The Dutch cellist turned World War II resistance fighter, Frieda
Belinfante, was born on this day in 1904!
Frieda photographed circa-1940. She lived openly after WWII with her partner Henriëtte Bosmans, who was also a Dutch musician (x).
Frieda was born in Amsterdam on May 10, 1904 to a very musical
and artistic Jewish family. Her father was a renowned pianist and music teacher
in the Netherlands and her family line boasts several popular writers and
journalists from throughout the generations. Frieda began studying the cello
when she was ten-years-old and she made her concert debut at age seventeen. The
Nazi occupation eventually interrupted Frieda’s career and prevented her from pursuing
music until after the war.
As an out Jewish lesbian who was known for her butch presentation, rebellion against the Nazi Party came naturally to Frieda. It was her good friend Willem
Arondeus, a fellow artist and gay man, who pulled Frieda into the world of the
Dutch resistance. Willem was one of the leaders of Raad van Verzet and he
recruited Frieda to help forge documents for Jewish people trying to flee the
Netherlands. Together, Frieda and Willem eventually went on to perform the
bombing and destruction of a Nazi-run population registry on March 27, 1943. The
operation was a success and it hindered the Nazis from being able to identify
Jewish populations in the Netherlands. After the bombing, Frieda, Willem, and the
other resistance fighters involved with Raad van Verzet were forced to go into
hiding. Frieda disguised herself as a man for three months before she eventually
made her way to safety in Switzerland.
After the war, Frieda returned to both the Netherlands and
her music career. She eventually made the transition from performer to music
conductor and immigrated to the United States in 1947 to join the music faculty
at UCLA. Under Frieda’s conduction, the music scene at UCLA reached unforeseen heights.
In 1987, the City of Laguna Beach, California declared February 19th
to be the new “Frieda Belinfante Day” due to her outstanding life journey and her
contributions to the Laguna Beach community. Frieda passed away in 1995 when
she was 90 years old, but she was posthumously the subject of a 1999 documentary titled But I Was
A Girl and a Dutch exhibition about the
persecution of lesbians and gay men during World War II.