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August 4, 2021 3:08 pm

‘Stumbling Blocks’ in Amsterdam to Honor Lesbian and Gay Resistance Heroes Who Fought Nazi Occupation

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(Illustrative) Stolpersteine honoring Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam. Photo: Wikipedia

The city of Amsterdam is to honor the memories of nine gay and lesbian resistance fighters who lost their lives combating the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.

At the initiative of historian Judith Schuyf, who has been researching the biographies of the resistance fighters — all of whom were Jews — the nine victims will each be honored with a “Stolpersteine” (“stumbling block”), a gold-colored stone on which commemorative details are engraved and which is then inserted into the sidewalk.

Four such stones were inaugurated on Tuesday at different locations in Amsterdam. The inscription on them specifies that the person being commemorated was persecuted for “being Jewish, gay, a resistance fighter.”

Two of the stones honored Mina Sluyter and Samuel Hoepelman, who were among the first Jewish citizens of Amsterdam to be deported to German-run concentration camps in Poland. Sluyter died in Auschwitz in 1942, while Hoepelman perished in Sobibor one year later.

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In police files from the time that have survived the war, Sluyter was suspected of maintaining a relationship with an “Aryan” woman, while Hoepelman was accused of “fornicating” with “Aryan” boys.

Similarly honored with their own stones on Tuesday were Willem Arondéus and Karel Pekelharing, who were part of the so-called Artists’ Resistance.

Arondéus was involved in the attack in March 1943 on the population registry led by the sculptor Gerrit Jan van der Veen. Pekelharing was part of the vigilante group that made a number of attempts in 1944 to free a group of comrades from a notorious detention center in the center of the city.

Arondéus was arrested a week after the attack on the population registry, and executed on July 1, 1943 in the dunes near Overveen. After the discovery of a note with his name, Pekelharing was arrested and executed by a firing squad in June 1944.

According to Judith Schuyf, both Arondéus and Pekelharing were open about their sexuality. “The fact that they moved in artistic circles, of course, made that a little easier,” the historian told Dutch newspaper Het Parool.

“Pekelharing was a poet and dancer, Arondéus a writer and painter,” she explained.

The Nazi occupation authorities outlawed sexual contact between gay men and lesbians through an ordinance issued by Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart in May 1940 — at the same time as the first measures targeting Dutch Jews were introduced, banning Jews from civil service jobs and compelling them to register their business assets.

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