Helene Weigel

Helene Weigel (12 May 1900  6 May 1971)[1] was a distinguished German actress and artistic director. She was the second wife of Bertolt Brecht and was married to him from 1930 until his death in 1956. Together they had two children.

Helene Weigel
Weigel in 1967, as "Mother" in Bertolt Brecht's play The Mother
Helene Weigel

(1900-05-12)12 May 1900
Died6 May 1971(1971-05-06) (aged 70)
  • Actress
  • Artistic director
Spouse(s)Bertolt Brecht

Personal life

Weigel was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, the daughter of Leopoldine (née Pollak) and Siegfried Weigel, an accountant-general in a textile factory[1]. Her family was Jewish.[1] She and husband Brecht had two children, Stefan Brecht and Barbara Brecht-Schall. Weigel was a Communist Party member from 1930.[1]


Weigel became the artistic director of the Berliner Ensemble after Brecht's death in 1956. She is most noted for creating several Brecht roles, including: Pelagea Vlassova, The Mother of 1932; Antigone in Brecht's version of the Greek tragedy; the title role in his civil war play, Señora Carrar's Rifles; and the iconic Mother Courage.

Between 1933 and 1947, as a refugee from Adolf Hitler's Germany, she was seldom able to pursue her acting craft, even during the family's six-year stay in Los Angeles. It was only with the foundation of the Berliner Ensemble in East Germany in 1949 that Brecht's theatre began to be recognised worldwide. She died in 1971, still at the helm of the company, and many of the roles that she created with Brecht are still in the theatre's repertoire today.


Weigel died in East Berlin on 6 May 1971, six days before her 71st birthday[1].


  1. "Helene Weigel | Jewish Women's Archive". Jwa.org. Retrieved 1 January 2013.

Notable understudies

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