1943: Willem Arondeus, gay resistance fighter

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 1943, Willem Arondeus and eleven other Dutch resistance members were executed for sabotage and treason in connection with their anti-Nazi activities in the Dutch Underground.

Arondeus, an artist, novelist and biographer, was rather old for a resistance fighter; he was 48 at the time of his death.

He was the son of theater costume designers and one of six children, but became estranged from his family after he came out as gay at the age of seventeen. At a time when homosexuality was still illegal and deeply taboo, Arondeus spoke openly about it.

For seven years in the 1930s he lived with his lover and struggled to make a living. In 1940, after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, he joined the resistance.

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 17, 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.

Arondeus said he hoped that by his life and death, he could prove that “homosexuals are not cowards.” Yad Vashem has honored him as Righteous Among the Nations. (pdf)

On this day..

17 thoughts on “1943: Willem Arondeus, gay resistance fighter

  1. I just found out that Willem Arondeus was my great grandfathers brother which makes me his great grand niece. Our family is very small in numbers as many quit speaking to one another. I would be interested in finding more of my relatives so I can know more about my family history.

    • Hello Nicole

      Have you any details about your relative Willem. I am writing a play about him and it is going very well but I need to better understand the family he came from.

      Simon O’Corra

      • I don’t know much about my great uncle as my grand father never spoke about him. I believe because of his sexual orientation the family may have disowned him before they emigrated to Canada. I just recently discovered that he was my great uncle. The only information I have is about his brother, my great grandfather and his family (my great grandmother, grandfather etc. )

        • Hello

          The play is now complete and it will have two full readings in the Netherlands this year and in 202it will be fully produced on stage. I think you may be irght about his familiy’s response to Willem regarding his sexual orientation.

    • Hello Nicole, in 1993 I published a book on Willem Arondeus, in Dutch. Title: Onbekwaam in het compromis: Willem Arondeus, kunstenaar en verzetsstrijder (Unable to Compromise: Willem Arondeus, Artist and Resistance Fighter). At this moment I’m rewriting this book to make an extensive biography of Arondeus. One of the chapters is about his family. Willem had two sisters Elsina Adriana (1876-1977) and Catharina Wilhelmina (1883-1944) and three brothers: Hendrik Cornelis (born 1877), Dirk Johan (born 1882) and Nicolaas Christiaan (born 1890) Willem was the youngest child, born in 1894. Dirk Johan emigrated to Canada in 1905, Nicolaas Christiaan in 1907. Who was your great grandfather, Dirk Johan or Nicolaas Christiaan? I know little about them. Do you know more about their lives? What was there profession? I think you are too young to have met them, but do you know when they died? I can image you have some questions about your great grand niece. My book is not translated in English, but I will try to answer any question you wanted to ask about him.
      Greetings from Holland

    • Hi Nicole,

      Would it be possible to meet you to talk about your family and Willem as I am writing a book about the attack on the Population Registry?

      I am in Amsterdam at the moment and would greatly appreciate any help you may be able to give.

      With a colleague, we have also written an award-winning film screenplay about the attack called The Art of Resistance.

      Best wishes,


    • Alas, no. I am the author of this blog entry and all that I know about Mr. Arondeus is in it. I’m sure if you can read Dutch you’ll find a lot of sources there, but there’s very little in English.

  2. In the ’70s, I met Ans Roos, sister of Cornelis Roos and the only survivor of the raid (as far as I know). Ans was sent to work in a factory in Gernmany, she said, because the Germans had a rule against executing “aryan” women. She worked in a cookie factory, and the workers avoided staring by taking cookies in their aprons.

    Ans and her other brother, Wim, were both tall, and both had a big sense of humor: laughter and joy. Ans had been my mother-in-law’s roommate in nursing school; in 1942, Ans handed off two children that my in-laws hid until liberation.

    The people I met — Ans, Wim, Wim’s wife “Annie C”, my mother and father-in-law — all had an intense love of life. They were not professional artists, but were always creative, always funding something humorous in living.

    I think they resisted because they loved life and colors and the world and people, rather than from a grim or pessimistic sense of duty. In the ’80s, social psychologists interviewed them, asking, “Why were you altruistic?” As if being self-centered was normal. They became frustrated with the angle of the questions: looking outward, looking toward life, seemed natural.

    (Yes: Cornelis Roos, Ans Roos, and my mother and father-inlaw are all honored at Yad Vashem.)

    • Hi John Welch
      I’m curious for the name of your mother and father in-law.
      Were they ? Ger Hendrika Lubach van Raan? I’m a nephew of Ans Roos and do a story over the family Roos.
      Please contact me.
      Regards John Bruyn

        • Hi Simon O’Corra,
          If you are still interested. The story about Ans Roos is available via Drop Box. size 48mb. To big to send by email. It is about the involvement with the resistance and her involvement with the group Arondeus among other things.
          Please let me know. John Bruyn

          • Hi there, I write stuff on people’s history, and would be really interested to see this additional information on dropbox so please let me know how I can access it!

      • Hello, John

        I just saw your message. Yes, my “in-laws” were Ger and Gerard van Raan, who came to live in the US about 1953 and wound up in Arden, Delaware. I heard the story of the March, 1943, raid on the records office.

        In the stories — perhaps embellished and surely with some harshness and ugliness smoothed away — the resistance group borrowed Dutch Nazi police uniforms from a cleaner.

        Arriving at the records office, one of the resistance members announced “We have information that the Resistance will soon raid this office! Assemble you men and present arms for inspection. When the Resistance “inspected” the guns, they pointed them at the guards, saying, “Thank you. We are the Resistance and this is the raid”.

        Gerard explained that the Dutch had kept careful records of everyone born in the country and of the religion of each parent.

        He said that he and Ger had gone that evening to a party with the Resistance raiders to celebrate the raid. However, the Nazis arrested Cornelis Roos, Willem Arondeus, and the others a few days later.

        A year earlier, Ans Roos had placed Rudy Kleinkrammer, aged about 10 or 12, plus a very young boy, Pieter [I don’t know the last name] with Ger and Gerard. It was much easier to hide two adults than to hide parents with children. The van Raans told everyone that the boys were nephews, with a father stuck in New York, a steward on a Holland-America line steamer. Their mother was said to be at a tuberculosis sanitorium.

        Rudy lives outside Amsterdam now. His parents survived the war, and the Kleinkrammer and van Raan families stayed close.

    • Hoi John,
      nice to read something about Ans, thank you for your story! I am a far relative and little niece of John Bruyn, daughter of Arie Bruijn, and I ve met her once when i was a child and she came from Israel with some gifts also for us as children, but I dont know her. As a child she seemed to me bittered, of course by war experiences i knew by then, and it made an impression on me that she died during her last interview session.
      It’s nice to read the description of them humorous, loving life, and always being creative. If you have more info about them and the resistancegroup, and in specific how their act had impact on the during of the war in amsterdam, I am very interested!

      • Hello, Ineke,

        I’ve included what I know of the raid itself in a reply to your uncle. Years ago, I saw a card with a photo of Cornelis Roos on one side and a verse from the Bible on the other. It appears that those who knew him were given cards as a remembrance. Best guess: it kept spirits up.

        Anne Frank mentions the raid in one of her diary-entries in late March, 1943. She watched the glow of the fire as best she could from around the edges of their “apartment’s” black-out curtains. She was told that the fire-department poured so much water on the fire that any records that survived the explosion / fire were turned into an illegible paste.

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