Disney+ and National Geographic's latest series, A Small Light, delves into the remarkable story of Miap Gies and her husband Jan, shedding light on their courageous efforts to protect the Frank family during the Holocaust. However, what sets this series apart is its commitment to showcasing an often-overlooked aspect of the war: the underground queer resistance in Amsterdam. A Small Light explores the significance of Café ‘t Mandje, a gay bar, and the extraordinary actions of gay Dutch artist Willem Arondéus, who played a pivotal role in hindering the Nazi regime's genocidal efforts. In an interview with Digital Spy, the show's creators, Tony Phelan, Joan Rater, and Susanna Fogel, emphasized the importance of including this vital LGBTQ+ history within the series.
LGBTQ+ Persecution During the Holocaust
The Holocaust saw immense persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals, with many facing imprisonment, forced hiding, or deportation to concentration camps. Café ‘t Mandje became a rare sanctuary for queer people in Europe, providing a place for them to gather and find solace amidst the turmoil.
The Inclusion of Queer Resistance
The creators of A Small Light were deeply moved by the story of Café ‘t Mandje and Willem Arondéus. The bar, known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ community, became a hotbed of resistance during the war. Phelan and his team were compelled to tell this story, recognizing the significance of showcasing the brave actions of queer individuals in fighting against the Nazis. As the series unfolds, the bar evolves into the breeding ground for a major action against the oppressors.
Willem Arondéus: Unyielding Bravery and Recognition
Willem Arondéus, a gay Dutch artist, played a pivotal role in the resistance by participating in the bombing of the Amsterdam public records office, which aimed to impede the Nazis' efforts to identify Dutch Jews. His story of unimaginable bravery is finally receiving the recognition it deserves, with Stephen Fry's Channel 4 documentary, “Willem & Frieda – Defying Nazis,” shedding light on his tireless activism.
The Importance of Representation and Visibility
By incorporating the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals in historical dramas such as A Small Light, the creators aim to emphasize that queer identities have always existed and made significant contributions to society. The inclusion of LGBTQ+ stories serves as a powerful reminder, especially in light of the current anti-LGBTQ+ climate in certain parts of the United States, that queer individuals have always been part of our families and communities, even if their stories have not always been openly discussed.