Hello and welcome back. I first learned about Willem Arondeus when I was writing about Freida Belinfante for my blog “She was just a girl” (which can be read in my archives). Willem and Freida worked in the same resistance circle and I wanted to learn more about him. Unfortunately, there is not a lot written on him, as his being a homosexual has over shadowed the work that he did.
Willem was born August 22, 1894. One of six children to theater costumer designer parents. He grew up in Amsterdam and lived there most of his life. When he was 17 years old, he got into an argument with this father over his sexuality and let home, cutting all ties with his family. Something that is till common today.
Too support himself, Willem started painting and writing. By the 1920’s he had been commissioned to pain a mural for the Rotterdam town hall. In 1932 he moved to the countryside near Apeldoorn. It is during this year, at the age of 38, that he meets and falls in love with Jan Tijssen, a green grocer. The two live together for seven years.
During this time, Willem was a struggling artist, and even though money was tight he refused to go on welfare. He began working on a biography of Dutch painter Matthijs Maris, and when the book is published his finances improve greatly.
In May of 1940 the Germans invade the Netherlands and begin to register and deport the Jewish population. Willem joined the resistance where his main job was to falsify papers for Dutch Jews. He does this for three years.
March 27, 1943 his resistance group decides to fire bomb the Amsterdam registry office. The registry office is the one way that the Germans have to verify identity papers. Willem sets a fire bomb in the office, destroying thousands of records. Five days later his group is betrayed and arrested. Willem and eleven others faced a firing squad on July 1, 1943. Willem’s last words, through his attorney were “homosexuals are not cowards”.
For years Willem’s story lay silent because of his homosexuality. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the Dutch government posthumously awarded him a medal. He was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 1986 by Yad Vashem.
Sadly, there are many more stories like Willem’s out there that have been overshadowed by one aspect of who they were. It is up to us find those stories and keep their memory alive, they risked their lives to save the lives of others, that is one of the greatest sacrifices one person can make for another person.
I hope that you enjoyed Willem’s story and that you will share it with others. Please feel free to check out my archives for more stories. Until next time.