In a nutshell

Castrum Peregrini, ‘the fortress of the pilgrim’, was the code name of a WWII hiding place in the center of Amsterdam. A group of German, Jewish and Dutch youngsters survived at Herengracht 401 with the help of the Dutch artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht and the German poet Wolfgang Frommel and their networks. They taught the group in hiding how to preserve their spiritual freedom through the arts and friendship.  Castrum Peregrini continues telling the story of these Silent Heroes and their hiders in the same house at Herengracht 401. The  interiors that since remained unchanged  make the spirit of freedom, friendship and culture tangible for every visitor, young and old. In that sense Castrum Peregrini is a time machine: its heroic past is represented by its tangible and intangible heritage. Against the background of these stories of brave people during WWII Castrum Peregrini facilitates creative and constructive reflection on the present for the sake of a better future.

All activities of Castrum Peregrini foster togetherness and belonging in a multi-ethnic, -cultural and -religious society, through memory, dialogue and collaborative work

Visitors of the GISÈLE HOUSE can experience an authentic historical hiding floor and its stories in guided tours for young and old. Silent Heroes from the past are remembered and civic courage of today is celebrated with the yearly Gisèle Price.

MEMORY MACHINE is the cultural podium of Castrum Peregrini. Its target groups are creative producers, artists, students, teachers, academics and opinion leaders. The history of the house serves as an inspiration for a thematic programme that addresses the urgencies of our times. Activities are often research based with an active role for its audience: exhibitions, lectures, performances, debates, residencies, workshops and trainings.

INTELLECTUAL PLAYGROUND is the think tank of Castrum Peregrini. It offers the cultural and educational sector analysis, content and ideas that are developed by leading international intellectuals, high ranking educational organizations and NGO’s from all over Europe. Regular publications make this unique intelligence accessible for policy makers and cultural- as well as civil society organizations.

Castrum Peregrini is a unique space which successfully combines the heroic legacy of the place with the urgencies of today: unequivocal belief in an inclusive society that embraces diversity and equality as a key to justice and progress

Castrum Peregrini creates awareness of the mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion. Based on the example of Gisèle as a ‘change maker’ in times of war, as a person that stayed true to her ethics and values, to her authentic Self, the foundation develops knowledge, skills and competences about change mechanisms in civil society. It’s activities are a unique call for action fuelled by the heroism of the rescuers.  Rooted in Amsterdam and its tradition as an intellectual free-haven Castrum Peregrini is international in outlook. It is an engaged partner in initiatives that contribute to a better Europe and a better world.


Others about Castrum Peregrini

Avraham Burg
In the center of Amsterdam there is a center of social and cultural activism called Castrum Peregrini. Castrum Peregrini was a hiding place for persecuted Jews during the occupation of the Netherlands by the Nazi regime. Castrum Peregrini – the fortress of the pilgrims – is one of the most welcoming places in Amsterdam. It is a meeting place for social activists, religious and secular people of all faiths, straights and gays, women and men, natives and immigrants, occupiers and victims all working together for a better society from the time the human spirit had to prevail over the horrors of the Holocaust.” – Avraham (Avrum) Burg served as Speaker of the 15th Knesset and Chairman of the Jewish Agency. He is a writer and Senior Fellow of the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, Vienna.

Jeanne Prisser in her weekly review about the avantgarde in the arts in NRC Handelsblad:
als ik zo’n liefdeloos gekleed politicus zinnen hoor boetseren over snijden in het cultuurbudget, over vraaggericht aanbod, over krimpen om te kunnen groeien – dan denk ik aan Castrum Peregrini. Op dat onderduik adres in Amsterdam werden in de tweede Wereldoorlog jonge onderduikers door hun gastvrouw – kunstenares Gisèle d’ Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht, onlangs overleden 100 jaar - in een straf regime aan het schilderen, tekenen, dichten, vertalen gezet. Odre scheppen en ‘zo mogelijk vreugde’ , zoals Willem Sandberg zei, tegen het monster van en de chaos buiten en in het hoofd. Vraagt u mij waarom kunst eigenlijk nodig is, wat het toevoegt, dan neem ik u mee naar de nog steeds intacte etages op de Herengracht in |Amsterdam, waar de kracht van vriendschap en verbeelding mensenlevens redde. “  november 2013

Sascha Bronwasser in Volkskrant:
Op vrijwel een intacte onderduik etage in A’dam komen WOII en kritiek op het huidige politieke klimaat samen. ONDERBUIKADRES” – mei 2013


Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht  (1912 – 2013) founder of Castrum Peregrini, with Lars Ebert, Frans Damman and Michael Defuster


Organistational structure

Castrum Peregrini is a foundation under Dutch Law.  The executive director, the programme manager and the communcation/marketing-manager work as a team to devleop the foundations policies, initiate and manage projects and to sustain the foundations heritage. Castrum Perergini works with a staff (2,2fte) and free lance project workers, teachers and trainers. A pool of volunteers contributes to the everyday running of the organisation.


Michael Defuster – executive director
Lars Ebert – programme manager
Frans Damman – communication and marketing manager
Eva Maria Thiel – production support


Jan Rozenbroek – voorzitter
Ute Oelmann - secretaris
Erik Somers

Programme Advisors

Anneke Jansen - Fringe Festival
Jan Baeke – Poetry International
Truus Ophuysen – ELIA
Michiel van Iersel – Non-Fiction
Maarten Bul/Chris Julien - Novel
Iris van de Tuin - Univeristeit van Utrecht
Joachim Umlauf - Goethe Institut Parijs
Alfred Marseille - Zeezeilen
Eric Wie - COBRA Museum

Stichting Castrum Peregrini is a Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling (ANBI).

Fiscaal Nummer: 0029.63.346
Beleidsplan Castrum Peregrini 2014/2015
Financiële verantwoording CP 2013

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