AN UNDERGROUND LIFE by Gad Beck

AN UNDERGROUND LIFE

Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Beck, director of Berlin’s Jewish Adult Education Center, recalls his youth and his work in the anti-Nazi resistance under most unusual circumstances. Beck was half of a pair of twins (with his sister Margot) born to an interfaith couple in Weimar Germany. Beck was one of those rare fortunate gay men who recognized his sexual orientation while still very young and who had a tolerant, loving, and supportive family who never for an instant were troubled by his lifestyle. He was equally lucky that his kin on the Christian side of the family felt the same toward their new Jewish relatives. Those facts are an inextricable element in his story of growing up Jewish in Nazi Germany. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Beck and his family found themselves, like other Jews, almost immediately stigmatized by law and separated forcibly from their non-Jewish friends and neighbors. After a lengthy series of humiliations, he was forced to leave his nondenominational school for a Jewish one. Beck is one of those quietly feisty types who are spurred by rejection into action; plunged into an entirely Jewish milieu, he quickly embraced the Zionist movement. Just as quickly, he embraced many of its male adherents, and the author is charmingly frank (but not explicit) about his sex life as well as his clandestine political activities. He would survive the war living as an “illegal” in Berlin, becoming a central figure in the underdocumented Zionist resistance that functioned despite the Nazis. Beck is a witty, chatty figure, and Heibert and Brown have done a splendid job of capturing and conveying his voice. The result is a readable and entertaining memoir of a terrible time. Beck is apparently at work on a sequel that takes him from the end of the war up to the present; it’s a book to look forward to.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-299-16500-0
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999




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