Brecht for Beginners: Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)


Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht is born February 10 in Augsburg (Bavaria). He spends the first 25 years of his life and publishes his first literary works in Bavaria.

Am 10. Februar wird Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht in Augsburg (Bayern) geboren. Dort verbrachte er die ersten 25 Jahre seines Lebens und veröffentlichte seine ersten literarischen Werke.


Brecht studies medicine in Munich, but his real interest is literature.

Studiert Medizin in München, aber er interessiert sich eigentlich mehr für Literatur.


Marries opera singer Marianne Zoff. They have a daughter together. Between 1919 and 1926 Brecht fathers three children with three different women, only one of whom is his wife.

Heirat mit der Opernsängerin Marianne Zoff. Aus der Ehe geht eine Tochter hervor. Zwischen 1919 und 1926 zeugt Brecht drei Kinder mit drei verschieden Frauen, aber nur eine davon ist seine Ehefrau.


Moves to Berlin, where he works briefly with stage directors Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator, as well as the playwright Carl Zuckmayer.

Umzug nach Berlin, wo er kurz mit den Regisseuren Max Reinhardt und Erwin Piscator, sowie dem Dramatisten Carl Zuckmayer zusammenarbeitet.


A complete revision of the "Beggar's Opera" in collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill. The Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera) has its premiere at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin, with great success.

Gemeinsam mit dem Komponisten Kurt Weill Bearbeitung der "Beggar's Opera". Völlige Umgestaltung des Stücks, das als Die Dreigroschenoper im Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin mit großem Erfolg uraufgeführt wird.


Marries Helene Weigel (10 April) with whom he has another child. The two already have a son born three years earlier.

10. April: Heirat mit Weigel, mit der er ein weiteres Kind hat. Die beiden haben schon einen Sohn, der vor drei Jahren geboren wurde.


1930: The premiere of the opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny ends as a theatrical scandal.
1931: Premiere of the film version of Dreigroschenoper.

1930: Die Uraufführung der Oper "Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny" in Leipzig endet als Theaterskandal.
1931: Uraufführung des Films "Die Dreigroschenoper".


Brecht leaves Germany with his family one day after the Reichstag fire. His exile begins in Prague and ends in the USA, where he works for a time in Hollywood (1945-1947). WEB > Glücksgott (Gedicht und Geschenk an Fritz Lang)

Einen Tag nach dem Reichstagsbrand verläßt Brecht mit seiner Familie Deutschland. Sein Exil beginnt in Prag und endet schließlich in den USA, wo er auch in Hollywood arbeitet (1945-1947). WEB > Glücksgott (Gedicht und Geschenk an Fritz Lang)


30 October 1947: Leaves the U.S. on the same day he is interrogated about his Marxist views by HUAC.
1949: Leaves Zurich for East Berlin, where he founds the Berliner Ensemble.
14 August 1956: Brecht dies of a heart attack in East Berlin.

30. Oktober 1947: Verläßt die USA am gleichen Tag, an dem er durch HUAC über seinen Marxismus gefragt wird.

1949: Übersiedlung von Zürich nach Berlin, wo er das Berliner Ensemble gründet.
14. August 1956: Brecht stirbt in Ost-Berlin an einer Herzinfarkt.

Brecht's Life and Works:

Today Brecht is best known as a poet, and most critics consider his poetic talent his strong point. His plays were mostly based on the works of others. (Brecht's "Threepenny Opera" is based on John Gay's "Beggar's Opera," while "Edward II" is based on Marlowe.) But he was an innovator with his theatrical "Verfremdungseffekt" ("alienation effect"), designed to make the audience active, thinking participants in a play, rather than just passive observers who get lost in dramatic illusion. Many people today know Brecht best through the "Threepenny Opera" songs he wrote with the composer Kurt Weill ("Mackie Messer"/"Mack the Knife").

Like many artists, Brecht has become more appreciated after his death than he was during his lifetime. His sardonic humor now seems almost contemporary.

Born into a bourgeois family with a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, Brecht became a Marxist who was critical of society and religion in general. Forced into exile by the Nazis in 1933, Brecht was a man without a country for much of his life. He seemed to live in his own "alienation effect." Even after his return to East Germany in 1949, Brecht went from being viewed as a radical Marxist in the West, to being viewed suspiciously by the East for his unorthodox dramatic theories.

For a brief time Brecht worked in Hollywood—a place he did not like very much. With the Austrian director Fritz Lang, Brecht wrote the script for "Hangmen Also Die" (1943), inspired by the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech resistance fighters, and the ensuing retaliation by the Nazis. Forced out of Hollywood by HUAC, Brecht finally settled in East Berlin where he died in 1956.

Brecht's works include:

Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera, 1928)
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the Town of Mahagonny, 1930)
Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children, 1941)
Leben des Galilei (The Life of Galileo, 1943)
Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 1948)