Castrum Peregrini is a unique cultural centre, combining a rich and multi-layered past with pressing social issues of today. Castrum Peregrini has an unequivocal belief in a society where nobody is excluded and that embraces diversity and equality as conditions for progress. Firmly rooted in Amsterdam its outlook is international.

Castrum Peregrini is a place of (artistic-) research and encounter. It offers an environment for artists, thinkers, opinion leader and activists, to work in the context of the organisation and in exchange with its network and audience.

The historic environment and the complex history of Castrum Peregrini form a laboratory for the researching artist and the interdisciplinary researcher. The public programme offers a moment of peer review for new ideas and participatory- or co-creation.


Three activity strands

Memory Machine is a public programme on the relationship between cultural- or collective memory and individual identity. Lectures, exhibitions, performances, workshops, debates and publications target artists, students, teachers and opinion leaders.

Performance by Alexis Blake in the studio of Gisèle

Performance by Alexis Blake in the studio of Gisèle

Intellectual Playground focuses on the development of new ideas through (artistic-) research and encounter. Think-tank meetings, residencies and collaboration projects collect, develop and share knowledge with a wide groups of local and international partner organisations.

Meeting of the Castrum Peregrini Dialogue group

Meeting of the Castrum Peregrini Dialogue group

The House of Gisèle offers guided tours and educational events. The maze of rooms, corridors, stairways and surprising spaces is a living testimony to the life of the artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht (1912-2013).

Film still from Herengracht 401 by Janina Pigaht

Film still from Herengracht 401 by Janina Pigaht

Multiple Histories

In a nutshell

Castrum Peregrini, ‘the fortress of the pilgrim’, is the nom de guerre of a WWII safe house in the city centre of Amsterdam. Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht (1912 – 2013) offered the German poet Wolfgang Frommel and two of his Jewish pupils shelter in her tiny apartment on the Herengracht. Many parts of this canal house remain unchanged since, making its history tangible. An old pianola that served as a hiding space, shelves full of poetry books, the original furniture and Gisèle’s countless collections tell a rich story of the entire twentieth century. Gisèle died in her house in 2013 at the age of 100 years.

In more than 70 years Castrum Peregrini has taken many shapes and forms, and represented various values and stories: a hiding place and shelter during WWII, the home of the painter Gisèle, a magazine and publishing house, a cultural foundation, and a community that organised themselves around the friendship cult as inspired by the German poet Stefan George and led by Wolfgang Frommel. The history of hiding and with it the person of Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht is just one part of a complex history but one which inspires and motivates todays Castrum Peregrini the most.

In 2007/2008 the current generation has terminated the magazine and publishing house and has distanced itself from the George-inspired community around Wolfgang Frommel. See below “Dealing with negative Memories”.

The community that gathered under the name of Castrum Peregrini from 1952 to 1986 is nowadays involved in a – sometimes painful – process of getting to terms with their past in which, for some, power and sexual abuse formed part of their experience. The present board of directors rejects all forms of abuse and contributes in its long term research to opening up the organisations past, also the negative aspects of it. It offers help to the members of this group that want to get to terms with these unsavory aspects of their personal history and help – within our reach – to overcome traumatic experiences.

In the activities strand Memory Machine Castrum Peregrini critically discusses history writing – and also its own past – in a systematic and open way.

For more historical details please also see a.o.:

Dealing with negative memories

The current generation of Castrum Peregrini distances itself distinctly from all aspects of abuse in the past of the organisation, mainly by sectarian aspects at play in the circle around Wolfgang Frommel. We reject the values that Frommel derived from the German poet Stefan George, which were based for instance on the notion of a chosen few, gender in-equality or pedagogical Eros that could be used to manipulate individuals.

Frommel died in 1986. Castrum Peregrini as an organisation has made a new start in 2009, after a thorough reorganisation in the years before, with a new mission statement and a new organisational structure.

We are conscious of our past, which we use as a motivation to address the social and cultural issues of our times. We make choices, as each generation does, and as such put a focus on Gisèle and her life,- as well as on themes such as vulnerability for group fanaticism and collective memory. We thereby address history and culture for the benefit of our present day audience. Our focus on positive examples from the organisations past (saving lives, living with art and culture, ea.) does not exclude its negative aspects of abuse, which should be addressed by research and in public discussion.

It is important to us at this moment

Please also see:

Dealing with a complex past

Biografie: De eeuw van Gisèle

Vergangenheitsbewältigung (july 2017)

Organisational structure

Board of Directors
Michael Defuster (executive manager), Frans Damman (marketing), Lars Ebert (programme)

Sally Mometti (administration), Genia Gröne (Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienst)

Supervisory Board
Jan-Petrus Rozenbroek (chair, secretary), Erik Somers (treasurer), Romy Roelofsen, Joshua Dijksman

Board of Recommendation
Avrum Burg (chair), Marjan Schwegman, Ronny Naftaniel, Maya Meijer Bergmans, Job Cohen, Eric Fischer

Stichting Castrum Peregrini is een ‘Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling’
RSIN: 002963346

Raad van Toezicht (supervisory board) en Comité van aanbeveling (Board of Recommendation)  zijn onbezoldigd

Financiële verslaggeving 2011 en 2012
Financiële verslaglegging 2013 en 2014
Financiële verslaggeving 2014 en 2015

Financiële Verslaggeving 2016 en 2017