100 Heroes: Willem Arondeus

The gay man who an artist, an author, and a righter with the anti-Nazi resistance.

100 Heroes: Willem Arondeus

Willem Arondéus was a Dutch artist and author who joined the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II.

He participated in the bombing of the Amsterdam public records office to hinder the Nazi German effort to identify Dutch Jews and others wanted by the Gestapo.

Arondéus was caught and executed soon after his arrest.

Arondéus was openly gay before the war and defiantly asserted his sexual orientation before his execution. His last words were: "Tell people that homosexuals are not cowards".

Early life

Born in 1894 in the town of Naarden, Arondéus began his career as an illustrator, designer of posters and tapestries and a painter.

In 1923 he was commissioned to paint a large mural for Rotterdam City Hall.

Around 1935, he gave up visual arts and became an author. He published a number of novels, as well as writing poems.

Resistance movement

In 1942, Arondéus started an underground periodical called the Brandarisbrief. In 1943, the Brandarisbrief merged with another publication called De Vrije Kunstenaar. Through the merger, Arondéus met Gerrit van der Veen, the editor of De Vrije Kunstenaar.

In the resistance, van der Veen specialized in forging identity cards. As a result, Arondéus also became involved in creating forged documents - working alongside lesbian resistant Frieda Belinfante.

A major detriment to the success of these forgeries was the Municipal Office for Population Registration as its existence made the forgeries less useful, since their legitimacy could be checked against the registration lists and determined to be fakes. Arondéus and van der Veen, along with a number of associates, developed a plan to destroy the registration office.

Their attack, which took place on 27 March 1943, was partially successful, and they managed to destroy 800,000 identity cards - about 15% of the records - and retrieve 600 blank cards and 50,000 guilders. The building was blown up and no one was caught on the night of the attack. However, due to an unknown betrayer, Arondéus was arrested on 1 April 1943.

Arondéus refused to give up the rest of his team but his notebook was found, and as a result, a majority of the group were also arrested. Belifante was the sole person from the group to have survived, forcing her to take on a man's identity and go undercover.

On 18 June 1943, Arondéus was tried and sentenced to death, along with 13 other men who participated. Two of the group received clemency, but the others were executed on 1 July 1943.

Arondéus pleaded guilty and took the full blame, which may be why two young doctors were spared from execution and given custodial sentences instead. Before his execution, Arondéus made a point of ensuring the public would be aware that he and two other men in the group, Bakker and Brouwer, were gay, asking his lawyer to "Tell people that homosexuals are not cowards."


In 1945, after the liberation of the Netherlands, Arondéus's family was awarded a posthumous medal by the Dutch government in his honour.

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