Do You Remember, When
What was it like to live as a young Jew in Berlin during the Nazi deportations? This exhibition details the life of Manfred Lewin, a young Jew who was active in one of Berlin’s Zionist youth groups until his deportation to and murder in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Manfred recorded these turbulent times in a small, hand-made book that he gave to his Jewish friend and gay companion, Gad Beck. Mr. Beck, a Holocaust survivor who again lives in Berlin, donated the booklet to the Museum in December 1999. The exhibition centers around the 17-page artifact, which illustrates the daily life of the two friends, their youth group, and the culture in which they lived.
To understand why Manfred Lewin, a young Jew in Nazi Berlin, wrote this book in 1941 for his friend Gad Beck—to understand why Gad, 19 and Jewish, risked his life attempting to save Manfred from deportation—read these words from the play that brought them together. German writer Friedrich von Schiller’s Don Carlos: No Matter what you plan on doing, will you promise to undertake no act without your friend? Will you make me this promise? Friendship, valor, and the fight for freedom were the ideals of this 18th-century German drama. In 1941, Gad and Manfred played the starring roles in their Jewish youth group’s reading of the play.
Manfred was born on September 8, 1922, in Berlin where he lived with his parents and four siblings in the predominantly Jewish section of the city. The family lived in poverty in three little rooms not far from the Beck house at Dragoner Strasse 43. Manfred’s father was a barber and his mother Jenny, a former secretary, took care of the family. She often had to find other sources of food to supplement the family’s insufficient Jewish food ration cards.
Gad was born on June 30, 1923, together with his twin sister Miriam. Gad’s mother Hedwig came from a Protestant family, but converted to Judaism before the marriage with Heinrich Beck in 1920. The children were raised according to Jewish traditions, supported by the Christian relatives. In 1934 Gad changed to the Jewish school in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse. In 1939 his parents were forced to move into the predominantly Jewish section of Berlin. They could no longer afford the school fees; Gad started to work as an apprentice.