The resilient rise of Arturo Ui

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Title: The resilient rise of Arturo Ui
Genus: Epic theater
Original language: German
Author: Bertolt Brecht
Publishing year: 1957
Premiere: November 10, 1958
Place of premiere: Stuttgart
  • Arturo Ui ... gang boss
  • Emanuele Giri ... gangsters
  • Giuseppe Givola ... gangsters
  • Ernesto Roma ... gangsters
  • Flake, Butcher, Mulberry, Caruther, Clark ... owners of the cauliflower trust
  • Bowl ... former general manager of Sheet
  • Dogsborough ... politician
  • Dullfeet ... businessman from Cicero
  • Fish ... defendant
  • Sheet ... shipping company owner

The Temporary Ascent of Arturo Ui is a play by Bertolt Brecht , written in 1941. It can be assigned to epic theater and consists of 17 scenes. In a parable , the seizure of power and the expansion of power by Hitler are transferred to the world of gangsters. The model was the then developing gangster milieu in the USA . The main character Arturo Ui is essentially supposed to portray Adolf Hitler , but also has features of Al Capone .

It is not difficult to recognize their role models in the characters involved ( Dollfuss , Goebbels , Göring , von Hindenburg , Hitler , van der Lubbe , von Papen , Röhm ).


Walter Benjamin noted a conversation with Brecht under the year 1934 , from which it can be seen that he was dealing with Ui material. In March 1941, Brecht wrote the piece down in exile in Finland in just three weeks; after that he made no fundamental changes, apart from the end. On the last page of the manuscript, Brecht noted the date of completion and the name of the collaborator: 4/29/41 and M. Steffin.

Brecht wrote the piece with the intention that it should be performed in the USA. Brecht arrived here in July 1941. Although he made contact with Erwin Piscator and Berthold Viertel in September , it did not get to the performance. Erwin Piscator had an American translation made especially for them and received a sobering response during their test readings at the Dramatic Workshop in New York:

“[Hoffman Reynolds Hays] did a heroic act and did a translation of the 'Ui' in 8 days. I had the translation read out here and unfortunately I had little success with it. See the enclosed copy of Louis Schaffer's letter, the director of Labor Days. "

- Erwin Piscator's letter to Bertolt Brecht, October 1941

The attached copy of a letter from a Broadway producer to Piscator suggests clear disappointment with the new work. It was not until after Brecht's death that The Temporary Ascent of Arturo Ui was premiered on November 10, 1958 in Stuttgart in a production by Peter Palitzsch ; the role of Arturo Ui was played by Wolfgang Kieling . Ekkehard Schall has played Ui over 500 times since 1959 in the first GDR production for the Berliner Ensemble , which was recorded in 1974 .


The owners meet at the bank to discuss how to get out of the sales crisis in the cauliflower business. There is talk of Arturo Ui, who offered to stimulate her business through violence and threats. The Trust unanimously declines Ui's help and is hoping for a town loan for quays from the respected politician Dogsborough. However, the latter sees through that the cauliflower trust does not intend to build the quayside and rejects the application. Butcher and Flake plan an intrigue against Dogsborough.

Flake is able to convince the shipping company owner Sheet to sell his shipping company cheaply to the cauliflower trust, which is then sold on to the initially unwilling but ultimately enthusiastic Dogsborough at a ridiculous price. With the acquisition of the shipping company, Dogsborough is now a member of the trust and is therefore now enforcing a town bond for the construction of quays. The members of the cauliflower trust, including Dogsborough, are using up the loan without building quays, thus embezzling the city's funds.

Arturo Ui is on the verge of desperation because he would like to take control of the city of Chicago's vegetable trade. His lieutenant Roma suggests forcing the vegetable shop owners to pay Ui protection money. However, out of fear of the police, Ui refuses.

Ui learns that Dogsborough has embezzled the town bond and blackmailed him with the threat of exposing the scandal. He demands that Dogsborough vouch for him outside town so Ui doesn't have to fear the police.

An investigation is filed against Dogsborough. In order to cover him, the trust decides that Sheet should take the consequences of the scandal on himself. Sheet is found dead, Prosecutor O'Casey suspects and wants to know exactly about the ownership of the shipping company. O'Casey now wants to find out more about the ownership structure from Bowl, the old authorized representative of Sheet. However, he is shot on the way to court.

Arturo Ui meets with an actor who is supposed to teach him how to talk to a large number of people and make an impact on them. Ui continues to meet with some greengrocers and offer them his protection. Hook, a greengrocer, criticizes Ui. A little later it is announced that Hook's memory is on fire. It is obvious that Ui's men started the fire. The other greengrocers agree to Ui's offer of protection. The fire leads to a storage fire process. In this Fish is accused. During the trial, the suspicion falls on Ui and his gang of gangsters. However, this suspicion can be suppressed. Ui has already manipulated the court, intimidated all witnesses and brought the press under his control. So that Hook cannot testify against Ui's followers, he is beaten up between two negotiations. The defendant Fish is also manipulated: a doctor gives him water. Shortly after drinking this, he collapses. Dogsborough writes his will accusing Ui, Roma, Giri and Givola of arson and murder.

There are now power struggles among the people of Ui, Roma threatens Givola and Giri with a weapon and calls on Ui to clarify the balance of power. Ui sees himself as a leader and points out new plans, he wants to expand his influence on the suburb of Cicero. Ui's confidante Roma fears a plot against him, he arranges to meet Ui in the garage of the hotel where Ui resides. Roma and his men wait in the garage for Ui, who appears to kill Roma because he stands in his way. Givola shoots Roma who, even in death, does not realize that Ui has betrayed him. His followers are also being liquidated.

Ui meets with Betty and Ignatius Dullfeet, he wants Dullfeet's trust. Ignatius Dullfeet, however, stands up for the freedom of Cicero, veiled in the conversation it comes through that Dullfeet should be eliminated. Ultimately, Dullfeet is murdered, the trust disagrees. Ui now wants to persuade Betty Dullfeet to work together, but she refuses to cooperate. The greengrocers of Chicago and Ciceros are outraged against Ui and his actions. Betty Dullfeet, lost in despair, has now let Ui persuade her to work with her. Ui pretends to be Dullfeet's successor in a speech and wants to finally take Cicero under his protection. He announces a referendum in which the people of Cicero can determine the freedom of their territory for themselves. Arturo Ui also threatens anyone who decides against him. Because of the threats, the people of Cicero vote for him.

A woman climbs out of a shot-up truck, injured, scolding Ui and his followers and accusing them of murder. She is shot down.

In the epilogue, Brecht teaches:

"But you learn how to see, instead of staring,
and to act instead of talking still and more. Something like that
would almost have ruled the world once!
The peoples became its master, but
that none of us triumphs too early -
the womb is fertile still from which it crept. "



The time frame that establishes the relation to reality extends from 1929 to 1938, in a later version to 1941. It is about the rise of Adolf Hitler until he came to power in Austria. Brecht used the parabolic form to represent the individual stages of Hitler's rise to power in Germany.

With the help of the epic theater and its alienation effects , Brecht was able to write and present his play, which he himself described as a "historical farce" (= a crude comic work with a historical background), in such a way that he could describe Hitler's brutal approach to the citizens, as well as to make the audience think about what has happened at the end of the piece. The recipient / viewer should not go into the theater and get carried away by events, but rather form an opinion about the given situation with critical distance.

In an “afterword” to the play published in 1948, Brecht dealt with the accusation that it was not permissible to “expose great criminals to laughter”. First, according to Brecht, he did not consider Hitler a “great criminal” but a “perpetrator of great political crimes”, and secondly, the “petty-bourgeois” respect of the survivors showed how important it was to keep many people under Hitler even after 1945 I still prefer to break through laughter.

Depiction of Hitler's rise

Brecht allegorically depicts the rise of Hitler through parallels between the main character Arturo Ui and Adolf Hitler. The order follows the discourse , i. H. the plot, the play:

Arturo Ui Adolf Hitler
At the beginning Ui waits for his chance to come to power, he stands in the background and builds his power. Hitler tries to get to power “legally”, he pulls the economy on his side.
Ui takes the lead and arranges the balance of power. Opponents are eliminated, he wants to expand. He's abusing his power. Hitler turns off all his opponents, both inside and outside of the party. He takes the lead and consolidates his power. Hitler wants Austria to join the German Reich.

The role of the title "The Temporary Rise of Arturo Ui"

The title makes it clear that the rise of Arturo Ui (or, in a figurative sense, the rise of Adolf Hitler) would have been halting, i.e., prevented. In the course of the play it becomes clear that the protagonist could never have made his ascent without the clearly selfish help of other people. Favored by fortunes and fate, Hitler - like Arturo Ui - could have been stopped at many crucial stages in his rise.

The alienation

The play takes place in Chicago during the Prohibition era, although even the absurd-looking theme of a Mafia vegetable monopoly has real models . Bertolt Brecht oriented himself towards America at the time; he recognized a certain similarity to Germany between the criminal gangs and the conditions in America. With this alienation he would like to bring people closer to the connection between politics, economics and fascism.

"Wrapping serves to reveal"

- Brecht

The language is atypical for gangsters. They speak in verse (bound language, this suggests that the play belongs to epic theater) as well as in everyday language. The real Chicago gangsters probably wouldn't have put it that way. The language enhances the gangsters. Brecht uses language to gloss over and to cover up. The language of National Socialism was also used to cover up and to gloss over the plans of the Nazi regime . Examples are:

For the main character, Arturo Ui, Brecht incorporated both the biography of Hitler and the Al Capones. This manifests itself in some scenes; here some examples:

Arturo Ui takes acting classes in order to make a better impression on people. Hitler took lessons from a provincial actor to learn how to make an impact on large crowds. He learned how to sit, talk and stand correctly from the actor.

Arturo Ui resides in the Mammoth Hotel. Al Capone also resided in a hotel in Chicago. Ui extends his sphere of influence to Cicero, at that time Al Capone also expanded his illegal alcohol smuggling.

By alienating Hitler and his followers and portraying them as gangsters, Brecht wants to make them look ridiculous. Furthermore, people should lose respect for Hitler and his National Socialists. Brecht chose this story in 1941 to explain National Socialism to US citizens and to shake them up. However, the play was not premiered in the Federal Republic of Germany until 1958, two years after Brecht's death.

The people

A person from that time can be assigned to each figure from the work. However, the superficial transfer of the constellations one to one does not do justice to the piece, because on the one hand the weighting of the characters is not realistic, on the other hand important political events are not directly addressed. It is assumed that it was important to Brecht to “preserve the allusion and at the same time keep the aesthetic distance”.

Furthermore, there are places and events in the piece that stand for something:

Comparison of content and history

The events of the entire plot can be assigned to events from that time. The events are arranged according to the sequence of the scenes.

content Historical event
The cauliflower trust is economically bad, they want government bonds from Dogsborough. The global economic crisis also affects Germany, the Junkers want government bonds.
The cauliflower trust sells Sheets shipping company to Dogsborough for little money and also gives him a country house. The Junkers give Hindenburg an estate.
Ui is still in the background, unable to come to an agreement with the cauliflower trust. He wants to try to come to power legally. He learns from Bowl, the former General Manager of Sheet, that the shipping company is now owned by Dogsborough. In 1932 Hitler is facing the financial end, he and his party are threatened with dissolution. For a long time he does not manage to speak properly to Hindenburg.
Ui threatens Dogsborough with exposing the dock aid scandal, but does not allow himself to be intimidated. Hindenburg refuses Hitler the post of Reich Chancellor, Hindenburg has to reckon with the investigation of the Osthilf scandal .
Ui and his team clear all witnesses out of the way; Prosecutor O'Casey must drop the investigation into the dock aid scandal. The investigation into the Osthilfe scandal is smashed.
Ui learns from an actor in his hotel room how to act on a large crowd of people. Hitler receives lessons from a provincial actor, he learns how to influence many people.
Ui's gangsters set Hook's attic on fire, and witnesses are silenced by threats. In February 1933, the Reichstag went up in flames, Hitler accused his opponents of having started the fire.
There is a storage fire process, Fish, who is drugged, is convicted as a perpetrator. You can tell that the dish is already in the hands of Arturo Ui. The Dutchman Marinus van der Lubbe is convicted as a sole perpetrator for the fire. Since he began to burn from several sides at the same time, it cannot have been a single perpetrator.
Giri, Givola and Roma are fighting internal power struggles. Roma senses an intrigue against Ui and arranges to meet him in the hotel's garage. Hindenburg is already old and will probably die soon, power struggles arise among the National Socialists.
Ui has Roma and his followers murdered in the garage of the Mammoth Hotel. Röhm and his followers (the Sturmabteilung SA), who are in competition with the Schutzstaffel SS, are eliminated. Parallels with the Valentine's Day massacre from the story of Capone
Ui seeks Dullfeet's trust, but Dullfeet is for Cicero's freedom. The murder of Dullfeet has already been announced. Dollfuss agrees to silence the press. The press should no longer write against National Socialist Germany in order not to give Hitler a reason to invade Austria.
Dullfeet is murdered, Ui now wants to get Betty Dullfeet on his side. Dollfuss is murdered, Hitler takes care of Austria.
Ui extends his influence over Cicero after a vote that he could only win through threats. On March 11, 1938, Hitler's troops invade Austria. A referendum is then carried out to justify the “Anschluss” in retrospect.


"Ui ... is an attempt to explain Hitler's rise to the capitalist world by placing him in a familiar milieu."

- Brecht

"The lap is still fertile from which it crept."

- Brecht : from the epilogue of the drama

Book editions

  • Bertolt Brecht: The resilient rise of Arturo Ui . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1966 (edition Suhrkamp 144); ISBN 978-3-518-10144-5 (now in its 32nd edition, as of 2019)

Secondary literature

  • Bernd Matzkowski: Bertolt Brecht: The resilient rise of Arturo Ui (= King's Explanations and Materials , Volume 398). Bange , Hollfeld 1999, ISBN 3-8044-1667-5 .
  • Gizela Kurpanik-Malinowska: Totalitarianism in Germany and Brecht's parable piece “The halting rise of Arturo Ui”, in: Peter Csobádi, Gernot Gruber, Jürgen Kühnel, Ulrich Müller (eds.): The (music) theater in exile and dictatorship (= Word and Music - Salzburg Academic Contributions , Volume 58). Müller-Speiser, Anif 2005, ISBN 978-3-85145-094-1 , pp. 703-713 (Salzburger Symposion 15, 2003, University of Salzburg).
  • Raimund Gerz: Bertolt Brecht and Fascism, in the parabolic pieces "The Round Heads and the Pointed Heads", "The Resistant Rise of Arturo Ui" and "Turandot or the Congress of the White Washer". Reconstruction of a series of experiments (= treatises on art, music and literary studies , volume 343). Bouvier, Bonn 1983, ISBN 3-416-01765-X ( Dissertation University of Frankfurt am Main 1982, 331 pages)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Walter Benjamin: Attempts on Brecht . Newly revised and expanded edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1978, p. 160, ISBN 3-518-10172-2
  2. Bertolt Brecht: The unstoppable rise of Arturo Ui . Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1966, ISBN 978-3-518-10144-5 .
  3. Jan Knopf (Ed.): Brecht Handbook . JBMetzler, Stuttgart 2001, vol. 1 p. 459 f
  4. Erwin Piscator: Letters. Volume 2.2: New York 1939-1945 . Edited by Peter Diezel. Berlin: B&S Siebenhaar 2009 (Erwin Piscator. Berlin edition). P. 254.
  5. Jan Knopf (Ed.): Brecht Handbook . JBMetzler, Stuttgart 2001, vol. 1 p. 461
  6. German at Gymnasien Bayern Kollegstufe
  7. Jan Knopf (Ed.): Brecht Handbook . JBMetzler, Stuttgart 2001, vol. 1 p. 463
  8. Retrieved November 22, 2019 .
  9. Table of Contents