Category: annemarie schwarzenbach

MAY 23: Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908-1942)


The Swiss journalist, photographer, and lesbian icon, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, was born on this day in 1908.

One of the many photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach taken by her close friend and most likely her lover, Marianne Breslauer (x). 

Annemarie Minna Renée
Schwarzenbach was born on May 23, 1908 in Zurich, Switzerland. Her family
afforded her a privileged life, her father being a wealthy business who worked
in the silk industry and her mother being the daughter of a prominent general
in the Swiss army. Annemarie’s mother was also bisexual and an artist herself
who loved photography; Renée Schwarzenbach’s bisexuality could possibly have
been the reason Annemarie’s penchant for dressing in boy’s clothes and
participating in “boy’s activities” was not punished during her childhood. She
would later attend the University of Zurich, where she began having
relationships with women.

One of Annemarie’s first serious
partners was Erika Mann, daughter of the famous writer Thomas Mann. The two met
in 1930 and although their romantic relationship would not last long, she,
Erika, and Erika’s gay brother Klaus would all three remain lifelong friends.
It was while living with Klaus in Berlin that Annemarie was introduced to hard
drugs and the party lifestyle. A close friend, Ruth Landshoff, would later
write that she “lived dangerously. She drank too much. She never went to sleep
before dawn.” With the rise of the Nazis to power, she became estranged
from her family, who were Nazi sympathizers and resented Annemarie’s
antifascist beliefs and friendship with the Jewish Mann family.

Annemarie photographed with her lover Ella Maillart. Ella was a fellow travel writer and the two embarked on expansive travels together to places such as Afghanistan and Turkmenistan (x).

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s,
Annemarie produced over 170 articles and 50 photo reports for Swiss, German,
and American magazines. She would spend the majority of her life
traveling and writing around Europe with colorful companions such as the photographer Marianne Breslauer, the Manns, and her eventual
husband, Achille-Claude Clarac. Achille was a gay French diplomat who sought marriage
for the same reason Annemarie did: social convenience. With the cover of her
marriage, she was free to seduce many women on her
travels, including ethnologist Ella Maillart, the daughter or a Turkish
Ambassador, Baronessa Margot von Opel, and the writer Carson McCullers.

As the years went on, Annemarie’s drug addiction worsened. Despite her several suicide attempts, it was a
biking accident that would eventually lead to Annemarie’s death on November 15,
1942. After falling from her bike in September of that year and sustaining a
serious head injury, she was shut up in a clinic by her family, where she was
misdiagnosed and was refused access to any visitors that were not members of the

Schwarzenbach family. Although her mother destroyed her letters and diaries following her
death, the people she called her true family – her LGBT friends and companions –
preserved her professional writings and photographs in the Swiss Literary
Archives in Bern.  


NOVEMBER 20: Marianne Breslauer (1909-2001)

The famous photographer Marianne Breslauer was born on this day in 1909. Today, Marianne is most well-known for her contributions to the artistic richness of Germany’s Wiemar Era as well as her relationship with the Swiss journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

A self-portrait by Marianne Breslauer (x).

Marianne Breslauer was born on November 20, 1909 in Berlin, Germany. She inherited an artistic legacy from her parents, her father being the architect Alfred Breslauer and her mother being Doris Lessing, the daughter of the famed art historian Julius Lessing. She began taking photography lessons at age 18 and began to plan for a career as a photographic journalist. Her main inspirations were the well-known German portrait photographer Frieda Riess and the Hungarian photographer André Kertész. Although she had lived and studied in Berlin for all her life, Marianne moved to Paris in 1929 to study under Man Ray. She only stayed briefly, however, and was back in Berlin a year later. Throughout the 1930s, her work was published in esteemed German magazines such as Frankfurter Illustrierten, Der Querschnitt, Die Dame, Zürcher Illustrierten, and Das Magazin

Despite being married to a man named Walter Feilchenfeldt, the center of Marianne’s life was a fellow woman photographer named Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Many historians refer to the two women as simple being “lifelong friends,” but the truth of their relationship was probably something closer to that of lovers. Marianne traveled extensively throughout Europe during her life and created a network of kindred spirits, which is to say, fellow wlw artists. She even became known for her photographs of butch women/”tom boys” throughout the 1930s. It was through one of these lesbian artist friends, Ruth Landshoff, that Marianne and Annemarie were first introduced. The two photographed each other frequently and even traveled to the Pyrenees together in 1933. Annemarie would tragically die in a biking accident in 1942, but Marianne’s legacy would continue to be intertwined with the person she once described as “Neither a woman nor a man, but an angel, an archangel.”

One of Marianne’s multiple photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach. In this shot from 1934, Annemarie (left) lies on beach towels with a friend in Potsdam (x).

With the increasing antisemitic climate of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, Marianne’s publishers began pressuring her to publish her photographs under a pseudonym so as to conceal her Jewish identity. When she refused, she, her husband, and children were forced to leave German and emigrate to Amsterdam and then later Zurich. In her later years, Marianne and her husband opened up their own art gallery specializing in French paintings and 19th century art. She took over the business on the occasion of her husband’s death in 1953 and would eventually pass away herself on February 7, 2001.


NOVEMBER 9: Erika Mann (1905-1969)

The German actress and writer Erika
Mann was born on this day in 1905. She is most well-known for her fearless
anti-fascist artistic and journalistic work during World War II and for starting the cabaret Die Pfeffermühle,
which was a safe haven for Munich’s LGBT community during the 1930s.

During her lifetime, Erika Mann wrote three different novels and multiple plays (x).

Erika Mann was born on November 9,
1905 in Munich, Germany. She was the first child born to Thomas Mann and his wife
Katia. Although she was Jewish on her mother’s side and named after her
maternal uncle Erik, she was baptized Protestant. Her father was a Nobel-prize
winning author and afforded Erika a comfortable and privileged upbringing, but he
confessed to his brother in several letters his disappointment at having a
daughter as his first-born. A son named Klaus would follow soon, however. Klaus and Erika would have an incredibly close relationship for
their whole lives and were bonded by their shared experiences of same-gender attraction. Although not a strong student, Erika was interested
in theater and the arts from a very early age and even started a theater troupe
at her high school. After graduating by the skin of her teeth, she moved to
Berlin and began to further her studies in theater.

“Klaus und Erika Mann, Berlin,” 1930 by

Lotte Jacobi. Often nicknamed “the twins” by family members, Erika (right) and her younger brother Klaus (left) were kindred spirits in a multitude of ways. Klaus was a gay man and Erika was a lesbian and their shared experiences bonded the two for life (x).

Throughout the 1920s, Erika moved
between Berlin and Bremen working with two different theater troupes. She was
married twice in her lifetime; first to the famous German actor Gustaf
Gründgens and then later to the iconic poet W.H. Auden, but they were both lavender marriages – marriages between a gay man and a lesbian that
allowed them to conveniently move about the world of the early 20th century. One of her first lovers was an
actress named Pamela Wedekind who she met while performing in her brother Klaus’s
play Anja und Esther. While Klaus, Pamela,
Erika, and Erika’s first husband Gustaf worked on Anja und Esther, Klaus was engaged to Pamela and Erika was engaged
to Gustaf. These engagements were cover-ups for the real relationships: Klaus
and Gustav and Erika and Pamela. The foursome eventually parted ways in

Erika Mann, Klaus Mann, and Pamela Wedekind photographed in the 1920s. Although Pamela was briefly married to Klaus, it was a cover-up for her relationship with Erika (x).

Erika’s other notable affairs would include Therese Giehse, Annemarie
Schwarzenbach and Betty Knox. Erika was in the landmark lesbian
film Mädchen in Uniform in 1931
founded the iconic cabaret establishment Die
with her lover Therese Giehse in 1933. Most of the material performed
at the cabaret was penned by Erika herself and was staunchly anti-Fascist. It
only lasted two months before being shut down by the Nazi Party, but during its
short lifespan, Die Pfeffermühle
became a hub for the underground resistance fighters and LGBT community in

Erika (far right) poses with other female war corespondents in 1944. One of Erika’s lovers who was also a popular war corespondent, Betty Knox, is pictured fourth from the left (x).

Erika eventually fled Germany and
worked as a journalist and war corespondent for the majority of World War II. After the
war, she, her parents, and Klaus moved to America. Tragically, Erika and Klaus
would soon come under FBI investigation for their illegal “homosexual
activities” and socialist political leanings, the stress of which would result in
Klaus committing suicide. The grief of losing her brother and closest confidant
would never leave Erika. For the rest of her life, she was dedicated to
preserving the work and memory of both her brother and father. Erika herself
passed away on August 27, 1969 from a brain tumor.