Exhibition Thomas Mann: Democracy Will Win

Graphic white text on a black background says "Democracy Will Win: What Spaces are we Fighting For?" © Manuel Miranda


Goethe-Institut New York

"It is a terrible spectacle when the irrational becomes popular," said Thomas Mann in his famous speech at the Library of Congress in 1943. His resistance is inspiring and relevant today, as we witness the fundamental values of democracy once again being called into question, and that populism and nationalism are putting our democratic society under massive pressure. The exhibition Thomas Mann: Democracy Will Win! sees itself as a concrete contribution to the current debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Thomas Mann House in Pacific Palisades, California forms the spatial and metaphorical center of the exhibition. From this sanctuary in exile, Thomas Mann campaigned for a new understanding of democracy. Today, the house is once again at the service of intellectual exchange and transatlantic understanding.

The first part of the exhibition presents Thomas Mann's political biography in its development from monarchist to powerful opponent of National Socialism and committed fighter for democracy. Photographs, texts, excerpts from the famous radio addresses "To the German Listeners!" and original exhibits trace his intellectual, political and spatial paths.

The second multimedia part connects this history to the present. What makes a political person? How does one become a supporter of democracy? How does one defend one's stance? Examples from the recent past, films and interviews, tweets and quotes from personalities from politics, pop, literature and society - such as Greta Thunberg or Saša Stanišić, Donald Trump or Barack Obama, Igor Levit or Edward Snowden - illustrate the importance of the question: How can we defend and sustainably strengthen democracy as the only possible form of society? This is a task that is more important than ever today, in times of global migration, climate change, and new pandemics.

The terms Beginnings, Zeitgeist, Affirmation, Take Action, and Responsibility structure the exhibition - and show the ambivalences that even a democratic system cannot eliminate. Thomas Mann's life offers numerous points of departure for examining the state and future of democracy - while adhering to Mann's dictum: "DEMOCRACY WILL WIN!"

This exhibition will be accompanied by a series of cultural programming - more information to come!