After Italy announced its withdrawal from the Second World War in early September 1943, the Wehrmacht deported Italian soldiers to the German Reich. They were deployed as forced labourers in the industry. The Italian military radio operator Ugo Brilli was one of them. He was interned at the forced labour camp in Schöneweide.
Ugo Brilli was born in 1922 and grew up in Tuscany. He was drafted into the Italian Army at the age of 21. In September 1943 Italy withdrew from the war. Wehrmacht soldiers then arrested all members of the Italian military, among them Ugo Brilli. Because he, like many other Italian soldiers, did not want to fight for Hitler and Mussolini any longer, the Wehrmacht deported him to a prisoner-of-war camp 60 kilometers south of Berlin. From there he was sent to Berlin as a forced labourer. He had to clear rubble for Siemens and later worked in a carpentry shop.
Ugo Brilli weighed 71 kg at the beginning of his internment, but only 48 kg at the end. He was released from prisoner-of-war status in 1944, but had to remain in Berlin as a civilian forced labourer. He was sent to a labour camp in Berlin’s Weißensee district, where his work as a kitchen helper saved his life. He bribed the German head of the kitchen with cigarettes in order to get some extra food now and then, more than the other forced labourers received. In late 1944 he was transferred to the camp in Schöneweide, where he also worked as a kitchen helper. The final days of the war Ugo Brilli spent in an air-raid shelter, waiting for the ongoing fighting to end. Supplies ran out and he searched the neighbouring cellars for food. In September 1945 Ugo Brilli, then seriously ill with typhus, returned to his family in Italy.
On 16 April 1945, the Soviet forces started to encircle Berlin in a pincer movement. Five days later first Soviet units entered Berlin from the east and fought their way to the city center. On 2 May, two days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, all remaining German forces in Berlin were ordered to surrender.