1953: Uprising

 

Mid-June 1953: Russian tanks in the ruins of East Berlin, brought in to suppress the uprising of East German workers against the raising of work norms.

The GDR raised work norms in early June 1953, which meant in effect that the workers had to produce more, or face a pay cut.  Constructions works in East Berlin struck on the June 16th. 

 

The regime was not popular: the GDR's economic plan was closely modeled on that of the Soviet Union and favored heavy industry over food and consumer goods.  In addition, many East Germans were simply up and leaving, taking one of the commuter line trains across to West Berlin and applying for refugee status. There were many political prisoners. 

 

Communists blamed provications of the West, such as the broadcasts from West Berlin's RIAS station for inciting the actions, which may have indeed increased the numbers of people on the streets, but the uprising was really basically fueled by the anger and despair of the GDR's own populace, some of whom carried large signs calling for Germany-wide elections and the overthrowal of communism.

 

The regime was surprised by this outpouring of anger, and resorted to having the Soviet occupation forces bring its tanks to bear on the striking workers, a move that together with the actions of theVolkspolitzei, suppressed the uprising.  Brecht knew along with everyone else that the regime was to blame, but believed that the West had a heavy hand in the workers' actions, a belief not borne out by examined history.

 

(For more, see the section on the uprising on the Long Bio page)

 

Click on title for German original


A Bad Morning

After the uprising of June 17th,
The secretary of the writer's union
Had flyers handed out in Stalin Allee
In which it was stated that the people
Had trifled with the trust of the government
And could only win it back
By doubling its output.  Wouldn't it
Be much simpler,  if the government
Were to dissolve the people
And elect another?

 
 

Click on title for German original

Groceries With a Goal

Leaning on cannon,
The sons of MacCarthy are distributing lard.
And in an endless caravan, on wheels and on foot
A mass migration out of the inmost parts of Saxony.

When the calf has been neglected
It makes its way to any coaxing hand, even
To that of its butcher.

 

(1953)

 

The USA distributed groceries to East Germans, basically

to attract them to the west. True, the food situation in East Germany was not good, due to a number of causes. One packet contained 1 kilo of flour, 800 g. of lard, 500 g. of beans/lentils and 4 cans of milk.  Many East Germans went to West Berlin to receive their packet, many from considerable distances.  The millionth packet was  handed out on August 1, 1953)

Click on title for German orginal

Wheel change

I am sitting at the side of the road.
The driver is putting on the spare.
I don't like it back where I came from.
I don't like it there where I am headed.
Why am I watching this wheel change
With impatience?

(1953) Buckower Elegien


 

Click on title for German orginal

Sounds

Later in the fall
Great swarms of crows house in the silver poplars
But the whole summer through, I hear -
Since the region has no birds -
Only the sounds of people stirring about.
I am content with this.

Buckower Elegien (1953)


Click on title for German orginal

Old Habits Still Prevail

The plates are slammed down
so hard the soup slops over the edge.
With a shrill voice the command
resounds: Come eat!
The Prussian eagle
crams the chow into
the beaks of its youth.

(1953)


Click on title for German orginal

The New Dialect

Back when they spoke with their wives about onions
When the stores were once again empty
They still understood the sighs, the curses, the jokes
That made the unbearable life
In the depths somehow liveable.
Now
They are in charge and they speak a new dialect
Understandable only among themselves, a jargon
Spoken with a threatening and pompous tone
That fills the stores - that still has no onions.
Those who hear the new jargon
Lose their appetite.
Those who speak it
Lose their hearing.
 


Click on title for German orginal

 

The One Armed Man in the Woods

Dripping with sweat, he bends down
Over the skinny branches. He shakes
His head to ward off the mosquitos. Between
His knees,
He laboriously bundles the stove wood.  Groaning,
He stands upright, raises his hand to feel
If it is raining.  Raises his hand,
the dreaded S.S. man.


Click on title for German orginal

Rowing, conversations

It is evening. Two foldboats glide by
Bearing two naked young men.  Paddling next to each other,
They talk.  Talking,
They paddle next to each other.  

(1953)


Click on title for German orginal

Eight Years Ago

There was a time
When everything was different here.
The butcher's wife knows it.
The mailman's posture is too erect.
And what was the electrician?

1953


Click on title for German orginal

A Great Age, Wasted

I knew that cities had been built.
I did not travel to them.
That belongs in the realm of statistics, I thought
Not in history.

What are cities built
Without the wisdom of the people?

(1953)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Click on title for German orginal

The Muses

When the iron man beats them
The muses just sing louder.
Their adoration shines out
Out of their blackened eyes.
Their buttocks tremble in pain
Their pudendas with desire.

 

(1953)

 

Click on title for German orginal

Iron

In my dream last night
I saw a mighty storm.
It attacked the scaffolding
And tore off the iron frame and
Threw it to the ground.
But what was made of wood
Gave a bit, bent and stayed whole.
(1953)
 

 

Click on title for German orginal

The silver poplar, known all over town
As a beauty,
Today an old hag.  The lake
A puddle of dishwater, don’t go near it.
The fuchsias under the snapdragons seem cheap and gaudy.
Why?
Last night, I dreamed that I saw fingers pointing at me
As if I were a leper. They were worn with work and
They were broken.
Ignoramuses, I screamed!
- Aware of my guilt.

 

(1953)

Click on title for German orginal

 

The Sky This Summer

A bomber is flying high over the lake.
Children, women and an old man
look upward from their row boats.  From afar
they seem like young starlings, beaks open wide
in expectation of nourishment.

(1953)

Click on title for German orginal

Reading a late Greek poet

In the days when their fate was certain
The death laments had already begun on the walls
The Trojans began to align little pieces, little pieces
In the three fold wooden gates, little pieces.
And began to take courage and good hope.

Yes, even the Trojans...

(1953)

Click on title for German orginal

THE FLOWER GARDEN

At the lake, deep among pines and silver poplar
Protected by a wall and shrubs, a garden
So wisely arranged with monthly flowers
That it blooms from March through October.

In the morning, here, not all too often, I sit
And wish for myself that I too might always
In various weathers, good or bad
Show this or another genial aspect.

(Summer 1953)

Click on title for German orginal

The Smoke

The little house beneath the trees at the lake
Smoke rising from the roof
Were it absent
How bleak would be
the house, the trees, the lake. 

 

(1953)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Click on title for German original

 

Rain in the Pine Grove

Hush.  In the woods I hear no human words
Sooner new words spoken by drops on leaves at a distance.
Listen.  The scattered clouds are raining.
It is raining on the salty, scorched tamarinds.
It is raining on the pines, scaly and rough,
It is raining on the divine myrtles, the shimmering broom bushes
The spent flowers, the dense junipers, bright. illustrious
It is raining on our god-faces.

It is raining on our naked hands, light clothing, fresh thoughts
The lovely tale that beguiled you yesterday and today beguiles me.

Rain is falling on the lonely green with a rustling that persists and
Changes in the air according to the particular density of the leaves.
Just listen.
The sigh is answered by the song of the cricket, that is not scared
Of the south-wind’s sighs nor the ashen-colored sky.
The pine has its tone, the myrtle another and juniper its own again.  
Different instruments in numberless fingers.
Divers, we, into the spirit of the forest, living the tree life.
And your drunken visage is soft from the rain, like a leaf, and your
Hair smells like the bright broom, you earthly creature.
Hear, hear.
The chord of the airy crickets dampens and goes under in the rising
Wind of sighs.

(1952/53)

 

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