The last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, Gad Beck, passed away yesterday in his retirement home in Berlin, just six days short of his 89th birthday.
Beck's long life, chronicled in the documentary film The Life of Gad Beck as well as in his own autobiography, An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin, was one of tireless devotion to equality and justice.
In his autobiography, Beck recounts a daring mission he undertook in 1942 to rescue his Jewish boyfriend, Manfred Lewin, by infiltrating a pre-deportation center dressed as a Hitler Youth. Lewin refused to leave without his family, and, sadly, was sent to Auschwitz where he died.
Labeled a "half-breed" per Nazi racial laws — his father was Jewish, but his mother had converted to Judaism — Beck was eventually placed in a holding compound in Berlin's Rosenstrasse along with his father. He was released following the legendary Rosenstrasse protest in 1943, and soon joined the anti-Nazi resistance group Chug Chaluzi.
After the war, Beck lived for several decades in Israel before returning to Berlin in 1979. There he was named director of the city's Jewish Adult Education Center.
Beck was an active member of the local gay community, frequently organizing gay singles meeting in the center, and participating in the annual gay pride parade.
He is survived by Julius Laufer, his partner of 35 years.
[photo via Gad Beck]