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Helene Weigel

WEIGEL, HELENE (1900–1971), actress and intendant of the Berliner Ensemble. Born in Vienna, she went to Frankfurt after her training and later to Berlin, where she was taught by Max Reinhardt and appeared at the Volksbühne and at the Deutsches Theater.

In the early 1920s she met Bertolt Brecht. The couple married in 1929 and had two children. Weigel inspired the female figures in her husband's work and played them on stage. In 1933 the family emigrated to the United States (via Prague, Vienna, Paris, Switzerland and Scandinavia), where Weigel dedicated herself to her family.

A year after the family's return from the U.S. in 1947, Weigel played the main character in the world première of Brecht's Die Antigone des Sophokles in Switzerland. In the same year the couple went to East Berlin. In 1949 Weigel became intendant of the newly established Berliner Ensemble, which she and Brecht led to an international reputation.

In 1950 Weigel was a founding member of the Deutsche Akademie der Künste (German Academy of Arts) in East Berlin. In 1954 she ran as a candidate of the SED for the Berlin parliament. Three times (1949, 1953, 1960) she was awarded with the National Prize of the GDR. She also received the "Vaterländischer Verdienstorden in Silber" (Patriotic Order of Merit in Silver) and the "Clara-Zetkin-Medal."


W. Hecht, Helene Weigel… (2000); C. Herold, Mutter des Ensembles. Helene Weigel… (2001); S. Kebir, Abstieg in den Ruhm. Helene Weigel… (2000); Munzinger, Internationales Biographisches Archiv 31 (1971).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.