Stephen Fry World War II gay resistance documentary announced for Channel 4

·2 min read
Stephen Fry during the filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks 6 Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. Picture date: Thursday December 3, 2020. Photo credit should read: PA Media on behalf of So TV/PA Wire
Stephen Fry will present a documentary about gay resistance during World War II. (PA)

Stephen Fry is set to explore the incredible true story of how a gay artist, a lesbian musician and Jewish activists fought back against the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands for a Channel 4 documentary.

Willem and Frieda: A Story of Resistance will be presented by Fry and looks at how an unlikely saboteur group pulled off one of the greatest feats of resistance in Dutch history.

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Artist Willem Arondeus and cellist Frieda Belinfante lived openly gay lives in the Netherlands, but when World War II broke out and their country's people were under threat from the Nazis, they swapped their day jobs for helping Jews to escape persecution.

Stephen Fry attending The Stranger - Netflix Original Press Screening, The Soho Hotel, London.
Stephen Fry will tell the incredible tale of Dutch resistance for Channel 4. (PA)

Together they forged identity papers for Jews, saving countless lives, but when the Nazis started to check false papers against real records and looked set to uncover their actions, they came up with a daring plan to blow up the Central Records Office without harming anyone.

Although Willem was caught and killed by firing squad in 1943, Frieda managed to escape to California where she became a famous musician and their legacy in the Netherlands is that they saved huge numbers of people from being murdered.

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Fry said: "I confess that, before Rik Carmichael and John Hay sent me the fruits of their amazing research, I had never heard of Willem Arondeus or Frieda Belinfante — a pair whom I now regard as being authentic and remarkable heroes.

Actor Stephen Fry poses with The Icon Award during the Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards Powered By Jaguar broadcast on  December 01, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Attitude Magazine/Attitude Magazine via Getty Images)
Stephen Fry will also explore today's struggle for gay rights. (Attitude Magazine via Getty Images)

"Living their lives as openly gay in the 1930s was remarkable enough, but once the Nazis invaded their homeland of the Netherlands, they found in themselves a depth of courage and determination that is, across the years, still inspiring.

"It's a question we often ask ourselves – how would I respond to the occupation of my country? Would I fight for freedom or duck down and keep out of trouble? I think the world needs to be reminded of Willem and Frieda, ordinary people who found extraordinary inner resources."

Fry will also talk about his own experiences of today's struggles for gay rights and the power of individuals to affect change.

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