BONN — Gottfried (Golo) Mann, a widely read historian who wrote extensively on the relationship between politics and literature and who was the last surviving son of novelist Thomas Mann, has died at age 85, his publisher said Friday.
Mann died in his sleep Thursday in Leverkusen, north of Cologne, said Wolfgang Mertz of the publishing firm S. Fischer. He had been suffering from cancer.
With the death of Golo Mann, the third of six children of Thomas and Katharina Mann, Germany has lost not only the last internationally prominent member of a family that left a huge impact on its intellectual scene but a historian whose heritage made him keenly aware of the place of poets and novelists on the world stage.
Golo Mann was 24 when he and his parents fled Nazi Germany in 1933. He lived in France and Switzerland before emigrating in 1942 to the United States. The Mann family lived with other German exiles in Los Angeles and Golo Mann taught history at Claremont College in California and then Olivet College in Michigan.
He returned to Europe in 1957. After retiring from his political science chair at Stuttgart's university in 1964, Mann moved to Switzerland, where he lived in Kilchberg until shortly before his death.
Mann was perhaps best known in Germany for his biography of Prince Wallenstein, a 17th-Century imperial general, and for his best-selling memoirs, which were published in 1986.
Robert Kirsch, the late Times book critic, found "Wallenstein: His Life Narrated," "a work not only of erudition but of art."
Mann's 1958 book, "German History of the 19th and 20th Century," was a passionate but careful examination of the Nazi period. In contrast to other postwar historians, Mann never intimated that Nazism might have been determined by German character, historian Urs Bitterli wrote recently.
Mann also had a popular talk show on public television in the 1970s, when he backed the Social Democratic government's detente with East Germany.
By the 1980s, he had grown more conservative; he called the battle against left-wing terrorists "a new civil war" and demanded that Germany close the door to Third World immigrants. In 1986, he suggested that Germany had done enough penance for the Holocaust.
Mann's father, author of "The Magic Mountain" and "Death in Venice," won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929. His uncle Heinrich was a famous anti-fascist polemicist and novelist. His sister Erika was an actress and essayist and his brother Klaus authored a novel, "Mephisto," before committing suicide in 1949.
Golo Mann, who never married, is survived by a sister, Elisabeth Mann-Borghese, a marine biologist living in Canada.