- Category : 1894-births
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Industry 2
Dutch homo-erotic writer, art critic, painter and illustrator, who joined the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II and paid for it with his life.
Willem was the youngest child of the book printer and merchant Hendrik Cornelis Arondeus (1859) and Catharina Wilhelmina de Vries (1859), who married on 4 Augustus 1875 at Amsterdam and got five children. His dominant mother and his two sisters drove a cafeteria in Naarden. His two elder brothers emigrated to Canada, but Willem was unsure about which way he should chose in life. At age 17, he fought with his parents about his homosexuality. After meeting artists in the nearby villages Laren and Blaricum, he decided to become an artist.
After a firm struggle with his family - his father threw him out of the house - he followed painting lessons at the Quellinus School in Rotterdam. Around 1920, he also started writing, but did not publish anything. In 1923 he was commissioned to paint a large mural for Rotterdam City Hall. He worked as an illustrator of poetry of J.H. Leopold, Pieter Cornelis Boutens and Martinus Nijhoff, designed posters and tapestries and worked as a painter in Amsterdam, Blaricum and the fisherman isle of Urk. Later he went to Paris, but it was a bad choice.
In 1935, Arondeus left the visual arts and became a writer. In 1938 he published the novels "Het Uilenhuis" (The Owls House) and "In de bloeiende Ramenas" (In the Blossoming Winter Radish), that were illustrated in his "fin de siecle" style. In 1939 he published "Matthĳs Maris: de tragiek van den droom" (The Tragedy of the Dream) a biography of the mystical painter Matthijs Maris. In 1941 he published "Figuren en problemen der monumentale schilderkunst in Nederland" (Figures and Problems of Monumental Painting in the Netherlands). His Vasari biography "Schilderkunstige avonturen (leven en werken van Giorgio Vasari)" was published posthumously after WW2 (1946).
In May 1940 the Germans occupied the Netherlands. That same year it became required to identify oneself above age 15. The "persoonsbewijs"(ID) mentioned the name and address of the carrier and the profession, in addition there was a passport photo plus a fingerprint. Jews were given an identity card with a large J on it.
In the spring of 1942, Arondeus started a an underground periodical the "Brandarisbrief". His letter of the Brandaris was named after the eldest Dutch lighthouse (1323) called the Brandaris at the Isle of Terschelling. He urged artists to resist against the Nazi's. He realised early, that the German demand for Jews to register themselves was not for their protection as the authorities claimed. Camp Westerbork (1 July 1942- 12 April 1945) was set up to concentrate and transport Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma to the termination camps in the East. He was right, but few people realised the extent of the catastrophe that was taking place.
He became a member of the Raad van Verzet (Council of Resistance). With other graphical artists like Frans Duwaer, Willem Sandberg and Gerrit van der Veen, Arondeus started to falsify identity cards (persoonsbewijzen). They managed to falsify some 80,000 cards. Typical Jewish names, were changed in more general names. But the Nazi's started to compare the ID's with the information of the Municipal Archives. So Gerrit van der Veen, Willem Arondéus and others decided to to destroy the records in the Municipal Archive of Amsterdam.
The now historical attack on the Municipal Archive of Amsterdam took place on Saturday evening of 27 March 1943. There were no civil servants there and the guards were narcotised and brought into safety. The building was set on fire. When the Amsterdam fire brigade arrived, and were noticed about the goal of the operation, they first hesitated to extinguish the fire. Later they used too much water, to destroy records with water. But only 15% of the files were completely destroyed..
One of the attackers talked about the event. Arondeus was arrested on 1 April 1943. He was sentenced to death June 1943 in a Nazi court at the Tropical Museum at Amsterdam, together with other caught perpetrators of the attack on the Amsterdam Population Archive. Arondeus took full responsibility for it, in the hope that others could be saved.
He was executed as a soldier on 1 July 1943 in the dunes of Overveen. The nearby "Erebegraafplaats Bloemendaal" (War Cemetery) is now a sacred Dutch memorial place. In his last message before his execution, Willem, who had lived openly as a gay man before the war, asked his friend, the jurist and human rights activist Laura Carola Mazirel (29 November 1907, Utrecht - 20 November 1974, Saint-Martin-de-la-Mer) to testify after the war that "homosexuals are not cowards." And she splendidly did. She became a forefront fighter for the civil rights of homosexuals, Roma, Sinti and of course women.
Only in 1984 did the Dutch government posthumously award Willem and the others, the Resistance Memorial Cross. Yad Vashem honoured him in 1986 as a Righteous Among The Nations for destroying Municipal Records of Amsterdam, so that the Nazi's could not find the in them recorded born Jews.
The yearly Willem Arondéus lecture is named after him.