Erich Engel

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Erich Engel, 1962

Erich Gustav Otto Engel (born February 14, 1891 in Hamburg ; † May 10, 1966 in Berlin ) was a German film and theater director . In reference works, too, Erich Engel is occasionally confused with the comedy and crime film director Erich Engels .


Erich Engel was the son of a businessman. He completed an apprenticeship in a coffee wholesaler for a year and attended the arts and crafts school in Hamburg. After graduating, he worked briefly as a journalist. At the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, he trained as an actor at Leopold Jessner's drama school from 1909 to 1911 .

He spent a few years on touring stages until he was called up in 1914. Since he was unfit for military service after a serious illness, he did his duty in the office of the Hamburg military hospital. Engel was dramaturge at the Schauspielhaus in 1917 and 1918, and at the Hamburger Kammerspiele from 1918 to 1921 , where he was also a director.

In 1922 he moved to Munich, where he met Bertolt Brecht and Caspar Neher . After a brief engagement at the Bavarian State Theater in Munich and an initial success with jokes, satire, irony and deeper meaning , he moved to Berlin in 1924 . Among other things, he staged Bertolt Brecht's In the Thicket of Cities at the Deutsches Theater . With Fritz Kortner as the main actor, Engel became one of the most important Brecht interpreters on the German stage at an early age.

Engel achieved his breakthrough with Brecht's Threepenny Opera , the premiere of which he staged on August 31, 1928 in the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm . From 1924 Brecht lived in Berlin, where the Threepenny Opera was written in 1928 . Engel lived in the Wilmersdorf artists' colony .

Grave of Erich Engel in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin.

In 1930 Engel also began directing films. During the Nazi era he made numerous films for UFA . In order not to be brought in by the National Socialists for propaganda films, he directed comedies; Irony and personalities were the main theme. Actors in his early films included Jenny Jugo ( Five from the Jazz Band , 1932), Gustav Waldau in Unser Fräulein Doktor (1940) and Otto Fee in Much Ado about Nixi (1942). During these years Theo Mackeben was a constant companion as composer and musical director for Engels films. In addition, he continued to work as a director at the Berlin Deutsches Theater.

In Vienna in 1935 he produced the film ... just a comedian with Rudolf Forster in a double role. The film, set in the time of the Rococo , appeared against militarism and authoritarianism, recognizable, among other things, in a scene in which a military “captain” refuses the “state minister” the order to shoot rebelling subjects because of remorse. Probably because of the time in which it was set, which is why the positioning of the film was not clearly recognizable, the film escaped both Austrian and German censorship.

At the end of the 1930s, Engel directed primarily plays by William Shakespeare such as Maß für Maß (1935), Coriolan (1937), Der Sturm (1938) and Othello (1939, with Ewald Balser ) at the Deutsches Theater .

After the Second World War he was the director of the Münchner Kammerspiele from 1945 to 1947 , but from 1949 he lived and worked in the GDR . It was created under his direction a. a. for DEFA 1948 the films Affaire Blum (1948) and Come On First (1951) with Inge Meysel . His son Thomas Engel (1922–2015) was also a director (including ARD Tatort ) and screenwriter. Together with him he shot Pünktchen und Anton (1953).

Engel later shot again for DEFA. With Fledermaus Squadron (1958) he took a stand against the French colonial war in Vietnam . Engel also directed Artur Brauner's “West”.

Mother Courage, play by Bertolt Brecht; Production by Bertolt Brecht and Erich Engel at the Berliner Ensemble
postage stamp of the GDR 1973

Engel returned to Schiffbauerdamm as senior director in Brecht's Berliner Ensemble . After Brecht's death, for example, he premiered his planned performance of the Life of Galilei with the choreographer Jean Soubeyran in 1957. He died in Berlin in 1966. His grave is in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin.

His written estate is in the archive of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.




  • 1919: FM Hübner: Das Herzwunder (Hamburg, Kammerspiele) M: Paul Dessau
  • 1919: H. Mann: The Actress (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
  • 1919: R. Goering: Sea battle (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
  • 1919:
A. Strindberg: Totentanz II (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
H. Kahn: The Ring (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
EA Hermann: The God Child (Hamburg, Kammerspiel)
  • 1920:
G. Kaiser: Gas I (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
W. von Scholz: Doppelkopf Groteske for Marionettes (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
P. Kornfeld: The Seduction (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
G. Kaiser: Juana (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
RJ v. Gorsleben: The privateer (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
E. Toller: The Change (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
G. Kaiser: Gas II (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
C. Goetz: Menagiere (Hamburg, Curio-Haus, guest performance at Kammerspiele)
J. Scherek: Wahn (Hamburg, Komödienhaus)
  • 1921:
A. Goetz: Laljah Altona, City Theater
P. Kornfeld: Heaven and Hell (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
O. Zoff: Dungeons and Redemption (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
H. Mann / F. Wedekind: The Tyrant / The Innocent and The Censorship (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
P. Kornfeld: The Seduction (Munich, Kammerspiele)
H. Johst: The King (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
F. Wedekind: King Nicolo (Hamburg, Kammerspiele)
  • 1922:
W. Shakespeare: Hamlet (Munich, Prinzregententheater)
Ch. D. Grabbe: joke, satire, irony and deeper meaning (Munich, art theater)
C. Sternheim: Snob (Munich, Residenztheater)
W. Shakespeare: Julius Caesar (Munich, Prinzregententheater)
  • 1923:
B. Brecht: In the thicket of cities (Munich, Prinzregententheater)
W. Shakespeare: Measure for Measure (Munich, Art Theater)
W. Shakespeare: Macbeth (Munich, Prinzregententheater)
CD Grabbe: Joke, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (with F. Kortner)
  • 1924:
G. Büchner: Dantons Tod (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (with F. Kortner)
B. Brecht: In the thicket of cities (Berlin, Deutsches Theater)
  • 1925:
W. Shakespeare: Coriolan (Berlin, Lessingtheater, guest performance Deutsches Theater) (with F. Kortner)
J. Romains: Dr. Knock (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (with Helene Weigel)
GB Shaw: You can never know (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (with Grete Mosheim)
J. Romains: Dr. Knock (Munich, Kammerspiele)
  • 1926:
M. Donnay: Lysistrata (Berlin, Kammerspiele, Deutsches Theater) (with Grete Mosheim)
J. Romains: Dr. Knock (Hamburg, Kammerspiele) (with Gustaf Gründgens)
W. Hasenclever: Murder (Berlin Deutsches Theater)
N. Coward: Weekend (Berlin, Kammerspiele, Deutsches Theater)
GB Shaw: Androkulus and the Lion (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (with Curt Goetz)
F. Wedekind (edited by E. Engel): Lulu (Berlin, Staatliches Schauspielhaus) (with F. Kortner, A. Wäscher, Gerda Müller)
P. Kornfeld: Kilian or the yellow rose (Berlin, Staatliches Schauspielhaus)
  • 1927:
GB Shaw: The doctor at the crossroads (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (with Werner Krauss, Ernst Deutsch) BB: C. Neher
F. Wedekind: Music (Berlin, Schillertheater) BB: E. Pirchan
F. Joachimson: Five from the jazz band (Berlin, Staatliches Schauspielhaus) BB: C. Neher
F. Grillparzer: Woe to him who lies (Berlin, Schillertheater) BB: E. Pirchan
  • 1928:
B. Brecht: Man is man (Berlin, Volksbühne) (with H. George) BB: K. Neher
H. Ibsen: Ghosts (Berlin, Staatliches Schauspielhaus) (with F. Kortner, Lucie Höflich) BB: C. Klein
L. Feuchtwanger: Calcutta, May 4th (Berlin, Staatliches Schauspielhaus) (with R. Forster) BB: C. Neher, M: Eisler
B. Brecht: The Threepenny Opera (Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) BB: C. Neher, M: K. Weil
H. Ungar: The Red General (Berlin Theater on Königgrätzer Strasse) (with F. Kortner) BB: C. Neher
W. Shakespeare (edited by Ernst Kannitzer): The London prodigal son (Berlin, Schillertheater) (m. V. Harlan, Steinrück) BB: R. Neppach
  • 1929:
L. Frank: Karl and Anna (Berlin State Drama) (with Käthe Dorsch, O. Homolka, H. George) BB: C. Neher
H. Meisel: Disturbances (Berlin, State Drama) (m. Elsa Wagner) BB: B. Klein
G. Kaiser: Kolportage (Berlin Comedy) BB: E. Schütte, M: W.
St. J. Ervine: The first Mrs. Selby (Berlin, Theater id Königgrätzer Straße) (m. Fritzi Massary, P. Hörbiger)
H. Ungar: Gartenlaube (Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) (with E. Ponto, Theo Lingen) BB: C. Neher
  • 1930: F. Joachimson: How do I get rich and happy (Berlin, comedy) (m. H. Rühmann) BB: L. Kainer
  • 1935: W. Shakespeare: Measure for Measure (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) BB: E. Schütte, M: F. Steinkopf
  • 1937: W. Shakespeare (stage version E. Engel) Coriolan (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (m. E. Balser, P. Verhoeven. Mary Dietrich) BB: C. Neher
  • 1938:
W. Shakespeare (stage version E. Engel): Der Sturm (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) BB: C. Neher, M: Wolfgang Zeller
H. v. Kleist: Amphitryon (Salzburg Festival, opening) (with F. Marian, E. Flickenschildt) BB: St. Hlawa
GB Shaw: Mensch und Übermensch (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (m F. Marian) BB: C. Neher
  • 1939: W. Shakespeare (stage version E. Engel) Othello (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) (m. F. Marian, Angela Salloker, E. Balser) BB: C.Neher, M: E. Mausz
  • 1940: Calderon dlBarca: Dame Kobold (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) BB: C. Neher, M: E. Mausz
  • 1941: GB Shaw: You can never know (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) BB: C. Neher
  • 1945: Th. Wilder: Our small city (Munich, Kammerspiele) BB: C. Hausmann
  • 1946:
W. Shakespeare: Der Sturm (Munich, Kammerspiele) BB: Eduard Sturm (stage version E. Engel)
A. v. Ambesser: The Abyssal in Mr. Gerstenberg (Munich, Kammerspiele) (m. AV Ambesser, P. Dahlke)
  • 1947:
J. Romains: Dr. Knock (Munich, Kammerspiele) (m. W. Dohm) BB: W. Znamenacek
J. Anouilh: Eurydike (Munich, Kammerspiele) (m Maria Nicklisch) BB: W. Znamenacek
A. v. Ambesser: The Abyssal in Mr. Gerstenberg (Berlin, Hebbeltheater) (m. Ambesser, Ernst Schröder)
  • 1949:
B. Brecht : Mother Courage and her children R. together with Brecht (Berlin, Deutsches Theater) BB: Teo Otto, H. Kilger, Kurt Palm, M: Paul Dessau. (m. Weigel, Hurwicz, Hinz, Esser ...)
B. Brecht: Mr. Puntila and his servant Matti R. together with Brecht (Berlin, Deutsches Theater, guest performance by Berliner Ensemble) (Steckel, Geschonneck, Trowe, Lut BB: C. Neher, K. Palm, M. Paul Dessau)
  • 1957: B. Brecht: Life of Galilei (Berlin, Berliner Ensemble) B: Based on designs by C. Neher, M: H. Eisler
  • 1960: B. Brecht: Die Dreigroschenoper (Berlin, Berliner Ensemble) BB: K. v. Appen, M: Kurt Weil
  • 1963: B. Brecht: Schweyk in World War II (Berlin, Berliner Ensemble) R. m. Wolfgang Pinzka, M: H. Eisler


  • with Robert A. Stemmle: Affair Blum. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg around 1970.
  • Writings on theater and film. Henschel, Berlin 1971.
  • Writings on theater and Marxism. Reflections, confessions, work experiences. Kindler, Munich 1972, ISBN 3-463-00533-6 .


Web links

Commons : Erich Engel  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Erich Engel Archive Inventory overview on the website of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.
  2. ^ The German National Prize Winners 1949 , Neues Deutschland, August 26, 1949
  3. ^ Winner of the National Prize 1957 , Neues Deutschland, October 7, 1957
  4. Neues Deutschland , March 1, 1961, p. 3