The Jewish hero who planted a firebomb in the office where the Nazis kept their lists of Jews to be killed
Born in Amsterdam in 1895, Willem was one of six children. From a young age, he was a talented artist and his parents encouraged his creativity, until he came out as homosexual at age 17.
In a time when nearly all gay people were in the closet, Willem’s parents could not accept his choice to live openly. Their rejection led Willem to run away from home.
On his own, Willem took odd jobs and eventually became a successful visual artist and writer. He was commissioned to paint a mural for Rotterdam’s town hall, in a style that combined modern abstract painting with a traditional Dutch motif. Willem was a well-respected author who published a popular biography of Dutch painter and political activist Matthijs Maris.
In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Willem immediately joined the resistance movement, and urged his fellow artists to fight against the Nazi occupation. WIllem published illegal anti-Nazi pamphlets calling for mass resistance against the Germans.
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