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LGBT People of History 31 - Gad Beck
Gad (Gerhard) Beck (1923 - ) should be an inspiration to us all. He was a gay half-Jew who spent WW2 in the appalling chaos and hell which was Berlin. He helped and supported innumerable people whilst still managing to hold on to decency, self-respect and a sense of humour.
He was born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother together with his twin sister Miriam (Margot). The family spent his formative years in the Weissensee district of Berlin. His childhood was one of tolerance and love. He had his first sexual encounter when he seduced a sports teacher. With his own brand of honesty and openness he told his parents, who were unsurprised at his homosexuality and quite accepting of it. At this time he had his first experience of anti-Semitism when his peers made cruel comments to him.
Apart from the constraints forced upon them by the Nazis, Gad’s family was having financial problems and by the mid- 1930s he and Margot had to leave school and become apprentices in the garment industry. The Protestant arm of the family constantly provided financial support to them. They then had to move to the Jewish district of Berlin and after Kristallnacht in 1938 Gad had to leave his apprenticeship as his place of work had been destroyed in the pogrom. He then found work in a cardboard factory. During this time he kept up his spirits and constantly was a support to his family and friends.
He became involved in the Hechalutz Zionist youth movement which arranged for people to emigrate to Palestine. Here he met and fell in love with Manfred Lewin. In 1942, Manfred and his family were arrested and sent to the holding area for deportations to the East (by this time Gad knew what ‘transport to the East’ meant). Gad dressed as a Hitler Youth and managed to bluster his way in and demand the release of Manfred. As they were walking up the road Manfred told Gad that he had to go back as he would never forgive himself if he left his family. Manfred gave Gad a small book of poems and writings he had written, which is amongst the most moving things we have ever read. Manfred was murdered in Auschwitz.
As Gad returned after leaving Manfred he said ‘In those seconds, watching him go, I grew up’.
Being a half-Jew he was not deported to the East and could rely on his non-Jewish gay friends for help. He would take whatever opportunity arose to help others.
When he learned of the mass exterminations at Auschwitz-Birkenau, he became very active in the underground movement helping many people hide and/or escape to Switzerland. He became responsible for vast sums of money necessary for bribes etc. His story at this time reads like a spy novel with many tales of cat and mouse and undercover dealings in order to save those under threat of death by the Nazis. He was constantly on the move and continued his sex life where and when he could. He is quite open and candid about this aspect of his life.
Remember he was 18 years old at this time!
Near the end of the war Gad was arrested and interrogated by Erich Moeller of the Gestapo. It turned out that Moeller was a former customer of Gad’s father and he was only questioned perfunctorily. This is one episode of the luck which seemed often to be with Gad.
Since the war ended Gad has lived in Germany, Palestine, Austria. He met his life partner, Julius Laufer, in Vienna. In later life he gave many presentations throughout the world and became head of the German Jewish Community.
Reading his book ‘An Underground Life’, his zest for life jumps off the pages.
Gad lives to this day and if he reads this we would like to salute his courage and determination in the face of appalling adversity. To do this and remain a man of integrity is endlessly inspiring.
Ian and Callum.
With thanks to ‘An Underground Life’ by Gad Beck and http://andrejkoymasky.com/mem/holocaust/ha03.html
Here is a link to all of our Hubs on LGBT People of History:
- LGBT People Of History Collection
Here are the links to each of the LGBT People Of History hubs that Ian and I have wrote. As mentioned above, each time a new one is published you will find it on here.