Willem Arondeus,often referred to as the gay resistance fighter. This always puzzled me because I really don’t know why his sexual orientation would bear any relevance to the brave acts he did. Willem Arondeus was a Dutch resistance fighter who gave his life trying to protect his Jewish countrymen from the Nazis
Willem Arondeus (22 August 1894 – 1 July 1943) was a Dutch artist and author, who joined the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II. He participated in the bombing of the Amsterdam public records office to hinder the Nazi German effort to identify Dutch Jews. Arondeus was caught and executed soon after his arrest.
One of six children, Willem grew up in Amsterdam where his parents were theater costume designers. When Willem was 17, he fought with his parents about his homosexuality. In a time when nearly all gay people were in the closet, Willem’s parents could not accept his choice to live openly. Their rejection led Willem to run away from home.He left home and severed contact with his family. He began writing and painting, and in the 1920s was commissioned to do a mural for the Rotterdam town hall. In 1932 he moved to the countryside near Apeldoorn.
About 1935, he gave up visual arts and became an author. The poems and stories he had written in the 1920s went unpublished, but in the year 1938 he published two novels, Het Uilenhuis (‘The Owls House’) and In de bloeiende Ramenas (‘In the Blossoming Winter Radish’), both illustrated with designs by Arondeus himself. The year 1939 saw the publication of his best work, Matthĳs Maris: de tragiek van den droom (‘The Tragedy of the Dream’), a biography of the painter Matthijs Maris, who was a brother of the Dutch artists Jacob and Willem Maris. Two years later, Figuren en problemen der monumentale schilderkunst in Nederland (‘Figures and Problems of Monumental Painting in the Netherlands’) was published, again with designs by the author. At that date, however, Arondeus was already involved with the Dutch resistance movement.
A concerted operation was underway to hide Jews among the local population, with various underground organizations preparing forged documents for Jews. Arondeus was a member of one such group, Raad van Verzet (Resistance Council), which also included openly lesbian cellist and conductor Frieda Belinfante and typographer Willem Sandberg, then curator at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum.
Within a short while, the Nazis began to expose the false documents by comparing the names with those in the local population registry
Arondeus utilized his artistic skills by forging identity papers for Dutch Jews. (Being himself part of a persecuted minority, perhaps he felt a special kinship with them.) He urged other artists to stand up against the Nazi invaders.
On March 27, 1943, he and other members of his resistance unit set the Amsterdam General Registry Office on fire, trying to destroy all the original records so the false identity papers couldn’t be checked. They successfully destroyed about ten thousand records, but five days later the entire unit was arrested. Their conviction was a foregone conclusion.
Twelve, including Arondeus, were executed that July by firing squad.In his last message before his execution, Arondeus, who had lived openly as a gay man before the war, said, “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards
In 1945, after the liberation of the Netherlands, Arondeus was awarded a posthumous medal by the Dutch government and was reburied in Erebegraafplaats Bloemendaal. In addition, in 1984, he was awarded the Resistance Memorial Cross. Further, on 19 June 1986, Yad Vashem recognized Arondeus as Righteous Among the Nations.
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