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Kuhle Wampe

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Title: Kuhle Wampe  
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Subject: Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Hertha Thiele, SnorriCam, Workers International Relief
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Kuhle Wampe

Kuhle Wampe oder: Wem gehört die Welt?
Directed by Slatan Dudow
Written by Bertolt Brecht
Ernst Ottwalt
Starring See below
Music by Hanns Eisler
Cinematography Günther Krampf
Release dates
  • 14 May 1932 (1932-05-14)
Running time
USA:71 minutes
Country Weimar Republic
Language German

Kuhle Wampe (full title: Kuhle Wampe, oder: Wem gehört die Welt?, released in English as Kuhle Wampe or Who Owns the World?) is a 1932 German feature film about unemployment and left wing politics in the Weimar Republic. The script was conceived and written by Bertolt Brecht. He also directed the concluding scene: a political debate between strangers on a train about the world coffee market. The rest of the film was directed by Slatan Dudow. The film music was composed by Hanns Eisler.

Kuhle Wampe itself was a tent camp on the Müggelsee in Berlin. Wampe is Berlin dialect for "stomach", so the title could be rendered "Empty Stomach".

The film was banned in 1932 under the accusation that it depicted the president, the legal system, and religion in a poor way, but due to protests the ban was lifted on a recut version. The film remained unseen for many years after the Second World War. However, a restored print is now available and a video was released by the British Film Institute in 1999, along with a documentary video essay on the original film by Andrew Hoellering, son of the film's producer George Hoellering.


  • Synopsis 1
  • Cast 2
  • Video release 3
  • External links 4


Kuhle Wampe takes place in early-1930s Berlin. The film begins with a montage of newspaper headlines describing steadily-rising unemployment figures. This is followed by scenes of a young man looking for work in the city and the family discussing the unpaid back rent. The young man, brother of the protagonist Anni, removes his wristwatch and throws himself from a window out of despair. Shortly thereafter his family is evicted from their apartment. Now homeless, the family moves into a garden colony of sorts with the name “Kuhle Wampe.”

Anni, the family’s daughter and the only family member who still has a job, becomes pregnant and engaged to her boyfriend, Fritz, who that very evening describes that their marriage was demanded of him because of her pregnancy. Anni leaves Fritz and moves to her friend Gerda’s apartment. She later finds herself in a worker’s sporting event where she meets Fritz again, who has recently lost his work, and they reunite.

The climax of the film depicts their return home by train (a scene that Brecht wrote personally). Anni and Fritz as well as a handful of workers argue with middle-class and wealthy men and women over the situation of the worldwide financial crisis. One of the workers notes that the well-off will not change the world in any case, to which one of the wealthy asks quizzically, “Who else, then, can change the world?” Gerda replies, “Those who don’t like it.”

The film ends with the singing of the Solidarity Song, with lyrics by Brecht and music from Hanns Eisler.


  • Hertha Thiele as Anni
  • Ernst Busch as Fritz
  • Martha Wolter as Gerda
  • Adolf Fischer as Karl Genosse
  • Lili Schoenborn-Anspach
  • Max Sablotzki
  • Alfred Schaefer
  • Gerhard Bienert
  • Martha Burchardi
  • Carl Heinz Charrell
  • Helene Weigel as Ballad Singer (voice)
  • Karl Kahmen
  • Fritz Erpenbeck
  • Erwin Geschonneck
  • Josef Hanoszek
  • Richard Pilgert
  • Hugo Werner-Kahle
  • Hermann Krehan
  • Paul Kretzburg
  • Anna Muller-Lincke
  • Rudolf Pehls
  • Erich Peters
  • Olly Rummel
  • Willi Schur
  • Martha Seemann
  • Hans Stern
  • Karl Wagner

Video release

  • Kuhle Wampe, BFIV053, subtitled, black and white, 68 minutes running time, with a 48 minute documentary.

External links

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