Bril, Barend “Ben”, born 16-07-1912 in a poor Jewish section of Amsterdam, the Valkenburgstraat. . The son of Abraham Bril and Klaartie Moffie, he was one of their six children born to a fisherman father. Bril began boxing, with the Maccabi club, at an early age and made the 1928 Summer Olympics, held in his hometown, Amsterdam. A flyweight, he was only 15 years old at the time. A brother of Barend, a hawkwer and boxer, was Emanuel Bril, born in Amsterdam, 18-10-1904 and who died on the concentration camp Mauthausen, 27-01-1943, age 38.
Bril was good enough to make the 1932 Olympics, but was barred by the Dutch Olympic committee because Ben was a Jew and the committee was led by an anti-Semite. Bril earned a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in 1935. He boycotted the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi-governed Berlin
Four years later he was barred from the 1932 Summer Olympics because the Dutch Olympic Committee was led by a member of the Dutch Nazi party, and the Dutch title in his division eight times. Bril boycotted the 1936 Games in Berlin.
After the German invasion in May 1940, the Jewish community faced increasing harassment. For example, the Resistance Department, the uniformed order service of the National Socialist Movement forced café owners in Amsterdam to hang the signs Prohibited for Jews. The first Jewish fighters were formed in the capital, many of whom had a boxing background, including boxer Benny “Beertje”Bluhm. Blum survived the war and died 12-06-1986, age 69.
During the German occupation of the Netherlands, Ben Bril and his wife and son Albert are forced to go into hiding above what used to be their bakery, but get betrayed and are transported to the Vught transit camp. In order to survive in camp Vught, it is crucial to make yourself indispensable. Although at first he was afraid to let the camp authorities know he was a famous boxer, the revelation enables him to protect his family: he has to fight to stay alive. They were deported to Germany and interned at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Anne Frank, her sister Margot and her mother Edith Frank-Holländer died.
Four of Bril’s brothers and a sister died in the concentration camps. A friend of Ben Bril was Isaac Brander, a boxer at the Maccabi club, many times national middleweight champion. On the eve of the February strike, he was part of the Jewish battles with his brothers Raphael and Abraham. He was arrested during a raid in February 1941 and died in Mauthausem concentration camp in September 1941.
Even before Jews were required to wear a Jewish badge on their clothes, the proud world champion Bril let himself be photographed with one on his boxing uniform . Now, in the infamous camp, he has to let go of his pride and be pragmatic, for the sake of his wife and son. He knows the rules and knows that following those rules is the only way to survive. This is the way he fights, the way he lives. He gets a job, gets promoted to the position of Blockälteste and in the boxing ring he lets German boxing heroes defeat him. He goes along with it. His good friend and fellow boxer Appie de Vries does not understand Bril’s choices: he is consorting with the enemy.
Sabotage or cooperate, give up or carry on, withstand or withdraw? What to do when none of the choices seem right? Dance for Survival is a thrilling and captivating tribute to a Jewish boxer who fought the Nazis with his bare hands and lived to tell about it afterwards.
All but one of the Bril siblings were married with children. Ben Bril and his younger brother Herrie both survived the war. Herrie Bril died in Rotterdam on 06-08-1966.
Ben Bril would eventually become a boxing referee, officiating fights in the Netherlands, Germany, England, and Spain among other places. He oversaw separate fights involving heavyweight contenders Henry Cooper and Karl Mildenberger.
Death and burial ground of, Bril, Barend “Ben”.
Ben Bril and his wife Sara, born Blits “Celia” had one child Ab Ben, who lives in Zandvoort with his wife Wilma. Albert and Wilma have one son, Benno, who also lives in Zandvoort.
Ben Bril who was a Jewish boxing legend in the Netherlands died aged 91, on 11-09-2003, in the Amsterdam’s nursing home “Beth Shalom” and is buried on the Jewish cemetery of Muiderberg.