Ruth Berlau (24 August 1906, Charlottenlund – 15 January 1974 in East Berlin) was a Danish actress, director, photographer and writer, known for her collaboration with Bertolt Brecht and for founding the Bertolt-Brecht-Archiv in Berlin.
Born to a merchant family, she learned French at a convent school, but had to drop out due to a pregnancy at the age of thirteen. She studied acting and established her Danish reputation playing Anna in Brecht's Drums in the Night. During her teenage years, she financed a bicycle tour of France, by writing up a somewhat fictionalized account of her travels for a Danish newspaper. In 1930, she toured the Soviet Union by bicycle, and on her return joined the communist party. Later she took part behind the front lines in the Spanish civil war.
In 1933, she presented herself to the newly arrived Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel, then staying on the island of Fyn, and within two years had become his lover. In 1936, she divorced the doctor Robert Lund and threw herself into a collaboration with Brecht, acting as a secretary as well as writing, translating, photographing and directing. With Brecht, Berlau published the short story collection Jedes Tier kann es, considered obscene in its time. In 1940, she followed the Brecht clan to Sweden, Finland, the USSR and finally to the United States, where a rupture with Brecht took place in 1944. In New York, she gave birth to her only child, who was premature and only lived for a few days.
After the war, she followed the Brechts to Berlin, but was blacklisted from the Berliner Ensemble by Weigel, after Brecht's death in 1956. She died in the Charité hospital after setting her bed alight with a cigarette.
- Brechts Lai-Tu. Erinnerungen und Notate. Hrsg. und mit einem Nachwort von Hans Bunge. Gudrun Bunge (Mitarbeit). Sammlung Luchterhand. Bd 698, Darmstadt, Neuwied, Luchterhand 1987, ISBN 3-472-61698-9
- Jedes Tier kann es. Erzählungen. Mit einem Nachwort von Klaus Völker. Mannheim, Persona-Verlag 1989, ISBN 3-924652-12-0 (originally published as Maria Sten (pseud.): Ethvert dyr kan det, København, Arthur Jensens Forlag, 1940)
- sketch at fembio (in German)
- Red Ruth a film documentary
- Fuegi’s review of the memoirs edited by Hans Bunge