Frieda Belinfante Haiku

Records office bombed?

Oh man, the Gestapo did

Nazi that coming.

Today on Crossdresser Week, we present Frieda Belinfante – cellist, conductor, and Nazi botherer. And no, I will not apologize for the terrible pun in the haiku.

Frieda Belinfante was born in Amsterdam in 1904 to Aron Belinfante (a Jewish pianist) and Georgine Hesse. She took up the cello at age 10, but it took her a while to find a decent tutor. (The first was useless and the second wanted to marry her so she could be his cook. Ugh.) The third, though? Damned good. Furthermore, Belinfante had the good fortune to meet and fall in love with the conductor Henrietta Bosmans. The two stayed together for a number of years – living together, playing cello together, collaborating on musical pieces together, along with general romance stuff – for years before Bosmans was like, “Um, monogamy.”

Belinfante: “Um, no.”

Then Belinfante was bullied into marrying a talented yet dickish male flutist named Joe Feldcamp. All she wanted to do was jam together. But that wouldn’t do for Jojo, no no! She told him repeatedly that she was ‘not the marrying kind’, which pretty much as blunt as she could have possibly been about her orientation in that time period. He responded by placing a revolver on the mantle and telling her he couldn’t live without her. They wed in 1931. The marriage failed after five years. I’m surprised it lasted that long. In the meantime, she got into conducting, moving to Switzerland in 1939 to study the art hardcore.

Then World War II rolled around, if anything was going to put a pause on the music for Belinfante, it was fighting Nazis. She skipped back to Amsterdam, joined the Dutch resistance, and discovered she had a talent for forging documents mid-way through the war. Incidentally, you know what really helps make your forgeries more believable? Bombing the shit out of the records office so the Gestapo can’t compare them to the originals.

So she and her buds prepared to bomb the Public Records Office. While it’s true she didn’t actually participate in the main event (it was decided that it would be too dangerous for women and that they’d be less able to pull off the policeman disguises), she was not free from the consequences. The Gestapo found out who the perpetrators and planners were and managed to hunt down and kill most of them. Belinfante escaped detection by posing as a man so convincingly, her own mother passed her by on the street with neither word nor glance.

This was a stop-gap solution, though, and she knew it. After failing to get out to England via France, she and a male friend set out for Switzerland. This involved a slosh through a freezing river in winter, their only possessions being what they happened to be wearing and a towel. The border police caught up to them in a café they stopped at and acted like enormous dicks to them. Even worse, they shipped her friend back to France to be killed – Belinfante had told them that they were friends, not married, not knowing that the Swiss weren’t accepting single male refugees.

She returned to Amsterdam after war’s end, but left for the States after only two years. Why? Because no one seemed to care about those who’d actually bothered to fight the Nazis, the folk who hedged their bets were running the show, way too many of her friends had died, and everything was shit.

California’d fix that, right? Well, for a time. She worked pretty consistently, eventually winding up as the inaugural conductor of the Orange County Philharmonic Society. Then she was ditched in 1962 when the board members got into a tizzy because the musicians actually wanted to be paid for the hours upon hours of rehearsal. Plus, a man would be so much better than a woman at that job (and psst, did you hear she liked ladies).

It was only in the last decade of her life that Belinfante got any damned recognition, both for the music and the Nazi fighting. She died of cancer in 1994.

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