Where better for a monument to Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956) than outside his theatre on Schiffbauerdamm? His Threepenny Opera was premièred here in 1928 to uproarious acclaim, and then in 1954 the Berliner Ensemble founded by Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel moved in and made this its home. Since the death of this important playwright, director and poet the theatre has been following in his theatrical tradition, and the square in front of the theatre has even been named after him since 1963.
The larger-than-life bronze statue was made by Brecht’s friend Fritz Cremer. The two met in London in 1936, and after the war their joint design for a group of figures won the competition for the Buchenwald Memorial but had to be changed several times by order of the state. It was Cremer, too, who with Gerhard Thieme made the death mask of Brecht, from which drawings, lithographs and busts were subsequently made. It may also have been the basis for the Berlin memorial statue, on which Cremer was already working from 1963 to 1968, although it was not finished and put on display until 1988 for Brecht’s 90th birthday.
Brecht sits smiling indulgently on a small bench on a large round base that recalls the revolving stage installed in the theatre by Max Reinhardt and perfected by Brecht’s wife Helene Weigel with a tank engine. With the theatre behind him, his poem ‘Questions from a Worker Who Reads’ carved into the stone slabs in front of him and quotes from his writings on the steles, the place reflects all of Brecht’s work. The place next to him on the bench is empty – leaving room perhaps for one of his many friends and companions.