Gad Beck was a pioneering gay activist & educator in a severely anti-homosexual, repressive post-WW2 German society.
The diminutive Beck was famous for his witty, lively style of speaking. On a German talk show, he said, “The Americans in NYC called me a great hero. I said no... I’m really a little hero.”
Beck's wartime effort to rescue his boyfriend is film worthy. Beck donned a Hitler Youth uniform & entered a deportation center to free his Jewish teenage lover- Manfred Lewin. 17 year old Beck succeeded in freeing Lewin, from the holding camp in Berlin. But Lewin decided he couldn't abandon his family, & voluntarily went back. The Nazis would later deport the entire Lewin family to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
As a “half-breed” by Nazi-standards Gad Beck was interned at Rosenstrabe-camp in Berlin in 1943, but set free again after unique street-protests by non-Jewish relatives & friends. Soon after, he joined the “Chug Chaluzi”, an underground Zionist youth group. When he learned of the mass exterminations at Auschwitz-Birkenau, he began helping many people hide &/or escape to Switzerland. He became responsible for vast sums of money necessary for bribes & payola. His life sounds like a spy film with many incidents of cat & mouse & undercover dealings in order to save those under threat of death by the Nazis. He was constantly on the move, continuing his sex life where & when he could. As the leader of this illegal group, Gad Beck helped to organize the survival of many Jews in Berlin during the last two years of WW 2. He was 18 years old at the time.
Beck was born to a Jewish father & a Protestant mother who converted. With his twin sister- Margot, Beck spent his formative years with his family in Berlin. His childhood was one of tolerance & love. With his own brand of honesty & openness he told his parents that he was homosexual & they unsurprised & quite accepting of it. As a young teenager he had his first experience of anti-Semitism when his schoolmates made cruel comments to him.
After the war, Beck would move to Israel, but return to Germany in 1979, where he became active in gay & Jewish life. His fascinating story was immortalized in the film The Story of Gad Beck & the HBO documentary Paragraph 175.
Beck passed away today in a German assisted living home, just 6 days from his 89th birthday. He is considered to be the last gay survivor of the Holocaust. He leaves behind- Julius Laufer, his partner of 35 years.
Speaking about his life as a gay Jew, Beck stated: “God doesn’t punish for a life of love.”