Bertolt Brecht's Appearance
Before the HUAC

Bertolt Brecht's 100th Birthday Anniversary Exhibit

Feuchtwanger Memorial Library

University of Southern California

Bertolt Brecht's testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities took place on the morning of October 30, 1947. During his testimony, which lasted for about an hour, Brecht anwered questions ranging from his affiliation with the Communist Party to the underlying political ideology of his works. Brecht managed to appear willing to answer the questions put to him by the Committee, claiming that he was a "guest" in the United States and stating truthfully at the outset that he had never been a member of the Communist Party.

Brecht's testimony was included among those of nineteen Hollywood witnesses, all of whom except Brecht who had publically joined forces in an effort to stop the Committee's witchhunt. These witnesses became known as the "Hollywood nineteen." Though Brecht has some connection to Hollywood through his screenplays and acquaintances, he was an outsider to this group of successful screenwriters, directors and producers. Brecht was was the only foreigner in this group and his main concern at the hearing was not to have his return trip to Europe delayed by the Committee.

Brecht writes a few weeks later in a letter to his friend, Hanns Eisler, about his testimony with these words: "By the way, I see from some newspaper clippings that certain journalists thought I behaved arrogantly in Washington; the truth is that I simply had to obey my six lawyers, who advised me to tell the truth and nothing else. Not being a citizen either, I could no more refuse to testify than you could."

Bertolt Brecht Letters. Translated by Ralph Manheim and edited with commentary and notes by John Willett. New York: Routledge, 1990, p. 441.

Brecht apparently rehearsed for his appearence before the HUAC, with his friend Hermann Budzislawski asking possible questions and helping Brecht consider evasive answers to potentially sticky questions about Brecht's political views.

Brecht was greatly relieved that the Committee did not request him to stay in the country, allowing him to make his Air France flight to Europe on October 31, 1947.

This Oct. 31, 1947 newspaper clipping from the Los Angeles Examiner (on the left) reports on Brecht's testimony before the HUAC.

This exhibit was created by Marje Schuetze-Coburn, Feuchtwanger Librarian, at the University of Southern California.

February 1998.

Return to Bertolt Brecht Turns 100 | Feuchtwanger Librarian