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Gad Beck, a Mischling German according to Nazi standards (his father was Jewish, his mother a Christian-born convert to Judaism), was born in Berlin on this date in 1923. Beck met his lover, Manfred Lewin, in a Zionist youth group in his teens. In his autobiography, Beck recounts borrowing a neighbor’s Hitler Youth uniform and marching into the camp where Manfred was awaiting deportation. Beck managed to convince the commanding officer to release the young man as a slave laborer — but Lewin then declined the opportunity to escape, refusing to abandon his family. Beck writes that he thus lost his “great, great love” to the Holocaust. He then joined an underground network that helped to hide Jews and smuggle them to Switzerland. Eventually imprisoned in a concentration camp, he managed to survive the war, one of only 8,700 (mostly Mischlings) out of nearly 74,000 Berlin Jews who did. Beck emigrated to Israel in 1947 and returned to Berlin in 1979 to become director of the Jewish Adult Education Center in Berlin. While in Israel, Beck discovered a book of drawings and writings with which Lewin had gifted him. It is preserved, along with the lovers’ story, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“I never really got over the loss. Years later, Manfred’s name still electrified me – even in the Hebrew form, Meir.” —Gad Beck