National Geographic : 1970 Jan
Theater of politics A THE EAST'S FAMED Berliner Ensemble, the curtain rises on four wax figures, recalling Nazi Germany: Paul von Hindenburg, who named Adolf Hitler chancellor; the Fiihrer himself; Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels; and Reichs marschall Hermann Goring. The revolving stage turns; the play begins-Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Arturo, a Chicago gangster of the Depression era, extorts, blackmails, and murders his way to power, aided by corrupt capitalists. In the finale he announces plans for new conquests, and citizens vote their approval, raising both hands in total allegiance (below). Thus the German playwright recorded the rise of Hitler, using parody to destroy "the usual disastrous re spect which we feel for great murderers." So serious was the audience at the performance Mr. Sochurek attended that they complained vehemently about the click of his camera. Long popular in East Berlin, the play ran in New York in 1963 and in West Berlin in 1967. Self-exiled in 1933 to avoid the Nazis, Brecht returned to East Germany in 1949 and founded the ensemble known popu larly by his name. Since his death in 1956, his widow has directed the heavily subsidized theater; its repertoire includes 16 Brecht's well-known work The Threepenny Opera.