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Exiled German-speaking intellectuals in Southern California: Bertolt Brecht

During the 1930s and 1940s, many German Jews and intellectuals fled Nazi Germany. This LibGuide provides information about German-speaking intellectuals who found refuge in Southern California

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)


Bertolt Brecht's years in Southern California: 1941-1947.


Bertolt Brecht was one of the most important German writers and playwrights of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known for his collaborative work Die Dreigroschenoper (The Three Penny Opera) with composer Kurt Weill. In Berlin during the 1920s Brecht worked with theater directors Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator; he also collaborated with composers Weill, Hindemith and Eisler to create a form he called "Lehrstücke" ("exemplary plays"). All of these artists would later flee from Europe and live for a time in the United States.

Brecht's political and satrical writing made him an early enemy of the National Socialists. Brecht escaped first to Switzerland, then to Scandinavia. With financial help from his friend and fellow exile, Lion Feuchtwanger, Brecht was able to come to the United States.

Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel first lived briefly in Hollywood on 1954 Argyle Avenue, then moved to this house on 817 25th Street in Santa Monica between 1941 and 1942.

For the rest of his stay until 1947, Brecht lived at 1063 26th Street. In his August 12th (1942) diary entry Brecht described this house in this way: "one of the oldest, is about 30 years old, california clapboard, whitewashed, with an upper floor with 4 bedrooms. i have a long workroom (almost 7 meters), which we immediately whitewashed and equipped with 4 tables. there are old trees in the garden (a pepper-tree and a fig-tree). rent is $60 per month, $12.50 more than in 25th street."


Brecht had great difficulties in this country owing to his theatrical philosophy and political views. One success, however, was his production of "The Life of Galileo" ("Leben des Galilei") on which he was assisted by the well-known British actor Charles Laughton. During these years Brecht and Feuchtwanger collaborated on a play called the "Die Gesichte der Simone Marchard" ("The Visions of Simone Machard") which was not produced until after Brecht's death.


Bertolt Brecht. Bertolt Brecht journals. Translated by Hugh Rorrison. New York : Routledge, 1993.


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Michaela Ullmann
Michaela Ullmann Head, Instruction & Assessment