Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

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Brecht's Testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1947

Brecht's Testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1947
(Originally released by Folkway Records, New York)

On 19 September 1947, writer Bertolt Brecht, who had lived in the US since 1941, was summoned to appear before the “House Committee on Un-American Activities” (HUAC). Numerous artists and intellectuals such as Hanns Eisler and Thomas Mann were called before the committee during the McCarthy-era under suspicion of being members or sympathising with the communist party. Before Brecht was subpoenaed by the committee, the American secret service had already had him under surveillance for several years. The writer was called on to answer the charge that he had sought a communist infiltration of the film industry in Hollywood. When he travelled to Washington to testify before the committee, Brecht had already booked a ticket to Europe.

In testimony, Brecht denied being a member of the communist party, but admitted that he had written revolutionary poems and plays. After a three-hour interrogation, Brecht was cleared and released. A recording, which Brecht bought in the form of a record for $ 40, was broadcast the same day on American radio stations.

Immediately after his hearing, Brecht drove from Washington to New York and listened to excerpts from his testimony on the radio together with his wife, Helene Weigel. The next day Brecht left the US and flew to Paris. A year later he declared with biting irony: “They weren't as bad as the Nazis. The Nazis never would have let me smoke. In Washington they let me have a cigar and I used it to create pauses between their questions and my answers.” (Bertolt Brecht towards Eric Bentley, 1948) (ed. trans.)

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