The Magic Mountain of Weimar Politics: the Impact of the Assassination of Walther Rathenau on Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg

James N. Bade


Thomas Mann’s Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen, while not totally anti-Republican, had gained Mann a substantial following in conservative quarters distrustful of the Weimar Republic in the immediate post-war years. The assassination in 1922 of the German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, however, caused Mann to re-think his public political stance. Confronted with the extremist terrorism of the radical right, and the realisation that his views may have encouraged this political extremism, Mann resolved to henceforth put all his weight behind the new Republic. Nowhere is the impact of the assassination of Rathenau on Thomas Mann more evident than in the composition of Der Zauberberg. The chapters written after the death of Rathenau reflect the fundamental shift in Mann’s political attitudes, and the Schnee chapter may be seen as an urgent appeal to the readership of the time for an end to terrorism in order to usher in a new era of humanitarianism. (JNB)

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