Dutch painter and writer Willem Arondeus during World War II hatched a plan to burn the Bevolkingsregister which housed the citizen registration office in Amsterdam where the Nazis kept copies of all of the identity cards held by Dutch citizens.
In the spring of 1941, Arondeus started an underground periodical in which he tried to incite his fellow artists to resist the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Earlier than others, Arondeus realized that the demand by the Nazi occupiers that all Jews register with the local authorities was not, as the Nazis claimed, for their own safety, but rather so they could be deported to the Westerbork concentration camp and from there to the death camps in occupied Poland. In the spring of 1942, Arondeus founded Brandarisbrief, an illegal periodical in which he expressed the artist’s opposition to the edicts imposed by the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), the Nazis’ cultural committee.
A concerted operation was underway to hide Jews among the local population, with various underground organizations preparing forged documents for Jews. Arondeus was a member of one such group .Within a short while, the Nazis began to expose the false documents by comparing the names with those in the local population registry. To hinder the Nazis, late on March 27, 1943 Arondeus led a group in bombing the Amsterdam Public Records Office.
Arondeus and fourteen others, including two young doctors, donned German uniforms, asked the building’s guards to open the building for a special inspection. As soon as they gained entry, the two doctors injected the guards to put them asleep and placed them in the courtyard away from harm while the rest of the crew set fire to the building. Thousands of files were destroyed, and the attempt to compare forged documents with the registry was hindered.
Five days later, an unknown spy informed on the group to the Nazis, which in turn arrested them. During the trial, Arondeus took full responsibility for the fire. The two doctors were sentenced to life in prison, but the rest were ordered to go before a firing squad.
On July 1st. 1943 in his last message before his execution, Arondeus, who had lived openly as a gay man before the war, asked his lawyer to pass a long this message:
“Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards!”