Brecht Chronology

(compiled by Marc Silberman)


Note:The following link provides Bertolt Brecht's biography in a narrative (English).

1898 February 10, born in Augsburg to a paper manufacturer
1904-1908 elementary school (Volksschule)
1908-1917 high school (Königlich-Bayerisches Realgymnasium)
1913 writes first texts (diaries, school journal); friendship with Paula Banholzer
1917 matriculates as medical student at Ludwig-Maximilian Universität in Munich; attends Artur Kutscher's seminars on theater
1918 military service as medical orderly in Augsburg; activity in a soldiers' council (Soldatenrat) during the November Revolution
1919 drama reviews; Baal, participates in Karl Valentin's political cabaret; his first son, Frank, is born to Paula Banholzer
1920 first short trip to Berlin; Brecht's mother dies
1921 second trip to Berlin, attends rehearsals of Max Reinhardt and other major directors
1922 Trommeln in der Nacht (Drums in the Night) opens in Munich at the Kammerspiele and later at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin; Brecht receives the prestigious Kleist prize for young dramatists; friendship with Arnolt Bronnen, marriage with Marianna Zoff
1923 Im Dickicht der Städte (In the Jungle of the Cities) opens at the Residenztheater in Munich; Baal opens in Leipzig; collaboration with Lion Feuchtwanger in Munich; his daughter Hanne is born to Marianne Zoff
1924 Brecht moves to Berlin; Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England (adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's Edward the Second, together with Lion Feuchtwanger) opens under Brecht's direction at the Kammerspiele in Munich; meets Helene Weigel, who bears his son Stefan; begins collaborative work with Elisabeth Hauptmann;
1925 friendship with the heavyweight boxer Paul Samson-Körner, the painter George Grosz, and the novelist Alfred Döblin; substantial writing for journals and newspapers (short stories, essays)
1926 Mann ist Mann (Man Equals Man) opens in Darmstadt
1927 Hauspostille (Manuel of Piety) appears; radio production of Mann ist Mann and Brecht's adaptation of Macbeth; first collaboration with Kurt Weill on the Mahagonny song cycle (starring Lotte Lenya); cooperation with Erwin Piscator's experimental stagings; divorce from Marianne Zoff
1928 Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) opens at the Theater am Schiffbauer Damm in Berlin, becomes the most successful play of the Weimar Republic
1929 Das Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis (The Baden Cantata of Consent) and Lindbergflug (later renamed Ozeanflug, Ocean Flight) with music by Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill, Brecht's first two "learning plays" (Lehrstücke); meets Walter Benjamin; marriage with Helene Weigel; Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe (Saint Joan of the Stockyards, broadcast on radio in 1932); Berliner Requiem (Berlin Requiem) with music by Kurt Weill broadcast
1930 Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) opens at the Leipzig opera (picketed by Nazis); Der Jasager und der Neinsager (He Who Said Yes, He Who Said No) directed by Brecht in Berlin; daughter Barbara born by Helene Weigel; Die Maßnahme (The Measures Taken) opens in Berlin; "Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner" (The Keuner Stories); "Die Beule" (The Bruise), screenplay for the Threepenny Opera Film (not realized)
1931 Mann ist Mann (starring Peter Lorre) directed by Brecht in Berlin; Brecht and Weill sue Nero Film for breach of contract in the G.W. Pabst production of the Threepenny Opera film (Brecht loses, settles out of court, and Weill wins);
1932 Die Mutter (The Mother, adapted from Maxim Gorki's novel), directed by Brecht and Emil Burri, opens in Berlin; the film Kuhle Wampe (with Slatan Dudow, Ernst Ottwalt, Hanns Eisler) opens in May after a censorship scandal; Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe (Round Heads and Pointed Heads); friendship with Margarete Steffin
1933 Brecht flees with his family to Zurich after the burning of the Reichstag (February 27) and then settles in Denmark (Svendborg) with Weigel and the two children Stefan and Barbara; Sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins) with music by Weill opens in Paris and travels to London; works on the poetry anthology "Svendborger Gedichte" (first published in Copenhagen in 1939); friendship with Ruth Berlau
1934 Brecht and Hanns Eisler in London; work on Der Dreigroschenroman (The Threepenny Novel)
1935 travel to Moscow where he meets Sergei Tretiakov, Sergei Eisenstein, and the Chinese actor Mei Lan-Fan; travel to New York City for the production of Mother; Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches (Fear and Misery of the Third Reich)
1936 trip to New York City and London
1937 trip to Paris; Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar (Seqora Carrar's Rifles) opens in Paris under the direction of Slatan Dudow and starring Helene Weigel
1938 in Paris 8 scenes from Furcht und Elend are staged in German under the direction of Slatan Dudow and starring Helene Weigel; first version of Leben des Galilei (Life of Galileo) completed
1939 Brecht and family forced in April to move to Stockholm, Sweden, with the growing Nazi pressure on neighboring Denmark; Brecht's father dies; Was kostet das Eisen? (What's the Price of Iron) staged by Brecht and Ruth Berlau in Stockholm; Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children) completed, opens in Zurich in 1941, starring Therese Giehse
1940 Brecht and family forced to move to Finnland by the advance of the Nazis, first to Helsinki and later to the country estate of the writer Hella Wuolijoki; Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (The Good Person of Szechwan) completed; first version of Das Verhör des Lukullus (The Trial of Lucullus) completed; Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti) written together with Wuolijoki; writes Flüchtlingsgespräche (Conversations among Exiles)
1941 Brecht, his family, Steffin, and Berlau travel via Moscow and Vladivostok to San Pedro (the port of Los Angeles); Margarete Steffin dies of tuberculosis in Moscow; Brecht meets Charles Chaplin and other Hollywood luminaries, including Fritz Lang; works on Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui), first staged in 1958 in Stuttgart
1942 Brecht meets other German exiles in Los Angeles (Arnold Schönberg, Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Thomas Mann, etc.); work on screenplays (including for the Fritz Lang production Hangmen also Die)
1943 trip to New York City where he meets with Erwin Piscator, Wieland Herzfeld, Ernst Bloch, George Grosz, W.H. Auden, etc.; work with Lion Feuchtwanger on Die Gesichte der Simone Machard (The Visions of Simone Machard) for which the film rights are sold to MGM (never produced), first staged in Frankfurt am Main in 1957; Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg (Schweyk in the Second World War) completed, first staged in German in Erfurt, 1958
1944 Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (The Caucasian Chalk Circle) completed, first staged in English (in Eric Bentley's translation) at Carleton College in Minnesota in 1948 and in German by Brecht himself at the Berliner Ensemble in 1954; Brecht and W. H. Auden work on an adaptation of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, opens at the Barrymore Theatre in New York City in October 1946
1947 opening of Life of Galileo with Charles Laughton in Los Angeles (translation by Brecht and Laughton), first German staging in the Kammerspiele in Cologne, 1955; interrogation by the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) in Washington, D.C.; Brecht leaves the USA on the next day for Switzerland
1948 Brecht adapts Sophocles' Antigone (in Hölderlin's translation) and directs it together with Caspar Neher at the Chur Theatre, starring Helene Weigel; he is also involved in the production of Puntila at the Zurich Schauspielhaus; Brecht moves to East Berlin; Kalendergeschichten (Tales from the Calendar), Brecht's first postwar publication in Germany, appears
1949 Brecht establishes the Berliner Ensemble (housed at the Deutsches Theater) and produces Mutter Courage, starring Helene Weigel; Tage der Commune (Days of the Commune) completed for a Zurich production (never realized), first staged in Karl-Marx-Stadt (East Germany) in 1957
1950 Brecht becomes an Austrian citizen; Brecht directs the adaptation of J.M.R. Lenz's Der Hofmeister (The Tutor), prepared by Brecht, Ruth Berlau, Caspar Neher, Egon Monk and Benno Besson
1953 Brecht is elected President of the German PEN Center; Turandot oder der Kongreß der Weißwäscher (Turandot); Brecht completes the poetry cycle Buckower Elegien (Buckow Elegies)
1954 Berliner Ensemble moves to the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm; first international tour to Paris where the Berliner Ensemble's production of Mutter Courage caused a sensation and catapulted Brecht into the position of the most important European director; Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt am Main (West Germany) and Aufbau Verlag (East Berlin) begin publishing the edition of Brecht's works
1955 Brecht accepts the Stalin prize in Moscow (he requests that Boris Pasternak translate his acceptance speech); Berliner Ensemble on tour in Paris for the second time, with Der kaukasische Kreidekreis; Brecht falls ill
1956 rehearsals of Leben des Galilei under Brecht's direction and preparation of the Berliner Ensembles tour to London with that production; on August 14, Brecht dies of heart failure; on August 17, he is buried in the Dorotheenfriedhof in Berlin

Selected Bibliography

I. English-language memoirs on Brecht:
Bentley, Eric. The Brecht Memoir. New York: PAJ Publications. 1985.
Berlau, Ruth. Living for Brecht: The Memoirs. Edited by Hans Bunge, translated by Geoffrey Skelton. New York: Fromm, 1987.
Münsterer, Hans Otto. The Young Brecht. Translated and introduction by Tom Kuhn and Karen J. Leeder. London: Libris, 1992.
Witt, Hubert,ed. Brecht as They Knew Him. Translated by John Peet. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1975. (contributions by Lenya, Hauptmann, Berlau, Eisler, Hurwicz, Dessau, Neher, etc.)

II. English-language biographies of Brecht:
Esslin, Martin. Brecht: A Choice of Evils. Revised edition. New York and London: Methuen, 1984.
Ewen, Frederic. Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art and His Times. New York: Citadel, 1967.
Fuegi, John. Bertolt Brecht: Chaos, According to Plan. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Fuegi, John. Brecht and Company: Sex, Politics and the Making of the Modern Drama. New York: Grove Press, 1994.
Hayman, Ronald. Brecht: A Biography. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1983.
Lyon, James K. Bertolt Brecht in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
Völker, Klaus. Brecht: A Biography. Translated by John Nowell. London and Boston: Marion Boyars, 1979.
Völker, Klaus. Brecht Chronicle. Translated by Fred Wieck. New York: Seabury, 1975.

III. German-language biographies of Brecht:
Berg, Günther and Wolfgang Jeske, Bertolt Brecht (Stuttgart und Weimar: Metzler, 1998).
Hecht, Werner. Brecht Chronik 1898-1956. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997.
Mittenzwei, Werner. Das Leben des Bertolt Brecht oder Der Umgang mit den Welträtseln. 2 vols. Reprint of 1986 edition. Berlin: Aufbau, 1998.
Schumacher, Ernst and Renate. Leben Brechts in Wort und Bild. Berlin: Henschel, 1978.


Return to the International Brecht Society Main Page.

Last Updated:

© International Brecht Society 1999
All rights reserved.
Site created: January 15, 1997.