Born in Augsburg of bourgeois parents, his father the managing director of a papermill, his mother the daughter of a civil servant from the Black Forest. Rebellious at school, he voiced violently pacifist views on the outbreak of the First World War and spent most of his time at Munich University in bohemian activities, beginning his lifetime practice of conducting several amours at once. Acted briefly as an orderly in a reserve military hospital before becoming involved in the post-war Communist revolution in Bavaria, where he soon acquired celebrity as a vagabond balladeer in the clubs and cafés Published some vitriolic theatre criticism in local left- wing newspapers, and commenced the playwriting for which he is primarily famous. Active in the Berlin theatre from 1924 to 1933, during which time he met the composer Kurt Weill, with whom he was to collaborate on his first great success, The Threepenny Opera. Went into exile the day after the Reichstag fire of 1933, living in great simplicity in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. In 1939-40 he emigrated to the USA, travelling overland through Russia, which he had previously visited only briefly, though much admired by radical creative elements there. Expended much fruitless energy on trying to make films in Hollywood and finally returned to East Berlin after a typically ironic testament before the Committee on Un-American Activities. Founded the famous Berliner Ensemble, but often in conflict with the Stalinist East German authorities. Buried in the old Huguenot cemetery in East Berlin.