Herengracht 401, 1017 BP Amsterdam
Spaarnwoude Cemetery Spaarnwoude, Haarlemmerliede en Spaarnwoude Municipality, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Wolfgang Frommel (July 8, 1902 – December 13, 1986) was a German poet and writer. In an article in April 2004 about the start of Castrum Peregrini Gert Hekma wrote: “At the Herengracht in Amsterdam, at the corner of the Beulingstraat and across from the Leidsegracht, there is a world-famous house, dubbed by Mattias Duyves 'The gay version of the Anne Frank house’. ... Most of the residents were gay but they never called themselves that way”. Wolfgang Frommel lived there, probably from mid-1942 on, together with friends, some of them Jews who were in hiding during the occupation. The invitation came from Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht, an artist from the coastal village of Bergen who had studied in Roermond with glass artist Joep Nicolas, and who had a long time relationship with him. The poet Adriaan Roland Holst called her 'the girl with the wettest name in The Netherlands' (Waterschoot stands for drainage-canal and Van der Gracht for canal).
Wolfgang Frommel was the son of the theologian Otto Frommel and older brother of the composer Gerhard Frommel. He attended schools in Heidelberg, where he met Kurt Wildhagen and Wilhelm Fraenger, and in Wertheim. From 1922 he studied German philology, theology and pedagogy at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. The fact that he founded a socialist student group together with the literary socialist Theodor Haubach, through whom he gained access to the late work of Stefan George, or even on his behalf, is possibly a fiction put into the world by Frommel himself. The friendship with his homosexual fellow student Percy Gothein became a turning point for Frommel: Gothein not only belonged to the circle "The Community" around Wilhelm Fraenger, but also belonged to the closest circle around the poet Stefan George. However, the encounter with the revered "master", dated 1923, never seems to have taken place, according to the only surviving letter from Frommel to George dated 13 March 1926. While continuing his studies in Berlin, he dealt intensively with George's poetry and intellectual world and gathered a group of like-minded people around him. During this time, around 1924, he also met thirteen-year-old Billy Hildesheimer, who later called himself William Hilsley. A lifelong friendship developed between Hilsley and Frommel. In 1930, together with Edwin Maria Landau and Percy Gothein, Frommel founded the publishing house Die Runde, in which Frommel's then highly acclaimed work Der dritte Humanismus was published in 1932, under the pseudonym Lothar Helbing (after his mother's maiden name). At that time, Wolfgang Frommel belonged to the circle ("Beckerjungen") of the Prussian Minister of Culture Carl Heinrich Becker, who seems to have sympathized with his ideas. The pamphlet had two further editions until 1935, but was then banned by the National Socialists because the "third humanism" propagated in it for a "Third Reich" ultimately did not fit the ideology of the new rulers despite ambiguous formulations. In July 1933, Walther Beumelburg, the new director of Südwestdeutscher Rundfunk, brought him to Frankfurt and entrusted him with the management of the Word Department. Through Frommel's mediation, Wilhelm Fraenger also found a job at the radio. In the autumn of 1933, Frommel was able to start his own midnight broadcast, which he continued at the Reichssender Berlin. In the series On the Fate of the German Spirit, he invited a guest ("The Best of the Nation", including Jewish authors under pseudonyms), who thus had the opportunity to skilfully circumvent official censorship by making remarks critical of the system. After mediation of the mutual friend Woldemar Graf Uxkull-Gyllenband, Carlo Schmid gave his lecture on Friedrich and Rousseau or art and naturalness as a state-building effecton Friday, November 16, 1934, after 24:00 in a midnight program. Parallel to his work at the radio, Frommel held a teaching position at the University of Greifswald from 1934 to 1935 for the subject "Political Pedagogy" established by the National Socialists. Whether Frommel became a member of the SA in order to gain or support his position is not certain. After a control of the series by the regime had begun, he was no longer in a position to continue the concept at the end of 1935. In Frommel's time in Frankfurt, another fateful encounter falls. In August 1933 he met fourteen-year-old Adolf Friedrich Wongtschowski, who later called himself Friedrich W. Buri. In 1937 he helped him to flee to the Netherlands and there – together with William Hilsley – to a job at the Quaker School Eerde. Hilsley and Buri gathered a circle of students around them in Eerde, who introduced them to George's world of thought and its interpretation by Frommel. In the summer of 1935, the circle around Wolfgang Frommel met for the last time in Saas (Graubünden). In a secluded country house, the group read and discussed Dante's Divine Comedy daily. The "round" gathered around him now dissolved, and some of the members emigrated as early as 1936, followed by Frommel in 1937. He first went to Basel, where he was accepted by the publisher Benno Schwabe.
Friends' Festival, April 1944, in Castrum Peregini. In the middle Wolfgang Frommel on the right and Percy Gothein on the left
From there, after stops in Zurich and Paris, he arrived in the Netherlands in 1939. With the help of Dutch friends such as the writer Adriaan Roland Holst (1888–1976), he received a residence permit. Soon after his arrival in the Netherlands, Frommel was one of the regular guests at the Quaker School Eerde, where he gave lectures on literary topics and became the "master" of the young people who had gathered Hilsley and Buri around him. After the occupation of the Netherlands by the German Wehrmacht and the decision of the Quakers to give in to the pressure of the occupiers and to banish the Jewish children from Eerde Castle to an outbuilding, Frommel and Wolfgang Cordan tried to persuade the school management to let the Jewish children go into hiding. When the school management opposed this plan and even threatened to file complaints with the Gestapo, Frommel and Cordan decided to act on their own and help the students close to them escape. Claus Victor Bock, Clemens Michael Brühl, Liselotte Brinitzer and Thomas Maretzki went into hiding. Bock, like his former teacher Buri, lived from 1942 on in the hiding place in Amsterdam's Herengracht 401, for which the name Castrum Peregrini was naturalized. This hiding place was due to Frommel's acquaintance with the painter Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht, whom Frommel had met in 1941 in Bergen, the home of his friend Adriaan Roland Holst. In July 1942 he moved into the painter's Amsterdam apartment at Herengracht 401, which then became a hiding place for some of the young people in hiding. Even the refugees from the Quaker School Eerde, who had not found shelter here, the place remained a point of reference. They all survived the German occupation – despite the omnipresent threat of the raids of the German occupying power and its Dutch auxiliary organs. Claus Victor Bock reports on this in his 1985 book Untergetaucht unter Freunden and Buri in his "Lebensbericht" Ich gab dir die Torch im Sprunge. While what Marita Keilson-Lauritz called a "love called friendship" played a role in the survival of the group, Frommel's acquaintance with the higher occupation officer Bernhard Knauss, whose book Staat und Mensch in Hellas was probably also not unimportant. In 1940, after Frommel's emigration, when one of the last publications was published by the Berlin publishing house "Die Runde".  During these years, Frommel was one of the most important interlocutors for the painter Max Beckmann, who also emigrated to Amsterdam.
After the end of the Second World War, Wolfgang Frommel remained in the Netherlands and published as a writer under changing pseudonyms such as C. P. de Fournière, F. W. L'Ormeau and Karl Wyser. He kept the apartment in Amsterdam until his death. In 1951 he and Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht founded the literary magazine Castrum Peregrini, named after the last fortress of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, the Château Pèlerin, located about 20 km from the city of Haifa and considered impregnable at the time. "Castrum Peregrini" had also been the code name of the group around Frommel, which he had hidden during the German occupation and thus saved. In 1973 he was honored by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations for his rescue of Jewish persecuted people at Yad Vashem. In Spaarnwoude, the Netherlands, Wolfgang Frommel was buried in a small cemetery where his friend Claus Victor Bock was buried on 12 January 2008.
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