Gad Beck, an anti-Nazi Zionist resistance fighter and last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust died this week just days before his 89th birthday.
Beck’s father was an Austrian Jew and his mother was a convert to Judaism. Beck was classified as a mischling (half-breed)under the Nazi racial laws. In 1943, he and his father were sent to a holding compound in Berlin until massive protests by non-Jewish wives convinced the Nazis to release the prisoners. There were “thousands of women who stood for days... my aunts demanded ‘give us our children and men,’” he later wrote.
“The Rosenstrasse event made one thing absolutely clear to me: I won’t wait until we get deported,” said Beck.
Following his release, Beck joined Chug Chaluzi, an underground Zionist resistance group, which played a key role in ensuring the survival of Jews and gays in Berlin. According to the entry about him at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, he noted that “as a homosexual, I was able to turn to my trusted non-Jewish, homosexual acquaintances to help supply food and hiding places.”
In his autobiography, Beck describes wearing a Hitler Youth uniform and entering the pre-deportation camp where his boyfriend, Manfred Lewin was being held. He asked the commanding officer for Lewin’s release for use in a construction project. Permission was granted. When outside the building, however, the boy declined, saying, "Gad, I can't go with you. My family needs me. If I abandon them now, I could never be free." "In those seconds, watching him go," Gad recalls, "I grew up." Lewin and his entire family were murdered at Auschwitz
After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Beck continued his Zionist work and helped Jewish survivors emigrate to Palestine. He remained in Israel between 1947 and 1979.Beck returned to Berlin in 1979 where he was the director of the Jewish Adult Education Center
Beck is survived by his partner of 35 years, Julius Laufer.