Thomas Mermall was born to a Hungarian Jewish family in the town of Uzhhorod in the Carpathian Mountains, then part of Czechoslovakia (present-day Ukraine). He was six years old in 1944, during World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded his town. His father Gabriel Mermall fled with him into the forest to hide; his mother was too sick to travel, and was later deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where she died. Thomas Mermall survived and were liberated by the Red Army. In 1947, the two left Europe and lived in Chile before emigrating to the USA in 1951. Mermall completed his education in the USA. He had studied Czech and Russian as a child, and added Spanish, English and some Hebrew to his repertoire. He became a noted Hispanist and a full professor of Spanish Literature at Brooklyn College. His particular interests were in modern Spanish literature and thought, primarily developments after the Spanish Civil War. His published works included studies of the writers Unamuno, Octavio Paz, Pedro Laín Entralgo, Juan Rof Carballo and Francisco Ayala.