Brecht HUAC hearing (1947-10-30) transcript

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Brecht HUAC hearing (1947-10-30) transcript

This is a transcript of some excerpts of the HUAC hearing of Bertolt Brecht on Oct 30, 1947. It is taken from an audio recording posted at wikimedia commons. Please see Brecht HUAC hearing (1947-10-30).ogg at Wikimedia Commons for more information.

The speakers are as follows:

Brecht - Bertolt Brecht

Thomas - HUAC Chairman J. Parnell Thomas (Republican, New Jersey)

Stripling - HUAC Chief Investigator Robert E. Stripling

Baumgardt - Translator David Baumgardt [1]

Other HUAC members present were US Congress members John McDowell, Richard Vail, John Wood, and probably Richard Nixon [2]

Listen to this text (help | file info or download)

Stripling - How long have you known Johannes Eisler?

Brecht - I think since uh, middle of the twenties. Uh, twent, twenty years or so.

Stripling - Have you collaborated with him on a number of works?

Brecht - Yeah

Stripling - Uh, Mr. Brecht are you a member of the Communist party or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?

Brecht - May I read my statement?

( Audience murmur )

Brecht - I'll answer his question, may I read, but may I read my statement?

Stripling - Uh, would you submit your statement to the chairman please.

( Apparent Cut. 0:39 )

Thomas - Mr. Brecht, the committee has carefully gone over this statement. It's a very interesting story of uh, German life, but it's not at all pertinent to this inquiry. Therefore we do not care to have you read the statement.

Stripling - Now I'll I'll repeat the original question. Uh, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party of -any- country.

Brecht - Mr. Chairman I have heard uh my colleagues uh, uhh, and they consider this question not as proper, but, I am a guest in this country and do not want to enter in any legal argument, so I will answer your question fully, as well I can. I was not a member, or am not a member, of any Communist party.

Stripling - You..

Unidentified voice (interrupting) - Your answer then is that you have never been a member of the Communist party

Brecht - That is correct

Stripling - You, you were not a member of the Communist party for Germany?

Brecht - No I was not

( Pause )

Stripling - Uh, Mr. Brecht... is it true that you have written a number of very revolutionary poems, plays, and other writings?

Brecht - I am uh written a number of poems, songs, and plays, in the fight against Hitler, and, of course, they can be considered, therefore, as revolutionary, cause, I, of course, was for the overthrow, of that government.

Unidentified voice - Mr. Stripling, we're not interested in

Stripling - Yeah

Unidentified voice - any works that he might of written, uh, going for the overthrow of Germany,

Stripling - Yes, I,

Unidentified voice - the government there

Stripling - Uh well, from the examination of the works which Mr. Brecht has written, particularly in collaboration with Mr. Hanns Eisler, uh he seems to be a person of international importance to the, Communist revolutionary movement. Now Mr. Brecht, uh, is it true, do you know whether or not you have written articles, for

( Gavel bangs three times )

Thomas - There's gonna be another fall here pretty soon so will you boys just, sit down quietly please, while we're ... (murmur from audience)... Go ahead

Stripling - Have you written articles, uh which have appeared in, uh, publications in the Soviet zone, of Germany?

Brecht - I.. do..

Stripling (interrupting) - in the past few months?

Brecht - I have, no, I do not remember to have written such articles, I have not seen any of them printed, I have not written such articles, just now. I write very few articles, if any.

Stripling - I have here Mr. Chairman a document which I'll hand to the translator and ask him to, uh, to uh identify for the committee, and to refer to an article which appears on page 72.

Unidentified voice - When did he write that? You want me to...

Brecht - Oh, may I speak to that, to that uh publication?

Stripling - Beg pardon?

Brecht - My I explain this uh

Stripling - Yes we, we will identify the publication

Brecht - Oh yes, that uh is not an article, that is a scene out of a play I wrote, in, I think 19.. 30... 7, or 1938, in Denmark. The play is uh called, Private Life of the Master Race [3], and this scene is one of the scenes out of this play about the Jewish, woman, in Berlin, the year of 36 or 37. It uh was I see printed in this magazine Ost und West.

Stripling - Uh Mr. Translator would you uh translate the frontpiece of the, magazine please.

Baumgardt - East and West; Contributions to Cultural and Political Questions of the time. Edited by Alfred Kantorowicz

Unidentified voice - How do you spell it

Translator - K a n t o r o w i c z. Berlin, July, 19 hundred 47, First uh year of publication and price.

Stripling - Uh Mr. Brecht, do you know the gentleman who is the, editor of the publication whose name was just read?

Brecht - Yes, I know him from Berlin, and I met him in New York again.

Stripling - Do you know him to be a member of the Communist party of Germany?

Brecht - Uh when I met him in Germany I, think a, he was a journalist in the Ullstein Press, that is a, not a, not a Communist, uh, was not, Communist, there were no Communist art, uh, papers, though I do not know exactly, whether he was a member of the Communist party of Germany.

Stripling - You don't know whether he was a member of the Communist party or not.

Brecht - I don't know, no, have no... I don't know.

( Apparent Cut. 7:05 )

Stripling - Uh Mr. Brecht, uh, could you tell the committee how many times you've been to Moscow?

Brecht - Yeah. I was in, was invited to Moscow, uh, two times.

Stripling - Who invited you.

Brecht - Uh, was uh, the first time I, was invited, uh, by, by WOKS, that is name a cultural, it's an organization for cul, cultural exchange uh.. Uh, I was invited to show a, a picture, a documentary picture, I had, had to have made in Berlin.

Stripling - What was the name of that picture.

Brecht - Uh, the name is uh, uh the name of a suburb of Berlin, Kuhle Wampe.[4]

Unidentified voice - Can you spell that please

Brecht - K U H L E ... W A M P E

Stripling - Uh, while you in Berlin, did you meet, I mean, pardon me, while in Moscow did you meet Sergei T r e t y a k o v. T r e t y a k o v. Tretyakov.

Brecht - Uhh uhh Tretyakov, yeah, that is, yeah, that is a, a, Russian playwright. Yes

Stripling - Right

Brecht - Yes. He translated, uh, some of my, poems, and I think one play.

Stripling - Uh, Mr. Chairman, International Literature number 5, 1937, uh, published by the State Literary Art Publishing house in Moscow, had an article by Sergei Tretyakov, leading Soviet writer, an interview he had with Mr. Brecht. On page 6 it states, quote, I was a member of the, this is, he's quoting Mr. Brecht,

I was a member of the Augsburg revolutionary committee, Brecht continues, Nearby in Munich, Levine raised the banner of Soviet power. Augsburg lived in the reflected glow of Munich. The hospital was the only militant unit in the town. It elected me to the revolutionary committee, end quote.

Tretyakov continues,

He wrote Drum at Night. This work contains echoes of the revolution. The work was a scathing satire on those who had deserted the revolution. His play, Das Manahme[5], the first of Brecht's plays on a communist theme, is arranged like a court, where the characters try to justify themselves for having killed a comrade.
When he visited Moscow in 1932, Brecht told me his plan to organize a theater in Berlin, which would re-enact the most interesting trials in the history of mankind, for example, the trial of Karl Marx. The story of economics brought Brecht to Marx and Lenin, whose works became an indispensable part of his library. Brecht studies and quotes Lenin, Lenin as a great thinker and as a great master of prose. According to Brecht, the theater should act on the spectator's intellect. The traditional drama portrays a struggle of class inst. . instincts. Brecht demands that the struggle of class instincts be replaced by the struggle of social consciousness, of social conviction. He maintains that the situation must not only be felt, but explained, crystallized into the idea which will overturn the world.
Brecht the artist has an extremely broad and varied range. He has composed many ballads, songs, and choruses on the subject of revolutionary ruthlessness. His book shelf however contains books of science and action and Lenin.

Do you recall that interview Mr. Brecht?

Brecht - No.

( Pause )

( Audience laughter )

Brecht - Must have been written twenty years ago or so I ...

Stripling - I'll show you the magazine Mr. Brecht

Brecht - Yeah. I do not doubt I was, was at that interview. I do not recall, Mr. Stripling I do not recall the interview in itself, I think it is a, more or less, uh, journalistic, uh.. (aside to translator),

Baumgardt - Summary make-up.

Brecht - A summary of, of uh, of talks or discussions about many things

Stripling (interrupting) - Have

Brecht - made by Tretyakov

Stripling - Have many of your writings been based on the philosophy of Lenin, Marx?

Brecht - No, I don't think that is quite correct. And uh, but of course, uh I studied, uh had to study as a playwright, I think, who wrote historical plays, I of course had to study to study uh, uh Marx's ideas about history. I do not think that, uh, intelligent plays toda. . today can be written without uh that study. Also history, now, is uh, written now, is widely influenced by this, by the studies of Marx about history

( Apparent Cut. 13:06 )

Stripling - Uh Mr. Brecht uh since you have been in the United States have you met with any officials of the Soviet government?

Brecht - Yes... yes, in uh, in uh, Hollywood I was invited, sometimes, three or four times, there uh to the, Soviet Consulate, with of course with many other w

Stripling (interrupting) - Who others, what others

Brecht - What?

Stripling - What others

Brecht - With other writers, and artists, and uh, and uh, actors, to uh, they gave, uh, some uh receptions, uh, at uh special Soviet (aside to translator)

Baumgardt - festivities

Brecht - Yeah festivities

Stripling - Did any uh officials of the Soviet government ever come and visit you?

Brecht - I don't think so

Stripling - Uh didn't Gregory Kheifets visit you on April the 14th 1943? Vice consulate of the Soviet government? You know Gregory Kheifets don't you?

Brecht - Uh...

Unidentified voice - Watch out on this one

Brecht - I don't remember that name but I might have known him, yes.

Stripling - (raised voice) Did he come and visit you... on April the 14th, 1943

Brecht - It is quite possible

Stripling (raised voice) - And again on April the 27th, and again on June 16 1944

Brecht - That is quite possible, yes. That somebody.. I do not know uh uh, I do not remember the name but uh, but uh, somebody of the, uh of the, some of the cultural attaches, or uh, or uh,

Stripling (interrupting) - Cultural attaches

Unidentified voice - Spell the name for him

Brecht - or Vice Consul

Stripling - G r e g o r i , capital K h e i f e t s. Cap.. I'll spell the last name again. K h e i f e t s.

Brecht - Kheifets

Stripling - Yes. Do you remember Mr. Kheifets?

Brecht - I do not remember the name, but uh but it is quite poss... uh but I remember in this, in, I remember that uh, that uh, that from the... I think from the, yes, from the consulate, from the Russian consulate, uh... some people visited me, not but not only this man, only also I think Consul once, but I do not remember his name either.

Stripling - What was the nature of his business?

Brecht - He uh, it must have been, uh about, about uh, uh my literary connections with uh, with uh, German writers, uh, some of them are friends of mine.

Stripling - German writers

Brecht - Yeah in Moscow

Stripling - In Moscow

Brecht - Yeah. And uh there appeared in the Staats Verlag in Soviet Union translations of my plays for instance uh this uh Private Life of the Master Race, and Galileo, and a novel, the Penny for the Poor, and poems and so.

Stripling - Did uh Gerhart Eisler, Gerhart Eisler ever visit you. Not Hanns, but Gerhart.

Brecht - Yeah I met Gerhart Eisler too. He is the brother of Hanns, and he visited me with Hanns, and then three or four times with uhh without Hanns.

Stripling - Uh could you tell us in what year he visited you? Wasn't it

Brecht - uh

Stripling - the same year that Mr. Kheifets visited you?

Brecht - I don't, I di - do not know, but uh there is no connection, I ca..

Stripling (interrupting) - Do you recall him visiting you on January the 17th, 1944?

Brecht - No I do not reca, call this date. But he might have visit me, visited me on this date.

Stripling - Uh where did he visit you?

Brecht - Now, uh, he, used to ask for his brother, who, as I told you is a old friend of mine, and we, played some games of chess too, and we spoke about politics.

Stripling - About politics

Brecht - Yeah

Unidentified voice - What was that last answer I didn't get the last answer

Stripling - They spoke about politics.

Stripling - In any of your, conversations with Gerhart Eisler, uh did you discuss, the German Communist movement?

Brecht - Yeah

Stripling - in Germany?

Brecht - Yeah we spoke about, uh, of course, about uh German politics. He, he is a specialist in that. He is a politician.

Stripling - He is a politician.

Brecht - So he, yeah. He knew, he of course knew very much more than I knew about the situation in Germany

( Apparent Cut. 18:40 )

Stripling - Mr. Brecht since you have been in the United States have you contributed articles to the, to any Communist publications in the United States?

Brecht - I don't think so, no

Stripling - Uh are you familiar with the magazine New Masses[6]?

Brecht - No

Stripling - You never heard of it?

Brecht - Yes, of course.

Stripling - Did you ever contribute anything to it?

Brecht - No.

Stripling - Did they ever publish any of your works?

Brecht - That I do not know. They m, might have published some po, uh some translation of a poem. But uh I had no uh direct connections,

Stripling - Did you...

Brecht - not in the sense you meant.

Stripling - Did you collaborate with Hanns Eisler in song uh In Praise of Learning?

Brecht - Yeah, uh collaborate, I wrote that song, he only wrote the music.

Stripling - You wrote, you wrote the song.

Brecht - I wrote the song.

Stripling - Would you uh, would you recite to the committee the words of that song?

Brecht - Yeah I would. May I point out that that song is, is a, is... comes from, an, an adaptation I made of uh Gorky's novel The Mother, and in, in this song a Russian worker woman

Stripling (interrupting) - What

Brecht - advises other poor people

Stripling - Uh, it was produced in this country wasn't it

Brecht - Yes,

Stripling - uh

Brecht - 35, New York

Stripling - Yes. Now I'll read the words, ans ask you if this is true

Brecht - Please

Stripling -

  Learn now the simple truth
  You for whom the time has come at last
  It is not too late
  Learn now the ABC
  It is not enough but learn it still
  Fear not, be not downhearted
  Again, you must learn the lesson
  You must be ready to take over
  You must -

Brecht (interrupting) - No, uh, excuse me that is the wrong translation

( Audience laughter )

Brecht - Uh, uh, that is not the right, just one second I give you the correct text.

Stripling - That's not a correct translation?

Brecht - That is not correct, no. As to the meaning it is not correct as to the meaning. It is not very beautiful but I am not speaking about that.


Stripling - Well what does it mean

Brecht - No

Stripling - Well here is the uh, I have here the uh, Songs of the People, uh which was issued by the Communist party of the United States, published by the Worker's Library Publishers. Page 24 says In Praise of Learning

Brecht - Yeah

Stripling - by Bert Brecht, Music by Hanns Eisler. And it says here, uh, "You must be ready to take over. Learn it, men on the dole, learn it, men in the prisons, learn it women in the kitchens, learn it men of 65. . . you must be ready to take over"

Brecht (interrupting) - Here, may I, may I speak, the translator...

Stripling - And, uh, goes right on through. That's the, that's the chorus of it...

Brecht (interrupting) - Mr Strip... yeah...

Stripling - "You must be ready to take over."

Brecht - Mr Stripling maybe the translator might...

Baumgardt - The correct translation would be "you must take the lead".

Unidentified voice - "You must take the lead"

Baumgardt - The lead. It definitely says lead. It's the same word as the leader Hitler or something like that. It is not "take over". ( crosstalk, unintelligible ) The translation is not a literal translation of the German text I see here.

Stripling - Well Mr Brecht, uh, as it has been published in these uh, publications of the Communist party, then is that incorrect? What did you mean?

Brecht - I do not remember to have, uh, I do, I never got that book, myself. I must not have been in the country when it was published - I think it was published as a song, of uh, one of the songs Eisler has written the music to. I did not give any permission to, to publish it. I did not see, I think I never saw the translation, uh

Stripling - Well do you, do you have, do you have the words

(crosstalk, unintelligible)

Brecht - In German, yes

Stripling - Of the song as it appears

Brecht - Oh yes, it's in the book

Stripling - not as it was originally written

(crosstalk, unintelligible)

Stripling - Ah, it goes on, "you must be ready to take over, you must be ready to take over, don't hesitate to ask"

Brecht - Y..

Stripling - "questions, comrade"

Brecht - y..

Stripling - Is that, is that in there? "Don't hesitate to ask questions comrade"?

(aside to translator)

Brecht - Why not, uh why not let the tra, uh, uh.. uh, why not let, let uh him, uh translate from the German word for word?


Baumgardt - I am mainly interested in translation of this refrain which comes back and back, which is the end...

Thomas - I can't understand the interpreter any more than I can understand (unintelligible)

( Audience laughter )

Baumgardt - Mr Chairman I apologize (crosstalk)

Thomas - If you just speak in that microphone maybe we can make out a little bit better.

Baumgardt - The last line, of our three verses, is uh correctly to be translated, "you must take over the lead", and not "you must" uh "take over". "You must take the lead", would be the best, uh correct, most accurate translation.

( Apparent Cut. 24:00 )

Thomas - Some people did ask you to join the Communist party, didn't they?

Brecht - uhh..

Unidentified voice - Was it in Germany or (unintelligble)

Brecht - In Germany, you mean in Germany?

Thomas - No I mean in the United States.

Brecht - No no no no.

Thomas - Now you let, you let him, he's doing allright. He's doing much better than the other witnesses that you brought here.

( Audience Laughter )

Thomas - You don't ever recall anyone in the United States ever asking you to join the Communist party?

Brecht - No I don't recall any body having asked me.

Thomas - Mr. McDowell do you have any questions

McDowell - No, I have no questions.

Thomas - Mr. Vail

Vail - No questions.

Thomas - Mr. Stripling do you have any more questions?

Stripling - I would like to ask uh Mr. Brecht whether or not he wrote, a poem, a song rather entitled "Forward, We've Not Forgotten".

Unidentified voice - Forward we've what?

Stripling - Forward, we've not forgotten.

Brecht - Uh, I do not uh, recognize the English title maybe. Can I see?

Stripling - Would you translate it for him into German?

Brecht - Oh now I re- , yes, I know, yes (crosstalk)

Stripling - You wrote that. Are you familiar with the words to that?

Brecht - That is, yes, that is, yeah.

Stripling - Uh would the committee like me to read that?

Thomas - There is no objection, so ordered.

Stripling -

  Forward, we've not forgotten
  Our strength in the fights we have won
  No matter what may threaten
  Forward, not forgotten
  How strong we are as one
  Only these our hands now aching
  Built the roads, the walls, the towers
  All the world is of our making
  What of it-- What, of it can we call ours

  The refrain

  Forward, march on to power
  Through the city, the land, the world
  Forward, advance the hour
  Just whose city is the city?
  Just whose world is the world?

  Forward, we've not forgotten
  Our union, in hunger and pain
  No matter what may threaten
  Forward, not forgotten
  We have a world to gain

  We shall free the world of shadow
  Every shop and every room
  Every road and every meadow
  All the world will be our own

Did you write that Mr. Brecht?

Brecht - No, uh I wrote a German poem, but that is very different

( Audience Laughter )

Brecht - from this thing.

( Audience Laughter )

Stripling - Uh... that's all the questions I have Mr. Chairman.

( End. 26:14 )

External links[edit]


  1. Loren Kruger. Post-imperial Brecht. p. 36. ISBN 0521817080. 
  2. Dr. Steven Schoenherr. "HUAC Hearings 1947". University of San Diego History Department. Retrieved 2009-01-30. Dr Steven Schoenherr, University of San Diego History Department, HUAC Hearings 1947
  3. Private Life of the Master Race, aka Fear and Misery of the Third Reich
  4. Kuhle Wampe
  5. Die Maßnahme
  6. New Masses

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

(More precisely, it is a transcript of a US government audio recording)