Hermann Brill

1895 (Gräfenroda) - 1959 (Wiesbaden)


"We will always remember the dead who were the cost of the struggle of resistance against the Nazi dictatorship. Not many among the German people are with us in this ... Therefore this memory of ours has a particular human note and a political purpose."

Hermann Brill was born in Gräfenroda, Thuringia on 9 February 1895, the son of a social-democratically minded master tailor. After attending a secondary modern school in Ohrdruf and a teacher training college in Gotha, he taught basic primary and secondary school. In 1912, he became a member of the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD); he went to war as a volunteer in 1914, was wounded in 1916, and volunteered again in 1917. Brill was a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) from 1918 to 1922, a member of the constituent assembly of Thuringia in 1919‒20, and a member of the parliament of Thuringia from 1920 to 1933, followed by employment in the Thuringian ministries of public education and internal affairs. Between 1924 and 1927, Brill earned a law degree in Jena, then became a member of the state constitutional court of Thuringia and, in 1932, a member of the German Parliament (Reichstag).

Beginning in 1933, Brill was arrested several times for political reasons, and, in July 1933, he was dismissed from civil service. Living from 1934 to 1938 in Berlin as an independent journalist, he joined the resistance group Deutsche Volksfront. In September 1938, he was arrested and sentenced by the People’s Court to twelve years in prison. From the prison in Brandenburg-Görden, he was taken to Buchenwald Concentration Camp on 23 December 1943. There he became chairman of the illegal German Popular Front Committee in 1944.

Following liberation, Brill wrote the "Buchenwald Manifesto" of democratic socialists. He joined the Thuringian association of the SPD, became an advisor to the American military government in Weimar and acted as Chief Administrator of the Government of Thuringia until July 1945. In 1946, he became the State Secretary and Head of the State Chancellery of the Hessian Ministry of State. Also in 1946, he published his manuscripts from the time of the resistance with the title Gegen den Strom ("Against the Current"). He was a member of the first German Bundestag from 1949 to 1953, and taught in Frankfurt and Speyer.

Hermann Brill died in Wiesbaden on 22 June 1959.