Fear and Misery in the Third Reich (or The Private Life of the Master Race) is one of Brecht's most famous plays, the first of his openly anti-Nazi works. It was first performed in 1938 and was one of the first major plays to use a style of performing Brecht called 'epic theatre'. This technique distanced the audience from the characters and was used to drive home the play's message.
It was followed by many more openly anti-Nazi plays—Brecht was a believer in the values of Marxism—and was written while Brecht was in exile in Denmark, inspired by a visit to Moscow, where he experienced the anti-Nazi movement which was gaining significance there.
Scenes: One Big Family - Two SS Officers talk about "United Nation" and then start shooting. A Case of Betrayal - A couple have "given away their neighbour" to the SS because they heard foreign broadcasts coming from his house. They are upset that in being arrested his coat has been ripped. The Chalk Cross - SA Man talking to friends, they ask him about raids and he refuses to say. Shows them how he marks people with a white cross so other people know to arrest them. The SA man threatens to have his girlfriend’s brother arrested for not saying Heil Hitler fast enough. Peat-bog soldiers - Prisoners mixing cement and talking, an SS man keeps guard. The prisoners are given solitary confinement. Servants of the people - SS man complaining to the prisoner to stop saying he's a communist because he is tired of flogging him. Judicial process - Judge asking an inspector to clarify a case against a Jew. The Jew is innocent but as both men "have a family" the justice system is perverse - the judge is forced to pass a verdict which suits the Third Reich but his panic is that he doesn't know which verdict will achieve that. Occupational disease - An injured man comes to a hospital. The surgeon explains before doing treatment a doctor must ask questions concerning the patient’s private life to check he deserves treatment. The physicist - two physicists secretly read about Einstein but when they are overheard they denounce it as being pointless and Jewish. The Jewish wife - A Jewish wife agonises about how to tell her husband she is leaving him to save his career at a clinic. She eventually tells him it's only for 2 or 3 weeks as he hands her the clothes she won't need till next winter. The Spy - Two parents quarrel and then panic when they realise their son has gone missing. They are sure he is handing them over. When he returns with sweets they are still very suspicious. The black shoes - A mother finds money to buy her daughter new shoes but hasn't the money to send her to the Hitler youth. Labour service - No class distinctions working in a Hitler labour camp. Workers playtime - An interview takes place at a factory where everyone has to be pro German; the announcer edits what they are saying to be more acceptable. The SA watches on. The box - A fathers remains are brought home in a zinc coffin, he died of pneumonia. Hans wants to look inside but the dead mans wife refuses as "they might come for you too" Release - A man has been released from a concentration camp and his old friends are suspicious. Charity begins at home - The SA delivers a charity parcel to an old lady, she thanks them and tells her daughter things are not as bad as she thought in the Third Reich. The SA arrests her daughter. Two bakers - two bakers have been arrested, the first two years ago for mixing bran in his bread, the second has just been arrested for refusing to mix bran in his bread. The farmer feeds his sow - A farmer grows crops; he has to sell the grain for very little money and pay extravagantly for pig food. He is keeping some grain for his pig even though that is not allowed. The old militant - A butcher whose son was in the SA has no meat and refuses to hang a fake ham in his window. He goes away for a weekend to get new stock and his son is arrested. He hangs himself in the shop window with a sign around his neck saying "I voted for Hitler" The Sermon on the Mount - A pastor tries to comfort a dying man but cannot answer his questions without being at risk himself. The motto - A Hitler Youth meeting, one boy hasn't learnt the motto "beat stab shoot them till they fall…" he is accused of learning "something different at home" News of the bombardment of Almeria gets to the barracks - two boys discuss food and bombing Spain and the start of the war Job creation - A husband has a new job making bomber planes. The wife learns her brother, a pilot had an accident and died, and her neighbour tells her about the fighting in Spain. The wife goes into mourning and is told to stop in case the husband loses his job. Consulting the people Protesters try to produce an anti war leaflet, they read a letter from a man who has been executed and still believes in the fight against Hitler. "Best thing would be just one word NO!"
There are 6 other scenes which Brecht eventually cut out: Ersatz feelings The international The vote The new dress Any good against gas A possible last scene for Basel.
Epilogue We'll watch them follow the band till The whole lot come to a standstill - Beaten, bogged-down elite. We'd laugh till we were crying If it weren't for our brothers dying To bring about his defeat. (Brecht, 1957, Methuen Drama)