Wei Gel, Helene

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wei Gel, Helene


Born May 12, 1900, in Vienna; died May 6, 1971, in Berlin. German actress. Wife of B. Brecht.

Weigel studied acting under the actor R. Schildkraut. In 1918 she made her debut at the New Theater in Frankfurt am Main. Between 1923 and 1932 she appeared at the most important theaters in Berlin. Her gift for acting was revealed to the fullest in Brecht’s plays; she became one of the best interpreters of the characters in his dramas. She performed in Brecht’s plays Drums in the Night, In the Jungle of the Cities, Happy End, The Measures Taken, and Man Equals Man. Weigel gained special renown for her performance in the role of Pelageia Vlasova in Brecht’s play The Mother (1932) based on M. Gorky’s novel. In 1958 she played this role in a film production of the play. In 1933, Weigel and her family emigrated from fascist Germany. In Paris she played Teresa Carrar in Brecht’s Señora Carrar’s Rifles (1937) and in Copenhagen, the Jewish Woman in Brecht’s antifascist play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich (1938). After returning to East Berlin in 1948, Weigel, together with Brecht, organized the Berliner Ensemble Theater, where she created a number of outstanding characters in Brecht’s plays—for example, Mother Courage in Mother Courage and Her Children and Volumnia in Brecht’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. She also played the leading role in Frau Flinz by the contemporary German playwright H. Baierl.

Weigel’s art was characterized by clarity of conception, social fervor, great inner emotion, and a graphically defined, at times extremely original, portrayal of her roles. A refined humor penetrated her performance, even when she was portraying profoundly tragic characters.

Weigel was a founder and member of the German Academy of Arts of the German Democratic Republic. She won the National Prize of the GDR in 1949, 1953, and 1960. She became a professor in 1960.


Die Schauspielerin Helene Weigel. Published by W. Pintzka. Berlin, 1959.
Wekwerth, M. Nótate zur Arbeit des Berliner Ensembles, 1956-1966. Berlin-Weimar, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.