Last week the world marked the death of 98 year-old Rudolph Brazda who was thought to be the last remaining gay holocaust survivor. But since then Alice Murray, director of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, has combed the records and, the Dallas Voice reports, has found another still living gay holocaust survivor.
The man’s name is Gad Beck and he was famously profiled in the film Paragraph 175, a documentary released in 2000 that was directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and which chronicles the lives of several gay men and a lesbian who were present during the Nazi years.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Beck was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1923 to a Jewish Austrian father and a German mother.
As a child of a mixed marriage he was not deported when other German Jews were. Instead he remained in Berlin where between 1940 and 1944 he became involved in helping Jews escape to Switzerland. Ironically, being gay meant that he had a means of trusting non-Jews if they too were homosexual (one assumes a pact of mutually assured destruction), and through making such connections he was able to supply food and hiding places to those in need. However, in early 1945 a spy for the Gestapo betrayed Beck and his underground brethren. He was then sent to a Jewish transit camp in Berlin.
Beck survived the war and when it was over he helped organize the emigration of Jewish survivors to Palestine.
Beck published his autobiography An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin in 2000 where he talks about his experiences during the war. Particularly moving is a passage where Beck describes how, while he was not deported to the east, his then lover’s family was arrested for deportation. Beck went down to the pre-deportation camp and persuaded the commanding officer to release his young love for a work detail, but the boy himself declined, reportedly saying, “Gad, I can’t go with you. My family needs me. If I abandon them now, I could never be free.” They would never see each other again.
While Gad Beck may now qualify as the last known gay Holocaust survivor, one can note that Rudolph Brazda’s title as the last “pink triangle” internee, so-called for the color of the triangle gay men were made to wear, would remain because Beck was never interned for his being homosexual but rather was only identified as a Jew when he was finally captured.
The greater importance is that Brazda’s death and Beck’s survival have both made international news and helped cast a light on this aspect of the Holocaust and the people that survived it. It is also important to stress that while Brazda was the last known Pink Triangle survivor there may be others who have not yet made themselves known.
Readers may be interested to know Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald interviewed Beck some ten years ago. You can read the interview here.