Years of abuse in Amsterdam cultural center: investigative committee

Commemorative plaque for Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht on the façade of her house at Herengracht 401 in Amsterdam
Commemorative plaque for Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht on the façade of her house at Herengracht 401 in AmsterdamPhoto: Sandra Fauconnier/Wikimedia Commons

Poet Wolfgang Frommel and his circle of friends committed sexual abuse for years, including with minors, former judge Frans Bauduin concluded in a report. The Bauduin Committee investigated the activities of Frommel and his circle at his Amsterdam cultural foundation Castrum Peregrini in the period from 1942 until his death in 1986. The investigation was requested the foundation into its founder, NOS reports.

Frommel left Germany in 1937 and eventually ended up in the Netherlands. During the war he lived in Amsterdam, where he and a number of Jewish boys were given shelter by artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht. The Castrum Peregrini foundation is still located in the artist's building. The foundation organizes lectures and exhibitions, among other things. 

The committee found 10 plausible cases of abuse of power and sexual abuse in the above mentioned period. Frommel preached the 'pedagogical eros', in which a teacher initiates his student in culture, but also in sexuality. The poet preferred boys aged around 14 or 15 years, but there were also cases in which he harassed women, according to the report. Frommel gave people unwanted kisses, got into bed naked with sleeping victims, and used psychological manipulation to force people into sex. 

Close friends of Frommel were also guilty of such behavior, including teachers from the Quackerschool in Ommen and Werkhoven, according to the committee. The circle around Frommel resembled "a cult", the researchers said in their report. "An exclusive company that was characterized by a close connection that - according to documentation and personal memories - was in a number of cases accompanied by sexual acts in relationships where there was inequality."

"As young friend you were 'owned' by your older friend. You could be lent out by your owner, so to speak", one victim told the committee. Another said: "It was a condition to belong that you had sexual contacts with your 'older friends'."

The committee described Frommel as an "intelligent, erudite person with great charisma", who "used the goodness of people around him without scruples". Because he insisted that pupils find their own pupils, he created a form of complicity, in which people became "connected in shame", the committee said. 

"It is horrible that Frommel and his followers involved young men and women in their activities, which turned out to include sexual and power abuse, under the guise of culture formation", Frans Damman of Castrum Peregrini said, according to NOS. The foundation plans to cut all ties with Frommel. "We take sharp distance from this past."

The committee recommended ten changes that can be made, and the foundation accepts all of them. The name Frommel gave to the foundation will now be changed to Huis van Gisèle - named after the woman who offered him shelter for a long time. Frommel's room, which remained largely untouched after his death, will be rebuilt. "Anyone who wants to put an end to the dark past of sexual abuse does not want to have anything to do with tangible memories of it", the committee said in its advice.

As Frommel is dead and many of the crimes uncovered by the committee is now time-barred, the report will have no legal consequences. However, victims may still be eligible to compensation and can contact Victim Support Netherlands to find out. 


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