Bertolt Brecht 




Bertolt Brecht 

photo © Suhrkamp Verlag
* 10.02.1898, Augsburg, Germany
14.08.1956, Berlin, Germany

Bertolt Brecht (born Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht) was one of the most influential German dramatist, stage directors, and poets of the 20th century.

Born in Augsburg, Bavaria, Brecht studied medicine and worked briefly as an orderly in a hospital in Munich during World War I. After the war he moved to Berlin where an influential critic, Herbert Ihering, brought him to the attention of a public longing for modern theatre.

During the postwar governments and then the Weimar Republic, Brecht met and began to work with the composer Hanns Eisler. He also met Helene Weigel, who would become his second wife and accompany him through exile and for the rest of his life. His first book of poems, “Hauspostille”, won a literary prize.

 photo © Suhrkamp Verlag
He married the opera singer and actress Marianne Zoff in 1922. Their daughter, Hanne Hiob, was born in 1923. In 1930 Brecht married Weigel, who had already borne him a son, Stefan. Their daughter Barbara was born soon after the wedding.

Brecht and composer Kurt Weill adapted John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, retitled “The Threepenny Opera” (Die Dreigroschenoper) it was the largest hit in Berlin of the 1920s. The masterpiece of the Brecht/Weill collaborations, “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny), premiered in 1930 in Leipzig with an uproar, having Nazis protesting the opera in the audience. The Mahagonny opera would premier later in Berlin in 1931 as a triumphant sensation.

After Hitler came to power in 1933, Brecht perceived a great danger to himself and left for exile—to Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, England, then Russia and finally in the United States. In his resistance toward the Nazi and Fascist movements, Brecht wrote his most famous plays. Brecht also wrote poetry which continues to attract attention and respect. He also worked on a few screenplays for Hollywood.

In the years of the Cold War and 'red scare', the “House Un-American Activities Committee” called Brecht to account for his communist allegiances, and he was soon blacklisted by movie studio bosses. Brecht, along with about 41 other Hollywood writers, directors, actors and producers, was subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC in September of 1947.

Leaving the United States for Europe, Brecht came to Switzerland and then was invited to Berlin by East Germany. Horrified at the reinstatement of former Nazis into West Germany's government, Brecht accepted the offer and made East Berlin his home.

While Brecht's communist sympathies were a bane in the United States, East German officials sought to make him their hero. Though he had not been a member of the communist party, he had been deeply schooled in Marxism, and his communist allegiances were sincere. He claimed communism appeared to be the only reliable antidote to militarist fascism and spoke out against the remilitarization of the West and the division of Germany.

But Brecht proved to be almost as uncomfortable for his East German hosts as for the West Germans across the iron curtain. He also found the experience of living in a Stalinist state far different from what he had imagined in exile.

Brecht wrote very few plays in his last years in Berlin. Some of his most famous poems, however, including the 'Buckower Elegies', were from this time. Brecht died in 1956 of a heart attack at the age of 58. He is buried on the Dorotheenstädtischen Friedhof in Berlin.

  • Baal

    Potsdam: Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, 1922

  • Trommeln in der Nacht

    München: Drei Masken Verlag, 1922

  • Mann ist Mann

    Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 1926

  • Bertold Brechts Hauspostille

    Berlin: Propyläen-Verlag, 1927

  • Die Dreigroschenoper

    Potsdam: Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, 1928

  • Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. Oper in 3 Akten.

    Musik von Kurt Weill
    Erstaufführung in Leipzig, März 1930.

    Wien: Universal-Edition, 1929

  • Die Maßnahme


  • Die Mutter


  • Lieder Gedichte Chöre

    Paris VI: Edition du Carrefour, 1934

  • Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches


  • Leben des Galilei


  • Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder

    Erstaufführung in Zürich am 19. April 1941


  • Svendborger Gedichte

    London: Malik-Verlag, 1939

  • Flüchtlingsgespräche


  • Der aufhaltsame Aufsteig des Arturo Ui


  • Der gute Mensch von Sezuan


  • Der kaukasische Kreidekreis


  • Die Tage der Kommune


  • Buckower Elegien


  • Gesammelte Werke

    Ausgabe letzter Hand

    Gebundene Ausgabe in 8 Bänden

    Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1967

  • Werke

    Große kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe

    Hg. v. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei u. Klaus-Detlef Müller

    Frankfurt am Main; Berlin, Weimar (Aufbau): Suhrkamp Verlag, 1988-2000

  • Der Untergang des Egoisten Johann Fatzer

    Bühnenfassung von Heiner Müller

    Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1994

  • Hundert Gedichte

    Ausgewählt von Siegfried Unseld

    Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998

  • Die Gedichte

    Zusammenstellung Jan Knopf

    Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2000

  • Hundert Gedichte

    Berlin: Aufbau, 2016