‘Homosexuals are Not Cowards’: How Openly Gay Artist Willem Arondeus Fought the Nazis

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Willem Arondeus was an openly gay Dutch painter who fiercely resisted the Nazis in occupied Holland. Born in 1894, he died in 1943, at the age of 49.

Arondeus’s father kicked him out of the house when he was young for being gay. He worked as an artist and writer. He also wrote anti-Nazi publications, a dangerous occupation at the time.

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Willem Arondeus, photographed in his apartment, 1915 (photo courtesy U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Toni Boumans)

But that wasn’t enough for him. Soon, Willem Arondeus began forging identity cards in order to help Jews escape persecution.

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center writes:

Forging identity cards and distributing them in Amsterdam was a task that involved one particular problem: the Municipal Office for Population Registration in the city center served as the repository of the resident’s personal data and so forged cards could easily be detected. The existence of this bureau therefore posed a serious obstacle to rescuing Jews and consequently a plan was devised to attack the registration office, burn all the identity cards and files kept there, and destroy the building.

So in on March 27, 1943, Willem Arondeus, his boyfriend Gerrit van der Veen and some other members of the resistance disguised themselves as Dutch police officers, gained entry to the office and blew it right the hell up.

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Unfortunately, Arondeus was caught the following April and executed in July. His last words to the world, passed along by his lawyer, were “Homosexuals are not cowards.”

Willem Arondeus | Ter ruste neigt het jaar in mantel van koude, Willem Arondeus, c. 1929

In 1986, Yad Vashem recognized Willem Arondeus as Righteous Among the Nations, an honor used to describe people who put themselves at risk to defend the Jews during the Holocaust.

Did you know about the history of Willem Arondeus and his part in fighting the Nazis? Are there any queer activists you want to see us cover? Let us know.

This story was originally published on Jan. 27, 2017

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