80 years ago. Even today it is not enough to simply invoke the values of tolerance and freedom.
Ahen Katja and Thomas Mann boarded the Queen Mary from Le Havre in February 1938 for a lecture tour of the USA, they had a suspicion that this trip could possibly be the beginning of a long exile. Since 1933 the couple had found refuge in Küssnacht on Lake Zurich. The looming “annexation” of Austria made even Switzerland no longer seem sufficiently safe to them.
The lecture that the writer was to deliver in many American cities during this trip bore the counterfactual title “On the Coming Victory of Democracy” at a time when open society was in greatest jeopardy. Precisely because democracy is “not a guaranteed good today” but is hostile to, threatened from within and from without, a “self-determination of democracy” is necessary. According to Thomas Mann, freedom must “discover its masculinity”, it must learn to “put on armor and defend itself against its deadly enemies”. The speech culminated in the famous sentence that the world must finally understand “that with a pacifism that admits that it does not want war at any price, it is bringing about war instead of banning it”.