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Niek Engelschman
(November 12, 1913 - October 27, 1988) Holland

Niek Engelschman

Actor and gay activist

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Engelschman, also known as Bob Angelo, was the eldest of five sons. His full real name was Nico Engelschman. His father was a Jew, his mather a Protestant. For both arents the marriage meant that they borke with the past. Engelschman was not brought up in any religious or political way. He started to work in his early teens. He was very active in the radical socialistic youth movement; in fact he became the secretary. Here he learned to organise and was politically schooled.

Niek EngelschmanIn these years Engelschman became aware of his homosexuality. But in the 1930s one did not speak about homosexuality. There were no magazines and only a few places where men could meet. Most of the time men met through personal ads. Engelschman too in this way came to know other homosexuals.

He realised that if he wanted to change his own position as a homosexual and that of others, he had to fight.He left the radical socialist movement and started in the winter of 1940, with some other men, one of the first journals dealing with homosexuality, a magazine for homosexual men and women called Levensrecht (Right to Live).

The occupation of Holland by Nazi Germany ended these efforts. He then became involved in the resistance. Because of this and his Jewish descent, he spent several years in hiding. He spent his time taking acting lessons secretely; after the war, in May 1945 he began to work as an actor.

Niek EngelschmanHe was then one of the founders of the COC (Cultuur-en Ontspanningscentrum, or Centre for Culture and Recreation, Dutch gay & lesbian society). The word "homosexual" had a negative connotation; it placed too much emphasis on sexuality. To make sure that society would understand that Homosexual men and women could love each other as any other human being, Engelschman in 1949 introduced the word "homophile" - the last part of the word meaning "to love" in classical Greek.

In 1986, the fortieth anniversary of the COC, Engelschman received, from the Dutch government, the Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau (the Dutch equivalent of a British knighthood), a reward for the way he had given indefatigably of his strenght for emancipation of homosexuals. In 1998 the municipality of Amsterdam hnoured Engelschman by maning the bridge neat the Homomonument after him.

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Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001 - et alii

Films:

  • Keetje Tippel (1975)
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