In Vienna in 1980, our study-abroad group went to see Bertolt Brech’s play The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis). (Fun fact: This play just happened to have its World Premiere at my alma mater – Carleton College – in the theater in the basement of the first dorm I lived in.)
B is working on his PhD and is writing about Brecht’s time in Santa Monica in the 1940s (among other things), so visiting the playwright/poet/theater director’s final apartment appeared near the top of our list of Berlin sights.
One can only see the apartment with a tour guide, limited to 8 people, and when we arrived, I asked if there was a tour in English. There was, just by asking the tour guide. Three other women joined us at the last moment, and they were kind enough to agree to having the tour in English, so we were good to go.
No photos were allowed, so I can’t show you the shelves and shelves of books (about 4,000), nor how big the sitting room was, but this webpage has a photo.
Before the tour, I actually knew very little about Brecht. (Sorry, Anne, if you taught us about him. If you did, I have no recollection.) He lived with his second wife, Helene Weigel, an actress, in this flat in East Berlin after the war. Most people living in East Berlin did not have large apartments, but Brecht persuaded the government to allow his living in such a fine place because important people from other countries would be visiting him, and what would it say to them if he only had a regular, small place to show them?
Brecht and Weigel, instead of divorcing because of their less-than-stellar marriage, lived on different floors of the flat until his death. She moved to the ground floor at that time and created the Brecht Archive, and the apartment has never changed hands since. Even the newspapers that Brecht read on the day of his death still sit on his bedside table.
Brecht and Weigel are buried in the cemetery next door.