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In Search of Homosexuality and Resistance, Part 2

by Judith Schuyf in History & Politics , 30 juli 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar


None of the remaining documents about the Stijkel group mention homosexuality, nor their personal lives. Schorer was extremely cautious and discreet in mentioning other homosexuals, as it was something one had better kept a secret. He does refer to other members of the Stijkel group who also were “like that,” but we can only guess. Again, we know nothing.

‘The Combat,’ a cartoon by Leslie Illingworth (1940)
My search for more personal information was not very successful. It is too long ago, and directly involved family members have died. A number of older members of the group left surviving relatives, but shouldn’t we be looking into the unmarried ones? There are passport photos of all members of the group. I must confess that I have looked at them with great interest, with the unscientific thought of using my “gaydar.” The sixteen unmarried people were, for the most part, young students.


Untameable Boy

I have looked into the two closest of Stijkel’s associates, Kees Gude and Jean Chrétien Baud. In 1940, they were twenty-four and twenty-one-years-old. Kees Gude and Tièn Baud knew each other from the mobilization period, as they were both stationed as soldiers in Soestduinen. Gude, a student at a university of technology, had distinguished himself as a second lieutenant in artillery at the Battle of the Grebbeberg. Jean Chrétien Baud came from nobility, a family that had served the Dutch state and court for generations. His great-grandfather had been governor-general of the Dutch East Indies, while his father was gentleman in waiting and, later, private secretary of Princess Juliana. As a prominent person, he was held hostage for a long period of time.

According to letters from his parents, the young Tièn was a somewhat difficult and “untameable” boy who was driven by strong feelings of justice. This meant that as a child he often got himself into trouble. For some time, he was even forced to stay with the Hague inspector of the children’s police, Tine van Deth, one of the core members of the The Hague network. He seemed to have felt very much at home there. In his family, nothing was known about his sexual preference. Like so many boys in his immediate environment, he was looking for a way to make himself useful.

Letters by Han Stijkel
There were also older unmarried people, one of them being Dick de Vries. De Vries was a Fokker employee in Koog aan de Zaan, and had been in the armed resistance. He provided Stijkel with all kinds of maps of ports and military objects in Noord-Holland, as well as aircraft construction drawings. After his arrest, he spent four months in a cell at the prison Oranjehotel with Jan Kalff, the mayor of Krommenie. Kalff was able to report back to De Vries’s family after the end of the war. Reading this report for signs of “being different,” there are several interesting passages. First of all, that first encounter. “That extremely calm figure who entered the cell was dressed in blue sailing pants, high boots and a beautifully knitted white coat that was decorated with dark brown reindeer figures and worn over his bare upper body. In his hands he carried a neat pile of books, underwear and a briefcase with toiletries.”


Without Reserve

In those months they had endless conversations “without reserve” about all possible subjects. “Our most interesting conversation was about love. He had told me in detail about his commitment and said that if he ever married, it should ‘make him a better man.’ This very peculiar view led to a conversation that is difficult to describe. I told him that if he wanted to feel true love, he had to discard this notion. If so inclined, he should give the object of his affection love, not just in a material sense, but in care, cordiality and devotion. He did understand this, and it was certainly the best conversation we ever had. He then said: ‘I hardly had such intimate conversations with my mother.’

Remembrance of the Dead at the Amsterdam Homomonument
To be quite frank, we also fought, mostly about one subject in particular. I am a cleanly person. Dick was also cleanly indeed, but in the cell Dick was Dick ‘terribly’ tidy, and he thought I was an ‘untidy mess’. Dick always stacked up his possessions neatly, folded his clothes before going to bed as if they had just come out of the linen closet, Dick mopped and wiped the floor until it was sterile. I then spilled a couple of drops of clean water while washing my hands. He swept it up behind me. It caused friction once in a while, but nothing serious.”

That’s it. Nothing more. In May 1940, Schorer’s friend Jaap van Leeuwen memorized the names of subscribers to the pioneering gay magazine “Levensrecht” and destroyed the undistributed copies of its last issue. After the war, he wrote down these names from memory; possibly supplemented with the names of people he had met since. Names of people who had not survived the war got a “t” or a cross in front of it. No name from the Stijkel group appears on these lists.

Four chained men on the National Monument on Dam Square, Amsterdam

Memories of the Resistance After the War

After the end of the Second World War, the resistance was both mentioned and, at the same time, not mentioned. The reconstruction of a torn country required the suggestion of a unity that was not there during the war, and certainly not there after the war. In the years after the war, the resistance was seen and discussed as an almost abstract collective. There was no place for the individual, which was made easier by the fact that those who had been active in the resistance and survived did not speak about it. Only from the 1980s onwards it was about the individual, usually seen as a victim. Moreover, it quickly became clear that only the resistance of certain groups was considered suitable for commemoration. The communist resistance, for instance, was not.

Cell block in the Scheveningen prisonHowever, the Stijkel group fits these characteristics like a glove. It was a diverse group of men and women, young, old, different walks of life and even religious convictions. The question is what would have happened if people had been aware of the homosexuality of certain members. However, their sexual orientation was kept secret. Partly due to the efforts of Wim Wagenaar, father of one of the members who were executed by firing squad, and who, thanks to his social standing, was able to be an influencer, the remains of most of the Stijkel group members who died in Germany were found and repatriated. This was achieved with active involvement by the Dutch government and at their expense.

At first, the Dutch government did not want to be involved, afraid of the costs. The municipality of The Hague, which wanted a resistance monument, provided the land. In July 1947 and with full military honours, the remains were sent on a final journey through the centre of The Hague to the Westduin cemetery after a service in the Jacobskerk. There, they were and are commemorated with a monument.

Jaap van Leeuwen, resistance fighter and one of the founders of the C.O.C.The gay emancipation movement, meaning the forerunners of the present day COC, initially paid little attention to homosexual resistance during the war. The war was mentioned in a “small way” in the C.O.C. magazine “Vriendschap,” but the magazine mostly addressed the position of homosexuals in Germany. Perhaps it hit too close to home.

The founders of the C.O.C., Niek Engelschman and Jaap van Leeuwen, had also been active in the resistance. Van Leeuwen even had been locked up in the house of detention in Amsterdam for eight months for his involvement - through his room-mate Arie Addicks - in spreading the illegal newspaper “Het Parool.” The rather “wild” Arie shot a German while being arrested and received the death penalty. Van Leeuwen was lucky and released, although later had to go into hiding.


Why?

I return to my initial question: why? Why resistence and why do we want to know about this.

The answer to the why of the resistance and our interest in it can partially be found in Willem Arondéus’s short biography, which senator Gerry E. Studds had included in the Congressional Records. Studds mentions to be aware of the fact that someone like Arondéus can easily disappear from our collective memory, as he had no children. “We are their family and will never forget them.”

Momument for the Stijkel group with crosses remembering the executed members
Most of the history of the Second World War in the Netherlands sees a male protagonist, whose heterosexuality is seen as self-evident. They were Real Men, without emotions, but all the more with action-readiness. Like all stories, resistance narratives have a fixed pattern, leaving little or no room for deviations, feelings, doubt and insecurity. They are strictly coded for adventure and action. In this study I had hoped to break this pattern, but it is an extremely persistent one. In this respect, the sources did not accommodate me.

The link between sexual preference and the Second World War - whether people are depicted as victims or as heroes - remains an extremely difficult one. It is a subject that proves to be a sensitive one. Two examples:

a. Regularly I see an almost indecent relief in articles that mention research showing that, during the Second World War, there was no systematic persecution of homosexuals in the Netherlands. As early as the 1970s and 1980s in the run-up to the debate about the Benefits for War Victims Law and Loe de Jong’s books, I detect a disgust on the part of the government and its agencies even having to consider thinking about the subject. “Why do you wish that you were persecuted?” NIOD Director Paape demanded to know from researchers Pieter Koenders and Harry Oosterhuis.

Canadian troops pass a windmillIn her never-published final article for the TTW Marjan van der Klein suggested that the roots of this awkwardness lie precisely in the fight for recognition of the victimization of homosexuals in the Second World War. Anyone wishing to participate in the Netherlands must acquire a representative role in the debate about and the history of the Second World War. Homosexuals saw a great similarity between the trauma of war as the oppressed and the painful experiences in their own history, also in illegality and with criminalization in place. It was exactly that similarity that was denied to them.

Koenders’ dissertation “Tussen christelijk réveil en seksuele revolutie: Bestrijding van zedeloosheid, met de nadruk op repressie van homoseksualiteit” (Between Christian Revival and Sexual Revelotion: Combating Debauchery, with Emphasis of the Repression of Homosexuality; 1996) made it clear that things were not right indeed. Koenders listed several hundred cases of men who, during the war, had somehow got into trouble because of their homosexuality. The German occupying forces implemented a large number of measures in order to destroy / persecute homosexuals and the gay movement. Only the last phase, systematic persecution, was missing. Those conclusions seem to have disappeared into the void. To me, too much relief is sounding through: Fortunately, there is no problem there. You complain. We don’t have to think about it anymore - everyone is straight and we go back to the business at hand.

Willem Arondéus, artist and resistance fighter, in the 1930s with two fishermenb. The discomfort that some biographers have with the personal lives of women in the resistance. Marie Anne Tellegen’s biography clearly shows that she had meaningful relationships with both men and women, that she liked to dress up as a boy during her time at university, and that she was possibly interested in SM. Her biographer Wim Weenink ignores this aspect of her life completely. “He is portraying a woman who’s untraceable,” critic Erna van Koeven wrote. A number of biographies show that the women in the resistance often had a female partner. This fact was often repressed in favour of vague heterosexual infatuations that mostly could not be proven at all.

I experienced this discomfort myself. Why did I need to discuss women, who never expressed themselves about their personal lives, let alone sexual preference? As early as the 1980s there was discussion among historians - and feminist historians - about what constituted a lesbian woman, and how you could demonstrate this in the past. Mainstream historians seem to have missed this discussion entirely. They want clear evidence of same-sex genital activity - if not, you are categorised as heterosexual. “Does it matter if they did it?” “All it needs to be a lesbian, is a woman and a book.” To me, the focus on women and the fact that their life partners were women, is an important argument for classifying these women in a non-heterosexual category.

A member of the PAN (Partisan Action Netherlands) guides British troops to German positions  (1944)
In the end, one’s personal life and personal conviction were crucial to the decision to join the resistance. In a book with biographies on homosexuality and resistance, I mcalled that “Het begint met nee zeggen” (It Starts With Saying No). In Arondéus’s case, that “no” certainly had to do with his homosexuality. With others, such as Stijkel, it was about the feeling to do what they had to do – even though his first act of resistance was to protect fellow homosexuals. A religiously inspired mission, patriotism, duty as a soldier, and perhaps a mix of all these elements. Political and philosophical convictions, opinions about sex, but also experiences of what it is like to live as a sexual minority, will all have played their part.
 



 







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