Erika Mann was the firstborn daughter of Thomas Mann, Nobel Prize-winning author, and his wife, Katharina Pringsheim. She was particularly close to her brother Klaus, and attended private school along with him. After gymnasium (high school), she began taking acting classes in Berlin. She had a role in the premier of Klaus Mann's 1925 play Anja und Esther. The following year, she married Gustaf Gründgens, an actor, but the couple divorced in 1929. In 1927, she and Klaus took a trip around the world, which they documented in a book, Rundherum; Das Abenteuer einer Weltreise. Erika became active in journalism and in politics, and in 1932, published the first of many children's books. In 1933, she, Klaus, and Therese Giehse founded a cabaret in Munich called Die Pfeffermühle, for which Erika wrote most of the material. She was forced to flee the Nazi regime in Germany, and helped save many of Thomas Mann's papers from their Munich home when she escaped to Zurich. In 1936, Die Pfeffermühle opened again in Zurich and became a rallying point for German exiles. In 1935, she married her friend W.H. Auden to obtain British citizenship. She travelled to New York City, where Die Pfeffermühle opened again as "The Pepper Mill," and Erika joined a large group of German artists in exile that included Kurt Weill. In 1938, she and Klaus reported on the Spanish Civil War, and she published School for Barbarians, a book about Nazi Germany's educational system. During World War II, she worked as a journalist in England, and later was one of the only women to report on the Nuremberg Trials. In 1952, she moved to Switzerland to help her father with his writing.