Thomas Mann, non-Jewish self-exile from Germany, arrived here yesterday afternoon on the French liner Lafayette. An opponent of Hitlerism, who has not definitely come out against the Nazi regime, Mann has definite antipathies against the Hitler government.
Refusing to discuss political questions, which he terms “a hopeless thing,” the man who has been “strangely not affected by Nazism” believes that he is right in having kept aloof from the problems of the day that have resulted from the advent of Hitlerism in Germany.
“If I came out as an opponent of Hitlerism,” he said, “my works would be barred from Germany and whatever influence I possess in the country would thus be denied to my readers.”
The German visitor, who will address students of Harvard University today, on the subject of “Goethe’s Career as a Writer,” is disposed to view present world conditions in terms of the future as “rather optimistic than pessimistic.”
The man who won the Nobel Prize in 1929 with “The Magic Mountain” believes that one of the reasons for the success of Fascism in Germany is that “the young people like Fascism because it relieves them of responsibility. But the first joy of Fascism in Germany,” he points out, “has waned.”
Dr. Mann, residing in a country town along the shores of Lake Zurich, believes that he has been right in not openly attacking Hitlerism as has his brother, Heinrich Mann. On the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, June 6, he received hundreds of letters from his German admirers praising him for his stand.
He believes that an artist should be above current problems. It is for this reason that he voluntarily left Germany with the advent of Hitler. In the interests of his conscience, he left rather than risk coordination.
It was apparent to interviewers that Dr. Mann was very much influenced by his matter-of-fact wife who accompanied him. As he started to discuss political questions, she stopped him. When he was asked about the future of Nazism, she interrupted, which resulted in an answer from Dr. Mann that it “is too complicated.”
Dr. Mann, who will be in this country for two weeks, carries with him the uncompleted manuscript of “Joseph in Egypt,” the last of a trilogy of three books on this Biblical hero which is being published in this country by Alfred Knopf.
His latest work, he revealed, a collection of essays called “The Sorrows and Grandeur of the Masters,” was recently published in Germany by the Jewish firm of S. Fischer-Verlag.
Dr. Mann, who visited Palestine to gather material for his biblical trilogy, revealed that he is very much interested in the Jewish Homeland. Last there in 1929, he stated that he is anxious to go back to “observe its progress.”
About the problem of the German refugees in Palestine, he said it was very difficult, particularly for intellectuals who for many years have considered themselves Germans. The problem of the young people in industry, he said, should not be as difficult.
Arriving on a French boat, and having previously come to America on a Dutch liner, Dr. Mann would not answer a question as to whether he was avoiding German boats. The Lafayette, he explained, was the first boat to leave for this country after his birthday celebration.