Hello Project, I wanted to tell you that for three weeks now I feel much better and it seems to me that I can get out of the black mood. It seems incredible, but it’s happening. Project, what you did for me has never been done by anyone and it seems incredible to me that you can create similar relationships even if you don’t even know who I’m, but it happens. In the last period everything has changed for me, apparently nothing has changed but I’m the one who has changed, I feel that I have changed and I owe it to you. You know all my story and you told me that there are other guys who live and have lived similar things and then I want to tell my story to those guys because not being alone and understanding that we are not alone, for those like me, is fundamental. Project, the story is long and I took so long to write it but I think it makes sense, because in the end I’m finding my way and so I finally feel free. Project, I tell you something true: I adopted you as a father! It’s something that I missed so much and I’m discovering beautiful things! (Thanks for the good wishes, you’re the only one who has remembered it!)
THE STORY OF PAUL
My name is Paul, I was born in Milan almost 28 years ago. If I look back at my childhood and adolescence I find no time in which I can say I was I don’t say happy but not even serene. My parents never got along, from the date of their marriage and from my date of birth I deduced that I was already arriving when they got married, which would not be a problem, but I don’t look like “my father” at all, under any point of view, just as far as genetic factors are concerned, and I think I’m not even a son of the man who married my mother, but I don’t know for sure and I cannot ask for something like that.
My parents (if they really are my parents), I remember that they often screamed and made spite. They had no other children and I was the object of contention, and I had many times, even as a child, the very clear feeling that “my father” didn’t want me because he knew I was not his son. My mother literally considered me a mess and tried to entrust me to relatives and to various campsites. From the age of eight, that is, since they divorced, they put me in a boarding school for rich people. My parents are economically wealthy. But the choice to send me to boarding school was just a way to disguise the fact that their wanted to get rid of me in order to continue living their lives without me. I was just one that had nothing to do with them.
The college was in a very nice place in the [omissis] area. They came to see me once in a while, usually once every three months, once he and one she. When the teachers told me that the next day my father or my mother would come, I felt really bad and I hated them as I think I never hated anyone.
When I was a kid I did not understand these things well and felt guilty because I hated my parents while teachers told me I should love them. In practice I grew totally alone, both during the school months and during the holidays. I specify that my college was totally male and managed by priests. A hateful place where with the excuse of letting me learn the discipline I was practically relegated as in prison. You learned hypocrisy, falsehood, and even the relationships with schoolmates were just of competition and constant acting, even in private.
My schoolmates waited at least for the summer holidays, I didn’t, because I would have ended up somewhere else like a parcel post. When my mother came to my boarding school, she took me to lunch outside and thought she had done her duty. We only talked about school and she tortured me for hours because she thought it was her duty to pay me a long visit. My father at least stayed very little. Both he and she gave me expensive gifts that I systematically threw away or gave away to someone soon after they left.
Since I was 15 years old they have not given me any more presents but they have thought to give me money and many. I never took that money and they considered me an imbecile for this too. So I was in a boarding school and I didn’t have a penny in my pocket.
The school was a real torture for me. In the fifth gymnasium ( 15th grade) I was rejected which meant another year in prison, I would have gone out of college only after have turned 20! Repeating the fifth gymnasium I met a guy that I liked a lot, I didn’t even understand why.
We were in a religious college and we had a spiritual father. So I started to masturbate thinking about that guy and I felt tremendous guilt. I told the priest that I was masturbating and he didn’t take it as a tragic thing, he always made the same speech and stopped there, but I didn’t say to the priest that I felt homosexual. Once I went badly in crisis and told him that I was gay. It was a terribly wrong choice! College life has become a torture. They controlled me visually as the rotten apple. I always had a priest nearby during my free time. In a first moment I tried to repress and control myself, that is, not to masturbate anymore and even to stop thinking about that guy, but it was a real torture. I resisted even three weeks by auto-imposing not to even think about sex but then I didn’t do it anymore and I masturbated again and I said: “Enough with these absurdities! Go to the hell!”
Since then I began to tell the spiritual father only false things: that I no longer thought of the boys and that I didn’t even masturbate anymore, but I presented it step by step to make it seem credible, I was 16 and a half years old. Naturally I went to church every day, confessed false things and made communion every day. It was a sacrilegious thing, I know, religion should be a free choice, while for me it was just an instrument of torture and frankly I didn’t feel guilty, and why, then? In our college there were never any common moments with other guys in a state of freedom.
At school we did physical education but in the afternoon, there was the gym, also very nice, but there were no locker rooms, no showers. We arrived wearing sports uniform and went away wearing sports uniform. Among other things, it was generally very cold there. We each had a single room with a private bathroom and shower. So I had no chance to see the boy I was interested in if not perfectly dressed, jacket and tie of the college.
I started masturbating since the 16 and a half, but in a place like that, without the internet (considered as the devil!) And without any chance to read an uncensored book or buy a newspaper, in practice, I did everything using fantasy. I selected someone among my classmates and built on them all my fantasies. The first times, this new regime seemed acceptable and even pleasant, then I began to realize that I was throwing my best years this way. The year of the final examination, in November, I also escaped from the college, I was of age, in fact I was almost 20 years old but I didn’t have a penny in my pocket. I arrived at the station after having walked a very long way and I got on a train without paying the ticket and I locked myself in the bathroom until the arrival in Milan so that they couldn’t detect me.
In the college room I had left a letter saying that I would be back in the evening. In Milan I realized for the first time, at almost 20, that the world existed, something that was shocking for me, I was late for years. In the afternoon I newly got the train with the same technique and I came back to the boarding school. Result: they kicked me out of the college! Finally! Of course they warned my parents, who were careful not to come and see what had happened. My mother gave me some money (a telegraphic order) and I have been in a hotel since then in the town near the college.
Then my mother found me a tiny apartment there and they transferred me to the state high school. There were the girls! I had never seen one before, but I wasn’t interested in girls. But the world of the state school was completely different. The professors sometimes even talked about sex, no one forced us to go to mass, there was no spiritual father and we did physical education in a gym with locker room and showers, I couldn’t even imagine a trauma bigger than that .
You might think that in a situation like this I felt good, but it was not like that at all. I felt desperately alone, full of complexes, I had entered the locker room just once for a moment, but after I saw my naked mates I didn’t enter there anymore. They were all there joking and having fun but I just felt the heart beating at 180. The feeling of loneliness and isolation was total. I had a mini-apartment all of my own and fortunately the feeling of solitude sometimes seemed a feeling of freedom.
To prepare the exam I bought a computer and there a new world opened in front of me. Avalanches of free gay sex, but those things sickened me. A few years ago even in porn things were different, they were more vulgar, more aggressive and I didn’t like them at all. When I masturbated thinking about my schoolmates I was fine but when I tried to imagine myself in scenes like the ones I had seen on porn sites I was nauseated. In practice I saw that gay content on the net was all sex but in the most vulgar sense of the term.
I studied very little that year because I had to grow up in many other things. In the end I passed the final examination with a very low rating. But at least the school’s torture was over. I was sorry because the following year there would be no more chance to see my schoolmates naked in the locker room, what, by the way, had almost never happened, but at least there was the possibility.
I leave my apartment and I move to Milan in another apartment paid by my parents. A minimal thing. My parents lived in Milan but I would never have gone to their home, now we no longer called each other not even by phone, after my escape from the college I was considered just a blockhead and the low-grade of my diploma was the further proof of it.
I enrolled in Engineering at the Polytechnic shortly after I turned 20. So many guys and beautiful, but I was totally unable to maintain contact with them even at the minimum level, I felt embarrassed, I felt them more grown up than I was in every sense, even if my classmates had a year less than me. I had tried everything: I enrolled in the gym and then I never went there, I tried to see if it was possible to study with some of my colleagues but always went wrong, they were real geniuses, and I understood little or nothing at all.
The first year I passed a single examination with 19 [18/30 is the minimum score to pass an exam]. At least it was not 18! The second year I newly attended the same courses of the first and I passed a single exam again but with 20! I was 22 years old I was basically a failure from all points of view. Bad university results, practically between university and school, three years lost. I tried to repeat again the first year, but I could not endure it anymore.
My colleagues were three years younger than me and they understood everything, I didn’t understand anything and I didn’t study anything, I felt essentially a failure. I sent everything to ruin, I bought things to eat that went bad in the fridge, sometimes I didn’t get up from bed all day, I ate very little and lose weight dramatically. I have arrived to weigh 55 kilos, even though I am not very tall it’s anyway very few.
At the age of 23 I changed faculty and moved to Economics. The thing was more human and at the end of the year, working at terrible rhythms, I managed to do almost all the exams of the first year. At least from that point of view things started working again. I took my first degree at the age of 27! After too many years lost! I did the first year of the specialistic but of the exams that were planned I did little more than a half because I started working and I finally cut the economic cordons with my family. From this point of view, let’s say, I managed to return to the surface, but my emotional life, in practice, until recently didn’t exist at all.
Since last year I discovered Gay Project and I must say that for me it was an important thing. I read the forum every day and the guys who write there, it seems to me I almost to know them in person, a little I feel them as friends, because I don’t have gay friends. So basically until this year my sexuality was only fancy and I thought that a real contact with a guy, that is, something that gives you a strong sexual emotion I would never have tried it.
I had practically resigned myself to such a thing, resigned badly, let’s say so, because sometimes I saw some nice guys, I wanted at least to try to talk with them but I couldn’t really and I felt a sense of extreme despair. Now I work as an accountant, in practice I verify the “form 730”, “Unique” and things like that, work of low labor, but all in all I can live of my own.
At work, a 26-year-old guy arrived, rather nice, that is, I like him and he also attracts me sexually. Since I met him, it has been my only sexual fixed idea. I think all of you have gone through things like that. First you start to masturbate thinking of that guy, then it comes to your mind that you don’t know if he’s gay, well, I’ve overcome all these things, he told me he’s gay because I would never had such a courage and he also said that he likes me.
He had tried a minimum of physical contact with me but I rejected him badly, I did a kind of hysterical scene and then I ended up to cry, just an attack of despair, he was in a tremendous embarrassment and I was sorry very much because in the end I wanted him but I rejected him so violently that he got really scared and started to keep me at a distance. I could not understand why if I wanted him, and I wanted him madly, in the end I had attacked him like that.
That’s where the Project forum happened to me and I said to myself: I try, so what do I have to lose? And I called. At first a tremendous embarrassment. From what I’ve read many guys talk about sex in a very casual way but I just couldn’t.
The first time, we talked for hours but always in a very vague, and never about sex, I thought that Project was tired but no. Then I called him back, but still without talking about sex, the third time he called me, I was not expecting it and I was very happy and even the third time we didn’t talk about sex. In fact I had been looking for Project just to talk about sex and instead a very strange relationship was created which I was not really used to. A man that could be my father was talking with me for hours, he listened to me, a very strange feeling. I asked him why he was listening to me and he told me that he was at ease and in fact I was fine too, so I found the courage and told him about me, telling him a little about the story you read up to now. I also said of the anxiety that takes me when I’m with my friend and that I thought I would never be able to have a sexual contact with him.
One thing struck me: de-dramatization. Project took it for granted that it would not be a big problem and that it would be resolved soon and well. We talked about sexuality very freely. Well it was remarkable: I had no inhibitions, something that had never happened to me before when the talk ended up on sexual issues. I never thought I could talk freely with a man of that age and instead it just happened. Then in the following days, we talked often. If I have to tell the truth I felt the affection of Project, the attention to what I said and what I am.
Why did I write all this post? Well, the reason is one, yesterday, for the first time, I managed to kiss that guy. I had never experienced anything like this, just a feeling of total mutual abandonment. The time that stops and you end up to merge with another guy, a wonderful thing, let’s tell it, because of these things I’m not ashamed anymore, the excitement was such that I came to orgasm for a kiss! When I told this to Project, he told me some beautiful things. It’s true Project, being gay is a beautiful thing and makes you forget so many bad things you’ve been through. Now I consider that guy as my boyfriend, and he thinks the same! Guys! Never let anyone throw you down! I now feel like another person!
On November 20th, 1968, during a general audience, Pope Paul VI expressed himself so: “One forgets that man in all his spiritual being, that is, in his supreme faculties of knowing and loving, is correlative to God; is made for him; and every conquest of the human spirit increases in him the restlessness, and ignites the desire to go further, to reach the ocean of being and life, the full truth, which alone gives beatitude. Removing God as a term of research, to which man is by nature addressed, means to mortify man himself. The so-called “death of God” turns into death of man. We are not the only ones to affirm such a sad truth. Here is a testimony that has been left by a very cultured avant-garde writer and unhappy type of modern culture (Klaus Mann, son of Thomas). He wrote: “There is no hope. We intellectuals, traitors or victims, we would do well to recognize our situation as absolutely desperate. Why should we make illusions? We are lost! we are won! The voice that pronounced these words – the testimony goes on -, a voice a little veiled, but pure, harmonious and strangely suggestive, was that of a student of philosophy and literature, with whom I met by chance in the ancient university city of Uppsala. What he had to say was interesting, and it was still characteristic: I heard similar statements by intellectuals everywhere in Europe. . . And he said in a voice that was no longer certain: We should abandon ourselves to absolute despair …” Dear sons, for us no, it is not so.”
Who is Klaus Mann, the man Paul VI considers the most unhappy paradigm of modern culture? And what is the meaning of the reference made by Klaus Mann to that student met in the ancient university city of Uppsala? As mentioned by Paul VI himself, Klaus Mann is one of the sons of Thomas Mann, that is the son of one of the men who most influenced European culture in the last hundred years, but it is not about literature that I intend to speak.
The fact that Klaus is son of Thomas has enormous significance, from my point of view, because both the father and the son found themselves having to deal with their homosexuality and in front of it they gave very different answers. In the work of Thomas Mann the atmospheres are very particular and, in general, the gay reader feels immersed in a world that doesn’t seem strange to him at all. The conflict between the “serene” bourgeois world where everything is codified and ordered and the appeal of art that has anyway the charm of the abyss, often emerges. This conflict in “Death in Venice” reveals itself, out of metaphor, as the conflict between heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Thomas Mann, born in 1875 in Lübeck, when he was a high school student, confessed his feelings to a friend who didn’t share them because he simply couldn’t share them. That experience constituted the first falling in love of Thomas Mann. One gets the impression that the image of that high school mate often returns within Mann’s work. But Mann experienced a much more engaging falling in love with Paul Ehrenberg, a young violinist and impressionist painter a year younger than him. Between 1899 and 1903, according to the diaries and letters of Thomas Mann, falling in love became a real infatuation, which led to an intense relationship between the two guys. A painting by Ehrenberg entitled “Die Hetzjagd” (the hunt) hung for some time in the room of Thomas Mann. In those years, from a set of memories of family life written by Thomas for Paul Ehrenberg, who lived in Munich, the drafting of “The Buddenbrooks” began.
Both the character of Hans Hansen of “Tonio Kröger” (1903) and the character of the painter in the novel “The hungry men” (1903) and that of Rudolf ‘Rudi’ Schwerdtfeger, also a violinist and an object of homosexual interest in the “Doctor Faustus” clearly refer to Paul Ehrenberg. In the case of Tonio Kröger the analogies become very strong because in Munich, where he used to meet Ehrenberg, Mann saw by chance for the first time a twenty year old girl who was talking animatedly with the tram ticket collector, he tried to know who she was, he was told that she was Katia Pringsheim, a student of mathematics, physics and chemistry, daughter of the great mathematician Alfred Israel Pringsheim, a university professor very rich and of Jewish family, who lived in a grand palace the most beautiful life that a high bourgeois could dream of. The professor Pringsheim was not an observant Jew, and he let his sons follow Lutheranism but it was not enough to save his family from Nazi persecution. Mann, through friends, managed to get introduced to Pringsheim and “fell in love” (I’ll explain later why I put this word in quotation marks) with Katia but she wished to enjoy her youth and was not willing to marry and nothing followed.
Mann left for Denmark where he wrote the Tonio Kröger, in which Tonio falls deeply in love with both his school friend Hans Hansen and the young girl Ingeborg Holm, both had blue eyes, light hair and a distinctly Nordic appearance. The strength of Tonio Kröger derives from the fact that it is a substantially autobiographical novel in which the true passions of the young Mann are transfused. It should be emphasized that Tonio is identified as “a different one”, in this case for artistic reasons, that is, as someone who cannot enjoy what others enjoy. In Denmark Mann not only wrote the Tonio Kröger but also wrote letters to Katia Pringsheim that convinced the girl to agree to the wedding, celebrated on February 11th, 1905. It was a “happy” wedding, here too I have to put the term happy in quotation marks, six children were born. However, many doubts remain in considering this marriage as the outcome of a love story.
In his essay “On marriage – toast to Katia” Mann argues that marriage and art are both a bourgeois service to life, an ethical pact and a sacrament, because it is precisely through art and marriage that the spirit arrives to dominate on matter, on flesh and blood. It should be noted that shortly before the marriage Mann had lived with Ehrenberg a very strong relationship and it was not a sublimated relationship, such as the one described in Tonio Kröger, but a sexual relationship that decades later Mann himself will consider the fundamental emotional experience of his life with unequivocal words: “I lived and loved, . . . finally, with a new happiness, because I held in my arms someone I was deeply in love with”, but, it must be underlined, these evaluations of the relationship with Ehrenberg have matured in Mann several decades after their relationship.
At the time of their relationship, Mann’s attitude was radically different and was dominated by a kind of self-denial as a homosexual and by the condemnation of “abnormality”. In practice Mann condemned himself to marriage to try to remove from himself the homosexual passion he had lived deeply with Ehrenberg. Thomas’s brother, Heinrich, who also claimed that Thomas’s relationship with Ehrenberg was madness and insisted that his brother get married soon, suspected that the marriage had been accepted by Thomas for reasons of social opportunity, of course it is that the social position of his father-in-law undoubtedly favored Thomas.
Some, given the existences of marriage, have tried to talk about a bisexuality of Thomas Mann but the reality would rather make us think of an escape from homosexuality to a bourgeois paradise much more reassuring. The poor Ehrenberg had no choice but to follow the path of marriage, too, and ended up marrying the painter Lilly Teufel. Mann, after the wedding, wrote “Royal Highness”, the story is set in the Grand Duchy of Grimmburg, a tiny imaginary state, reduced to situations of economic hardship, and the protagonist is the second son of the Grand Duke who is forced to marry a rich heiress to raise the fate of the state. The contrast between “Royal Highness” and “Tonio Kröger” could not be more jarring. Thomas Mann had six children from Katia, the first two were admittedly homosexual, the eldest Erika, born in Munich on November 9th 1905, married on July 25th 1926, not yet twenty-one years old, with Gustaf Gründgens, but in 1929 divorced. Erika, a declared lesbian, had her first relationship in 1932 with Pamela Wedekind, whom she met in Berlin and who was engaged to her brother Klaus, who was also a homosexual.
We known, in successive periods, at least three other important and sexually passionate lesbian relationships of Erika Mann, on whose sexual orientation there was never any doubt. Her father Thomas had a very positive attitude towards women with whom his daughter had a love affair, but he didn’t show the same openness towards his son Klaus. The attitudes of Klaus and his father towards homosexuality were radically antithetical and this didn’t encourage dialogue between them. I don’t elaborate the discourse on Klaus Mann’s homosexuality here, because I will take it analytically again after concluding that on his father.
Even after the marriage Mann didn’t abandon the homosexual topic and in 1912 he published “Death in Venice” which was the basis of the homonymous film by Luchino Visconti of 1971 and of the homonymous 1973 melodrama by Benjamin Britten. Needless to say, both Visconti and Britten were homosexuals. The story is imbued with a tragic spirit. Gustav von Aschenbach, a fifty-year-old man who dedicated his whole life to art, after remaining a widower, went to Venice and in the grand Hotel des Bains in the Lido island, was struck by the beauty of a Polish boy aged more or less 14, Tadzio, sailor suit, stayed in the Hotel with all his family. On the boy Aschenbach builds a thousand arguments apparently related to his conception of art, while he observes the boy trying not to be discovered. But it’s too hot and in Venice cholera breaks out, the authorities minimize but Aschenbach realizes that the danger is real, he should warn the family of that boy but he doesn’t because he doesn’t want to see him leave, in the meantime, from an exchange of looks Aschenbach is led to believe that the boy shares his feelings, the presence of Tadzio becomes obsessive in Aschenbach’s mind who comes to realize that his interest is a sexual interest and that the art plan is just a fictional overlap. Aschenbach weakened and sickly sees Tadzio play with friends and then raise an arm almost to greet him, that will be the last image of Tadzio that will accompany the last breath of the man who had hiddenly loved him. The novel has its undeniable tragic power, but the association between homosexuality and death seems to be a too emphasized theorem.
Mann’s difficulty in accepting his homosexuality was also found in 1925 when Thomas wrote a small essay entitled “On Marriage”. In this little work Mann opposes marriage (obviously heterosexual) to homosexuality as if they were the only two possible options. And his position against homosexuality appears very clear, I would say far too sharp to appear credible. In 1927, when Mann was 52, during a holiday in Silt, he met the then 17-year-old Klaus Heuser and invited him to his villa in Munich. The one for Klaus Heuser was probably the last great passion of Mann, but always very restrained. When Heuser went to see Mann in Zurich in 1935, Mann noted in his diary: “He has not changed at all or just a little: skinny, still a boy at twenty-four, the same eyes. I kept looking at him and saying ‘My God!’ … He expected me to kiss him but I didn’t, but before he left I was able to say a few words of love to him.”
I come now to a critical moment, not only for the life of Thomas Mann and his sons but for the whole of Germany and unfortunately also for the whole of Europe and not only for it. The elections of May 1928 had brought to the Reichstag 12 National Socialist deputies, but already in the 1930 elections the National Socialist party of Hitler had passed to 107 deputies. In the 1932 elections Hitlerian deputies rose to 230 out of 608 seats in total and the National Socialist party became the first party in Germany. Hitler ran for the presidential elections of January 1933. In the elections, Hindenburg, a hero of the First World War, outgoing president, appeared the only candidate able to stop the rise of Hitler and was supported by a coalition that went from the nationalists to the Social Democrats. Hindenburg again won the presidency with 53% of the votes against 37% of Hitler, who was appointed Chancellor on January 30th, leading a coalition of parties (Nazis and German-national popular party), but a few days later, in the elections of March 5th 1933, the climate had radically changed. It was voted in the week when the Reichstag building was burned (February 27th 1933).
Marinus van der Lubbe, a 24-year-old Dutch communist, blamed for the fire, was beheaded for this reason on January 10th 1934. The majority of historians agrees that the fire had been organized for political purposes by Nazi leaders, the evidences in this sense are many and were collected from independent sources. The Reichstag fire became a pretext to banish an anti-Bolshevik crusade against democratic parties. The fact is that Hiltler convinced Hindenburg to issue the so-called “Reichstag decree” on the same day of February 27th 1933, on February 28th the decree became law and most of the rights guaranteed by the Weimar Constitution were suspended for emergency reasons. In this climate, the elections for the renewal of the Reichstag were held on March 5th. The leaders of the Social Democratic Party were forced to flee. Despite an endless series of threats and intimidation, the Nazis didn’t obtain the absolute majority. Hitler was therefore forced to maintain an alliance with the German-national popular party. Hitler aimed not at a coalition majority but at obtaining the so-called “decree of full powers”, i.e. a legislative power independent of the Raichstag, to pass the decree of full powers a majority of 2/3 of the Reischstag was needed. On March 23th the decree was approved with the support of the Catholic Center and with the only Social Democrats voting against, and entered into force on March 27th. Many social democrats were physically prevented from entering Parliament while all the communist deputies, who constituted 17% of Parliament, had been arrested.
Given this historical picture, one wonders what was the position of Thomas Mann and his sons. If one considers that in 1929 Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature it is easy to understand that his position would not have been indifferent to the Nazis. In January 1933 Mann held a public lecture at the University of Munich on the theme “Pain and Greatness of Richard Wagner” in which he effectively denied the links between Nazism and Wagnerian art, the Nazis present in the hall gave signs of nervousness because Mann represented a voice openly out of the chorus, just in the critical moments of Hitler’s assault on power. Mann realized the danger, especially since his wife’s family was of Jewish origin, and he immediately moved to Switzerland and then to the United States, and a group of German anti-Nazi exiles gathered around him.
I limit myself to remembering that from 1940 to the end of the war Thomas Mann recorded a long series of speeches in German that were broadcast by Radio London to be heard in Germany. In these speeches Mann is the first to refer to the extermination of Jews in the gas chambers, the report of crimes perpetrated by the Nazis is documented and there is a very clear attempt to awaken the consciences of the Germans by making them aware of the atrocities that Hitler’s propaganda had systematically hidden. There is no doubt that Mann was one of the very few and tenacious “German” animators of anti-Nazism. Immediately after the surrender of Germany on May 8th 1945, Thomas Mann will read in German on the radio the radio message titled “The lagers” announcing the destruction of the culture and life of Germany and making the Germans understand how the horror of the extermination camps had shamefully destroyed the image of Germany in Europe, Mann argues that this is a sin against the German spirit that cannot be forgiven.
If already in 1945 Europe began to make a difference between German and Nazi, this is due to the few characters who behaved like Thomas Mann. But one thing should be stressed, Thomas Mann did not make choices of convenience but of conscience, and when in 1952, the most ferocious “McCarthyism” spread in the United States, a sort of witch hunt against the Communists or presumed such, wanted by the Republican Senator Mc Carthy assisted by two young men who would have had considerable weight in the history of the USA as Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy, Thomas Mann became indignant and abandoned the United States as the greatest foreign intellectuals did, for example Charlie Chaplin and his wife Oona O’Neil. Even if the discourse would deserve much further study, let’s leave aside Thomas Mann and take care of his son, whom Paul VI presents as the unhappy paradigm of modern culture.
Klaus Henry Mann, second son of Thomas was born in Munich on November 18th 1906. From the age of 19, in 1925, with the publication of his first novel “The sacred dance”, an autobiographical book of a unique and disarming sincerity in which he portrays the life of the gay Berlin of the 20s, he declared himself homosexual. In the same year “Anja e Ester” also came out, a very delicate love story between two girls. If you think that the pretext for the murderer of Ernst Röhm and the top of the SA by Hitler in 1934 was just homosexuality, it is understood that in 1933, with Hitler’s coming to power, the situation of Klaus became particularly dangerous and Klaus followed without hesitation his father in exile.
He was a sensitive and fragile 26-year-old guy, but he was one of the most tenacious and courageous adversaries of Nazism. His liberalism was guided by great ideals, it was, in essence, a faith that in some respects recalled certain aspects of socialism. Fascinated by the Christian ideal, Klaus had deep friendships in every social and cultural level. He himself tells us with the utmost seriousness of fleeting loves with some sailors from the port of Marseilles. He loved without being returned the surrealist writer René Crevel and later had a history of a few years with an American journalist Thomas Quinn Curtiss. He became a fraternal friend with the lesbian writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, with André Gide, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947, and Jean Cocteau, a French academic, author of novels, theater and film director. Both Gide and Cocteau were explicitly homosexual. A work by Klaus Mann is particularly well-known to the general public due to its film reworking, which won the Oscar in 1980, and is “Mephisto or the story of a career”, in which Klaus describes the story of his former brother-in-law, the actor Gustaf Gründgens, who had divorced his sister Erika in 1929, and had sold his soul to the devil in order to make a career in the Nazi regime. Obviously Gründgens didn’t like the publication of the work at all. The adoptive son of Gründgens, in the 1960s, turned to the court and after seven years of legal battles he succeeded in obtaining from the German Supreme Court that the book was not reprinted, but after his death the book was printed again.
In 1934 Klaus published an article titled “Homosexuality and Fascism” for a Prague magazine and composed a fictional biography of Piotr Illich Cajcovskij, also a homosexual. In 1937 he published “Window with bars” on the last days of Ludwig of Bavaria, the homosexual king who hated war and loved art. A film will be drawn from the book by Luchino Visconti, “Ludwig”, in 1972.
Just before the war, in America, Klaus lives poor and alone, tries suicide but then reacts and when the United States enter the war he enlists and enters the military department of the Ritchie Boys, a special group made up of Jews and German refugees, particularly trained in psychological warfare who are very motivated and know perfectly the German mentality. In 1942 the American soldier Klaus Henry Mann was added to the Fifth Army that would fight in Africa and in Italy, before departure Klaus Mann asks to have an interview with a Catholic military chaplain because he intends to convert to Catholicism abandoning Lutheranism, as it is clear from the letters (“Briefe und Antworten” Letters and Answers). It seems that the meeting actually took place but that the chaplain refused the conversion, probably because of Klaus’ homosexuality.
In Italy Klaus is employed as a war reporter following the Fifth Army, he works with Rossellini as a screenwriter of “Paisà”, after the war he goes in person to visit the horrors of the Nazi extermination camps. Intoxicated by drugs, in 1949 he goes to Cennes to detoxify himself. On May 20th, after walking for a long time in the rain, waiting for a certain Luois, he swallows a massive dose of barbiturates and on May 21th he dies at the age of 42. He was accused of everything, even of being a spy of Stalin but he remains a character of the highest nobility of mind for anyone with the ability to understand it, but Paul VI, in calling him the model of the desperate intellectual of the ‘900 that in the death of God had condemned to death the man behaved towards him exactly as the Catholic chaplain who had refused his conversion.
If you want, you can participate in the discussion of this post open on the Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-thomas-and-klaus-mann-two-homosexuals
I am very reluctant to write this story because it touches very delicate issues. The facts are told in a very short diary of which a person I know made me have photocopies, I asked the phone number of the author of that diary and they gave it to me, I called him, he knew me only by interposed persons, because he had heard about me and my blogs, but he said I could use that material but he asked me to do it with extreme caution, and that’s what I will do.
The diary in some places presents true dramatic tones. I rewrote the story, (in the first person) summarizing it and, as usual, trying to respect its spirit. I emphasize that what you will find below is absolutely not my personal point of view.
“My story is a very particular story, it is the story of a very intense and very short but essentially impossible gay love, impossible because denied, suffocated in the bud. All this took place over 25 days, I counted them one by one.
I am 23 years old and he, Mark, 19, we met at university, he was enrolled in the first year, I was about to finish letters. It was late afternoon, after classes, he asked me about the institute of glottology, I tried to explain everything and it started like that, then we kept talking and he was fine, he was hesitant but he was happy to be with me. I didn’t know him at all, he was a handsome guy, but I also liked him from other points of view, he was straightforward, authentic, he did not play, that evening I would never go away. I didn’t even think to tell him I was just fine, I had no second purposes, in fact I often talk to some guy, but just because I’m there and I must pass five minutes. I felt bigger than Marco, more mature, somewhat protective.
The next day he looked for me in my classroom and I took him home, a very long and pleasant trip. In the following days I noticed that between us a strong relationship was creating and I didn’t know how to behave, with me Mark talked about everything but never of girls or sex. If I wanted to be honest, at the cost of losing him, I had to tell him exactly how things were. I did it. Marco was deeply troubled because he wanted to be my friend, but not that way, he told me it right away, but he didn’t know if he would ever succeed.
At first I simply thought that being like an object of love of a gay guy was not an acceptable for him, but the problem was not that. I understood it a minute later because he himself told me in an effort of sincerity that must have cost him blood, he told me: “I cannot share your feeling because I am Christian”, but from this sentence I still couldn’t understand what he was really telling me, I simply told him: “I didn’t understand …” And he replied, winning a very strong embarrassment and without looking at me: “I am gay but I am a Christian and I want to live chastely … and being close to you it would be much more difficult.”
I was shocked by this explicit statement, but he is like that, he is not really capable of cheating anyone, ever! Then he told me: “it’s a battle with myself but I have to win it, it may seem absurd to you but for me it’s essential.” I didn’t know how to behave, whether to do all my usual talk about religion or avoid. I said nothing, took it as a form of respect and he didn’t run away, when we saw each other he was happy but always with a sense of underlying guilt. I let him talk about it, I was hoping very much that he could also understand things from my point of view, then we also talked about religion. For him it was an essential thing, He tried in every way and with the utmost commitment to do things honestly. He was not bigoted, he was not invasive, no! He had taken it 100% seriously.
I have not been to churches since I realized I was gay, in practice since I was a kid, but I read some gospel pages willingly, the closures that the Pope has on gays seem to me absolutely immoral but I don’t think at all that religion is a stupid thing.
Mark realized that I had a certain respect for these things and was happy with him, but he never spoke to me about the problem of religion and gays. The twenty-fourth day, one Saturday, he asked me something very strange, he asked me to accompany him to church the next day … I told him that I would certainly come. Sunday was a particular Sunday and there was a bishop who was supposed to confirm more or less twenty guys.
Marco and I have entered. I would have stopped at the bottom, but Marco wanted me to go further with him and we went to a desk about halfway up the church. The bishop entered for the mass, a thin, tall, old man. The guys were singing, the church was full of people, there was a nice atmosphere. Then the bishop made his speech e he said some very beautiful things, which moved me, on the fact that we are all brothers and that loving our neighbor is difficult. In practice there was not a single word of the bishop’s preaching that I would not have said identical. They seemed like beautiful things, 100% shareable, then we exchanged peace, but it did not have the ritual flavor it usually has, it was serious.
He got up and went to confession on the way back he knelt right next to me, then he went to make communion, he was happy as I had never seen him. When we left the church we talked for a quarter of an hour and he told me that he wanted to be a priest but that now he would have problems in the seminary, before deciding he had to be sure he could take it all the way without hesitation, he explained to me that he would first have to solve the problem of homosexuality and that if I loved him I really had to help him by not looking for him anymore.
I think nobody can imagine what I felt in those moments, I was upset, I didn’t know what to say, he asked me to say goodbye forever and I respected his decision, I told him that I would love him always and however, he replied that he knew this and that he too would not forget me but that his path was different.
It’s been a week now and I have not heard from him. Now I feel sick inside, I feel lonely, I feel lonely and I think I was a coward, I didn’t do what I should, I think I only respected his words and not his soul, that I did him go for what he told me to be his way but that maybe it’s not really his way, because he chose that choice in a dramatic way, because he was split in two, because to save his soul he had to destroy himself. What makes me feel bad is that if he had to repent of his choice he would have no one willing to listen to him. I absurdly followed him in choosing the path that led him permanently away from me, but if he wanted to go back, no one would help him and I think that sooner or later he can go into crisis. The sense of despair comes to me not only for me but above all for him and I feel guilty and I think that my behavior was hypocritical because respecting a person means always telling everything you think and I didn’t do it with him.”
If you want, you can participate in the discussion of this post open on the Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-or-christian-or-gay