At 4:00, maybe 4:30, in the morning, they were standing in our room: Rolf Isaakson, another Jewish snatcher, and two SS men. They had come in through the bathroom window of the ground floor apartment, and their weapons were pointing at us.
Gad Beck was born in 1923 to a Jewish father and Christian mother in Austria and as he grew so, too, did fascism, the Nazi Party, and the persecution of the Jews. His sexual awakening came without hang-ups, he says. One afternoon he rushed home to his mother and giddily announced that he’d hugged his gym teacher. “’Aha, I thought so,’ she answered dryly.” That Gad Beck came of age in a peculiarly frightening time, doesn’t mean he doesn’t also remember fights with the parents, first love, and looking for a way to fit in, the sorts of things we all go through. On the other hand, most of us aren’t growing up in a war zone, with friends and family among both victims and perpetrators. Beck’s voice is personal and lively and it’s easy to get the feeling he’s telling you about something that’s just happened. He disguises himself in a Hitler Youth uniform (“It was at least four sizes too big … As makeshift alterations I tucked the sleeves and legs up on the inside.”); he makes arrangements with a smuggler (“Strunck was hardened and venal. It didn’t mean anything to him that he was saving Jews. He wanted thousands of marks per person.”); he laments the capture of a colleague bearing a list of people in hiding (“When I was in charge, there never even was a list; I always had all the names and addresses in my head. But of course, no one was really in charge anymore.”). A gay Jew in Nazi Berlin? A leader in the resistance? It is not a long book, but it gets intense. There were times I had to look again at the author photograph to reassure myself that he had survived.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: An Underground Life