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A Gay, Jewish Holocaust Survivor

This week’s Shivah Star escaped persecution from two sides

Nona Willis Aronowitz
June 28, 2012
Gad Beck and his twin sister Margot.(
Gad Beck and his twin sister Margot.(

Each week, we select the most interesting Jewish obituary. Nora Ephron’s death on Tuesday night resulted in many heartfelt tributes (including on this website), but there was also the fascinating life story of Gad Beck, who passed away this week at the age of 88. The half-Jewish, openly gay Holocaust survivor jumped through many hoops in order to evade persecution from two sides; he stayed alive by forging papers, assuming false identities, and relying on the kindness of strangers. He even describes in his memoir when he convinces the authorities to release his lover by dressing like a Nazi:

As Mr. Beck told it, he obtained an ill-fitting Nazi uniform and marched into the center to assert a concocted need for Lewin’s release. The commander emphasized that Lewin’s release had to be temporary, ordering Mr. Beck to “bring us back this Jew.”

He helped other Jews besides his lover with anything from food and clothes to aiding an escape to Switzerland. He was a strong proponent of Israel, bringing Jewish refugees to Palestine and joining Israel’s fight for independence. But he eventually made it back to Europe to teach German students about Jewish culture.

Nona Willis Aronowitz is a writer, editor, and author of Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism. Her Twitter feed is @Nona.