On this day March 27: Willem Arondeus

Willem Arondeus march 27

Gay artist and writer Willem Arondeus was a ringleader in the bombing of the Amsterdam registry office by the anti-Nazi Dutch Resistance on March 27, 1943. The Nazis consequently executed Willem and eleven other men on July 1, 1943.

Willem Arondeus grew up in an artistic home. His parents designed theatre costumes. Nevertheless, they did not accept his sexuality and he left home at 17. He worked first as an artist but after enjoying little success, turned to writing. Willem authored two novels and a biography of an artist. He lived openly with boyfriend Jan Tijssen from 1933 until 1940.

The Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. They required everyone 15 and older to carry identity cards. Those ID cards made it easy for the Nazis to identify Jews and others they wanted to detain and potentially deport to concentration camps.

Willem and lesbian cellist Frieda Belinfante joined a resistance group dedicated to forging identity cards. The group produced 80,000 fake IDs. However, the Nazis could check the forged documents against local civil registries.

One of the group — Frieda Belinfante later said Willem Arondeus — came up with a plan to bomb the Amsterdam registry office. About 20 people took part in the planning and execution of the attack, including two other gay men.

The March 27 bombing

The bombers disguised themselves as police officers and got past the security posted at the building by claiming they’d come to search for explosives. Once inside, they piled documents on the floor and planted bombs fitted with timing devices. The explosions destroyed about 800,000 ID cards amounting to 15% of the records stored in the building. Historians believe the action saved many Dutch Jews from arrest and deportation.

The Nazis offered a large reward for information about the bombing and sadly, a still unknown person betrayed the group. Frieda Belinfante avoided arrest by disguising herself as a man. She eventually escaped to Switzerland with the help of the Dutch and French Resistance.

In court, Willem Arondeus pleaded guilty and took responsibility for the bombing, hoping to save the lives of the other plotters. Perhaps due to that, two young doctors among the charged men escaped execution.

However, Willem and eleven others were sentenced to death. Shortly before the executions, his lawyer visited Willem in prison. But Lau Mazirel was not only his lawyer but also a co-conspirator. Already a staunch gay ally, she later became a pioneering activist.

Willem Arondeus asked her to ensure people knew he and two of the others were gay.

“Tell the world that homosexuals are no less courageous than anyone else.”

On this day —> March 28, Sir Dirk Bogarde

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1 Comment

  1. Yolande Stiffel
    27 March 2022

    Coming from the Netherlands I had heard about this and many stories of the resistance movement from my parents. They believed that this heroic act is what created a more open and accepting Netherlands.
    People were comfortable to be openly gay long before it was decriminalised in several other countries.
    Proud to be a Dutch girl who is proud to be the mother of an amazing gay man!!!
    Thank you Willem!

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