Gad Beck

Gad Beck
"Paragraph 175" German premiere - 6.jpg
Gad Beck in 2000
Born(1923-06-30)30 June 1923
Died24 June 2012(2012-06-24) (aged 88)
OccupationEducator, activist, author
Years active1947–2012
Known forAn Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin
Partner(s)Julius Laufer[1]
(1977–2012; Beck's death)
FamilyMargot Beck (twin sister)

Gerhard "Gad" Beck (30 June 1923 – 24 June 2012)[2] was an Israeli-German educator, author, activist, resistance member, and survivor of the Holocaust.

Life and career

Gad Beck was born Gerhard Beck[3] in Berlin, Germany, along with twin sister Margot,[4] the son of Hedwig (née Kretschmar) and Heinrich Beck. His father was born Jewish, and his German mother, originally a Protestant, had converted to Judaism.[5] The family lived in a predominantly Jewish immigrant section of the city. At age five, he and his family moved to the Weissensee district where he attended primary school and was the target of antisemitism from classmates. In 1934, he was enrolled in a Jewish school but had to quit and take a job as a shop attendant.[6]

As a person of partial Jewish ancestry (a Mischling in Nazi terminology), Beck was not deported with other German Jews. Instead, he remained in Berlin.[6] He recalls in his autobiography borrowing a neighbor's Hitler Youth uniform[7] and marching in 1942[8] into the pre-deportation camp where his lover, Manfred Lewin, had been arrested and detained. He asked the commanding officer for the young man's release for use in a construction project, and it was granted. When outside the building, however, Lewin declined, saying, "Gad, I can't go with you. My family needs me. If I abandon them now, I could never be free."[9] With that, the two parted without saying goodbye. "In those seconds, watching him go," Gad recalls, "I grew up."[4] Lewin and his entire family were murdered at Auschwitz.[10]

Gad Beck joined an underground effort to supply food and hiding places to Jews escaping to neutral Switzerland. In early 1945, a Jewish spy for the Gestapo betrayed him and some of his underground friends. He was subsequently interrogated and interned in a Jewish transit camp in Berlin.[6] His parents and sister did survive the war, thanks to help from their Christian relatives on his mother's side. [11]

After World War II, Beck helped organize efforts to enable Jewish survivors to emigrate to Israel, emigrating himself in 1947. [12]

In the late 1970s, Beck met Julius Laufer. Eventually Laufer joined him in Israel, and the two were together for 35 years.[11]

Beck returned to Berlin in 1979[6] where he was the director of the Jewish Adult Education Center in Berlin. [12]

In 2000, Beck was featured, along with a few other gay Holocaust survivors, in the HBO documentary film Paragraph 175 in which he remembers his "great, great love" lost to the Nazis.[9][13] Also in 2000, the English translation of Beck's 1995 autobiography, An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin, was published, leading to a successful book tour through the United States.[4]

A documentary film on his life was proposed but never realized.[14]

Beck passed away from kidney failure at age 88, survived by his partner Laufer.[12]


Beck died on 24 June 2012, in a Berlin retirement home at the age of 88.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Broverman, Neal (25 June 2012). "Activist, Leader, and Inspiration, Gad Beck, Dies Just Short of 89". Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  2. ^ Weinthal, Benjamin (13 June 2012). "Last gay Jewish Holocaust s... JPost – Jewish World – Jewish News". Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  3. ^ Offermanns, E. (2008). Die deutschen Juden und der Spielfilm der NS-Zeit. Lang. p. 89. ISBN 9783631582237. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (6 December 1999), "Books of the Times; Surviving in Germany, the Wrong Type at the Wrong Time", The New York Times, retrieved 23 October 2009
  5. ^ Beck, G.; Heibert, F.; Brown, A. (2000). An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 5. ISBN 9780299165048. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "Gad Beck". Holocaust Encyclopedia. Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Museum. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
  7. ^ Burnett, Richard. "Remembering Gad Beck". Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Gad Beck". The Telegraph. 19 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b Mink, Eric (9 July 2001). "A Painful Reminder of Nazi's Anti-Gay Terror". Daily News. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Do you remember when". USHMM. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^ Rothaus, Steve (16 November 2001). "Gay man still mourns lover killed by Nazis". Miami Herald. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
  14. ^ Meza, Ed; Jaafar, Ali (9 February 2008). "Eytan Fox, Filme pair for war project". Variety. Retrieved 12 October 2009.
  15. ^ Last gay Jewish Holocaust survivor dies, by Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, 25 June 2012


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