Brecht, Bertolt


Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, Germany, on February 10, 1898. His study of philosophy and medicine at the Universität München was interrupted by military service during WWI. After the war, he attended Arthur Kutscher’s theater seminar and wrote his first play, Baal (1918). In 1922, his first play to be performed, Trommeln in der Nacht (Drums in the Night), opened in Munich and later at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. Later, Brecht’s plays were staged at many German theaters and, in 1924, he moved to Berlin.


In 1927, Brecht and the composer Kurt Weill worked on the Mahagonny song cycle, the first of many collaborations. The following year, they produced Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), which became a Weimar-era theatrical sensation. Brecht also worked with composer Hanns Eisler on Die Massnahme (The Measures Taken, 1930) and, two years later, on the film production Kuhle Wampe, oder Wem gehört die Welt? (Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?).


In 1929, Brecht married actress Helene Weigel. Together with their two children, they fled Nazi Germany in 1933. They first arrived in Switzerland, then settled in Denmark for a short while, moved to Sweden in 1939, then to Finland, and finally they made it to the United States in 1941. There, Brecht met many other German exiles, including Thomas Mann, Arnold Schönberg, Theodor Adorno and Fritz Lang, who asked him to co-author the script for Hangmen also Die. Brecht wrote some of his most important plays in exile, including Galileo (1938), Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children, 1939), Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (The Good Person of Szechwan, 1940), and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 1944).


In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) interrogated Brecht and accused him of having communist sympathies. He left the United States for Switzerland and eventually moved to East Berlin in 1948, where he and his wife founded the Berliner Ensemble (BE) in 1949. The BE performed Mother Courage and Her Children in Paris, during their first international tour in 1954. It was a sensation and catapulted Brecht into his position as one of the most important figures in 20th-century theater.


Brecht’s plays have been adapted to film by prolific film directors, including Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Vsevolod Putovkin, H. Jürgen Syberg, Volker Schlöndorff and Alberto Calvacanti. Brecht himself collaborated on several film productions: Mysterien eines Frisiersalons (Mysteries of a Barbershop, 1923, co-director., co-script), Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt? (Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?, 1932, co-script), Pagliacci (1936, co-scenario) and Lied der Ströme (The Song of the Rivers, 1953, lyrics).


Bertolt Brecht died on August 14, 1956.

Bibliography & More:

1987 denn alles bewegt sich, mein Freund (Everything is Moving, My Friend, dir. Donat Schober, doc.)
1986 Zuerst habe ich Lieder geschrieben (First I Wrote Songs, dir. Donat Schober, doc.)
1978 Die Pflaumenbäume sind schon abgehauen (The Plum Trees Have No Doubt Been Chopped Down, dir. Kurt Tetzlaff, doc.)



2021 Seven Deadly Sins (based on his play, short)
2018 Dreigroschenfilm (Mack the Knife – Brecht’s Threepenny Film, based on his play)
1987 denn alles bewegt sich, mein Freund (Everything is Moving, My Friend, about him, doc.)

Zuerst habe ich Lieder geschrieben… - Brecht nach der Schule (First I Wrote Songs… - Brecht after School, about him, doc.)

1979 Der Schneider von Ulm (The Tailor of Ulm, based on his poem)

Die Pflaumenbäume sind schon abgehauen (The Plum Trees Have No Doubt Been Chopped Down, about him, doc.)

1975 Galileo (based on his play)
1972 Geschichtsunterricht (History Lesson, based on his novel)
1969 Die zwei Söhne (The Two Sons, based on his calendar story)
1969 Baal (based on his play, TV)
1964 La vielle dame idigne (The Dishonorable Old Lady, based on his calendar stories)
1963 Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera, based on his play)
1960 Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children, based on his play)
1958 Der kauksische Kreidekreis (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, script, TV)
1957 Katzgraben (TV recording of his BE production)
1955 Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (Mr Puntila and His Man Matti, based on his play)
1953 Lied der Ströme (Song of the Rivers, lyrics)
1953 Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar (Señora Carrar's Rifles, script,TV)
1943 Hangmen also Die! (based on his story)
1942 Ubizy wychodjat na dorogu (The Murderers Are on Their Way, based on his play)
1936 Pagliacci
1932 Kuhle Wampe, oder Wem gehört die Welt? (Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?, script)
1931 Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera, script)
1923 Mysterien eines Frisiersalons (The Mysteries of a Hairdresser’s Shop, script, co-dir.)

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