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HEROES OF THE RESISTANCE

GAD BECK

By Josh Bradlow, Head of Policy, Stonewall

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As a gay Jew, I believe that Jewish and lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities have a lot in common. 

Both have faced oppression throughout their history. Both sit on the border between being visible and invisible in society – with those perceived to be most ‘visibly’ different singled out for the worst hostility and discrimination. Both have proud histories of resistance and survival. 

Gad Beck

Nowhere is this legacy of resistance clearer than in the story of Gad Beck. Gad was born in 1923 in Berlin. His German mother, previously a protestant, had converted to Judaism before he was born.

After the Nazis came to power, Gad was bullied out of his school and forced out of his home because he Jewish. He also came to realise that he was gay. 

Amidst escalating persecution against Jewish and LGBT communities at the beginning of the war, Gad began a relationship with a man called Manfred Lewis. 

In 1942, Manfred was detained by the Nazis. Ingeniously, Gad posed as a member of the Hitler Youth and was able to rescue Manfred. But shortly after, Manfred chose to return to be with his family in detention, where they were eventually deported to Auschwitz. 

Gad decided to stay on in Berlin, where he joined the Chug Chaluzi Jewish resistance group. 

Resisting persecution, he delivered money, organised safehouses, and helped Jews in their attempts to escape Germany. 

And importantly, he did this through the help of the gay friends and acquaintances he’d made in Berlin’s LGBT community, which had also been pushed underground by Nazi persecution. In fact, Gad felt that because of this, being gay actually had helped him survive the war. 

Gad emigrated to Israel/Palestine after the war, but returned to Berlin in 1979 to become the Director of the Jewish Adult Education Centre, and a gay rights activist. 

By helping to rebuild the Jewish and LGBT communities in Germany, Gad continued to resist the legacy of the Nazis for the rest of his life. 

His life, and his memory, stand as a testament to the resilience, and power, of our overlapping communities.

Thanks to the Holocaust Memorial Day Foundation Trust, whose article on Gad Beck informed this piece.

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