Powerful true story of gay Jewish couple who ‘resisted the Nazis through love’
The true story of Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, a Jewish gay couple who “resisted through love”, is being highlighted by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In 1942, when Gad was 19 and Manfred 21, Lewin’s family were classified as Jewish by the Nazis, and were “deported” to “work camps” in the east.
Gad’s father was born Jewish, but his mother converted later, and so he was allowed to remain in Berlin longer because of his ancestry.
Many years later, speaking with the USC Shoah Foundation, Gad explained: “One night I came to pick Manfred up for a date, and his brother said, ‘Manfred and the rest of the family are together in the transit camp.'”
Gad said he was determined to “get him out of there”, and decided to go ahead with a dangerous plan.
He said: “I went to the Christian housekeeper whom Manfred worked for and told him they arrested Manfred.”
The housekeeper asked him: “Do you have the courage, little one? My son has a Hitler Youth uniform. You’re the same size. Take it and go get him out.”
Donning the uniform, Gad walked straight up to the camp and insisted he needed to speak with Manfred, who was brought out to him.
In his 1999 book An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin, Gad described their conversation, and how Manfred told him that he couldn’t leave his family.
“No smile, no sadness,” he wrote. “He had made his decision. We didn’t even say goodbye. He turned around and went back. In those seconds, watching him go, I grew up.”
Manfred returned, and was transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where he and his family were murdered.
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Gad became a Zionist resistance fighter during most of the Second World War, until March 1945 when he was arrested by the SS. He survived a month in a detention camp, before he was liberated by the Red Army.
According to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Gad credited his queer family with helping him to survive.
“As a homosexual, I was able to turn to my trusted non-Jewish, homosexual acquaintances to help supply food and hiding places,” he said.
In post-war Germany, Gad Beck became a bold campaigner for gay rights when homosexuality was still illegal, and he was the last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust before his death in 2012.
The couple’s story will be highlighted in a free pre-Valentines online event titled “Acts of Resistance: Love Stories of the Holocaust”.
Historians from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum will explore “how love became an act of resistance for people persecuted by the Nazi regime”.
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