HRC Blog

Last Known Openly Gay Jewish Holocaust Survivor Dies

This post comes from Jewish Organization Equality Index Intern Sophie Fierst:

Gerhard “Gad” Beck, the last surviving openly gay Jewish man to survive the Holocaust died this week in Berlin at the age of 88. He escaped the concentration camps for most of the war by using forged papers and false identities. He was eventually captured by the Gestapo three months before the end of the war.

Because Beck’s mother was not born Jewish, he was not immediately arrested at the start of the deportations. Throughout the war, Gad Beck smuggled rations, cash and clothes to other Jews living in hiding. After the war, he worked to bring Jewish refugees to Palestine. He published an autobiography in 1999 about his life during the war, entitled An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin, written with Frank Heibert.

According to an interview with the Miami Herald in 2001, Beck was aware of his homosexuality at a young age, saying that he was in love with a boyfriend at the age of 12. During the war, his Jewish boyfriend, Manfred Lewin, was deported with his family in 1942. Beck used a Nazi uniform to walk into the detention center where Lewin was being held and rescue him. However, Lewin refused to leave the rest of his family and was killed in Auschwitz.

Beck immigrated to Israel in 1947, but returned to Germany in 1979 to become director of the Jewish Adult Education Centre in Berlin, where he lived until his death on June 24. He is survived by his partner of 35 years, Julius Laufer.

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