Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Artist's Cellar: Brecht in Berlin

The Sunday Jump: German playwright, Bertold Brecht (1898 - 1956), loved women, experimental art, and Marxism.

He escaped military service during WWI after his father suggested he sign up for a medical class at the university. By 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, Brecht left his country and began to write what became more than nine political plays against fascism and Nazi Germany. His wife, Helene Weigel, who was an accomplished actress, played the leading role in his famous Mother Courage and Her Children.

For a few years, Brecht lived in Los Angeles until the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed him. While he admitted that he'd never officially held Communist party membership, the day after his hearing he left to Switzerland.

Two years later, the Communist East German government invited him to return to Berlin and Brecht agreed. His days of writing plays eclipsed and instead he directed plays for the stage. The East Germans sought to make him their own hero, awarding him the Stalin Peace Prize in 1954. He died of a heart attack in 1958 and his wife carried on his legacy, leading the Berliner Ensemble until her death in 1971.

Today, the Keller Restaurant pays tribute to these two layered artists. Located in the cellar of the house where Bertold and Helene once invited friends for nights of carousing, it is said that Helen enjoyed cooking. The restaurant touts a menu based on Helene's signature German and Austrian dishes, including:
  • grilled knuckle of pork with fresh horseradish and white radish salad warm cabbage salad
  • cheese soup with garlic croutons
  • wiener schnitzel with mushrooms and cucumber salad
The restaurant also displays lighted dioramas along the walls, which depict the stage settings from Brecht's plays:

Today, their graves sit beside one another in the cemetery adajcent to the restaurant.

125 Chausseestrasse
10115 Berlin

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