Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27 - Gad Beck

Gad Beck

Gerhard "Gad" Beck was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923. His father was born an Austrian Jew before emigrating to Germany, and his mother converted from Protestantism before they were married. Beck was subjected to a barrage of antisemitism growing up, including being excluded from school events such as student council because of his Jewish faith, so he eventually began attending a Jewish private school in his early adolescence. He soon had to drop out, however, to help provide for his family. When the Nazis came to power in the early 1940s, Beck was not deported (because he was of mixed heritage). His boyfriend at the time, Manfred Lewin, was not so lucky. To save his lover, Beck stole a Hitler Youth uniform and entered a deportation center where he convinced a commanding officer to let the boy go for a project the Youths were organizing; his request was granted, though Lewin chose to return to his family. The Lewins were sent to Auschwitz and murdered.

Following this tragedy, Beck chose to stay in Berlin and lead underground resistance groups. He regularly aided Jews escaping on a kind of underground railroad to Switzerland. Beck would say, "As a homosexual, I was able to turn my trusted, non-Jewish homosexual acquaintances to help supply food and hiding places," as they understood the persecution the Jews were facing. In 1945, he was betrayed by a friend who was actually a Gestapo spy and sent to an internment camp. He survived the experience, and in 1947, turned his attention to helping survivors of the Holocaust emigrate to Palestine. Beck lived in Palestine himself until the 1970s, where he met his lifelong partner, Julius Laufer. The couple moved back to Germany in 1979, and Beck became the director of the Jewish Adult Education Center in Berlin and a promoter of the ideas and work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a sexologist who championed LGBT equality before such an idea even truly existed, effectively making the center also a haven for rebuilding the gay community in the city. When he died in 2012, Gad Beck was the last known gay survivor of the Holocaust.

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