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July 1: The Gay Dutch Resistance Fighter

Lawrence Bush
June 30, 2016

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The Westerbork deportation camp in the Netherlands became operational on this date in 1942. Originally established by the Dutch occupation government to house German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, it became the point of transit to the death camps for tens of thousands of Dutch Jews. One year later on this date, Willem Arondeus, a gay gentile artist and writer who led a group in bombing the Amsterdam Public Records Office in order to hinder the Nazi round-up of Jews, was executed with twelve others by firing squad. “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards,” were his final words. Arondeus had already been active in underground resistance groups that prepared fake documents and helped Jews to hide. After the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, Arondeus was awarded a posthumous medal; in 1984, he was awarded the Resistance Memorial Cross; in 1986, Yad Vashem recognized Arondeus as Righteous Among the Nations.

“He and a group of resistance fighters — some of them also openly gay, including conductor and classical cellist Frieda Belinfante, tailor Sjoerd Bakker and writer Johan Brouwer — carefully planned the attack. On March 27, 1943, dressed as a German Army captain, Arondeus marched 15 men up to the Public Records Office. They disabled the guards by drugging them, positioned the explosives and made Dutch history.”

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.