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three pairs of lovers with space



Presented here are four reminiscences of the pre-eminent twentieth-century defender of Greek love, the Dutch senator and lawyer Dr. Edward Brongersma (1911-98), published in the New York periodical, the NAMBLA Bulletin. The first three with an introductory note entitled “Farewell to the Dutchman” were published in volume XIX no. 1, August 1998, pp.11-14, and the last in volume XXI No 3, 2001, p. 18.


Farewell to the Dutchman from staff reports

Brongersma Edw. 4 w.bro. Hiddo 7
Brongersma (left), 4, with his brother Hiddo, 7, ca. 1915

On April 22, Dutch boy-love activist Dr. Edward Brongersma died. A former Senator of the Dutch Parliament who had been jailed for sex with a minor, Brongersma was the author of several works on boy-love, including the epic two-volume study Loving Boys. In a feat probably unique among modern boy-lovers, Brongersma was reelected to the Senate after his 11 -month incarceration on the sex charge.

Though NAMBLA briefly noted Brongersma’s passing in May, the Bulletin has prepared this tribute, a collection of remembrances from some of the many boy-lovers whose lives were touched personally by Brongersma’s work. It is telling that the works focus not so much on the activists particular political achievements or publications, but in more personal anecdotes. It’s also interesting that the writers, in revealing their relationship with the Dutchman, tell as much about themselves as they do about him. This may have been Brongersma’s greatest gift, bringing boy-lovers out of themselves in a way that helped them find themselves as activists, authors, lovers and friends in a modern world so full of hostility.


The Tolerant Villager by Adrian Marlowe

As everyone knows, Amsterdam is a village, and like all villages it is parochial and cliquish. This is true as much for the b-l community as for the population at large. There are exclusive cliques and coteries into which an outsider cannot gain admission or acceptance without producing the right credentials: he may have the wrong social style, the wrong appearance, the wrong attitudes or, quite simply, the wrong nationality. Or he may lack that vital ability for diligent self-promotion that can magically open the right doors for him. Consequently I was never a part of Edward Brongersma’s circle of intimate acquaintances: I only met him on three or four occasions, usually when he was having dinner in other people's homes, and my knowledge of his personality is limited to these comparatively brief encounters.    

For his age he had, I thought, a remarkably youthful face, only mildly scored by the eight decades of his long life, soft, somewhat chubby, with a trace of puckishness that was enhanced by bright eyes and good head of silver-white hair. In his youth I should think he must have been a handsome blond. Others who have known him better tell me he was a bad listener and would engage his audience in tedious, and even discourteous monologues, but I must say that I noticed none of this on the very few occasions when I was in his company. He talked sparingly, and then mostly about the food and drink, and everyday things like the weather and mutual friends. He was always accompanied on these excursions by his faithful young Filipino houseboy who loyally and patiently, and with gentle courtesy, ministered to the needs of his employer, serving the functions of companion, driver and nurse.    

Brongersma. Opbouw. 1940
Brongersa's first book, Building a Corporate State (1940)

Brongersma was a gentleman, a literally dying breed in the Netherlands these days, and he inhabited a large late-19th century house in an exclusive leafy suburb of Haarlem - itself now a white-collar dormitory suburb of Amsterdam –  to which I never had the privilege of admittance. He carried with him, both physically and socially, the aura of the old Dutch order: dignified and solid, sober and measured. He belonged, of course, to the upper classes of Dutch society: a lawyer, a senator, an intellectual, and his life reflected the traumatic changes in his fatherland’s fortunes. Like so many members of Europe's educated elite he flirted with fashionable right-wing theories in the 30s, publishing a weighty volume entitled De Corporatieve Staat (The Corporate State) which can still be found gathering dust on the forgotten shelves of the Netherlands’ second-hand bookshops; but during the Occupation, as an active lawyer, he defended opponents of the Nazi regime.    

It was not until the post-war years, however, that Brongersma found his true vocation, when, as a senator in the Dutch parliament, he was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year old youth. Homosexuality was then still illegal in the Netherlands and this bitter experience, and the sudden and painful end it put to his political career, committed him to a personal campaign for the liberation of boy-lovers that lasted until the very end of his life. Brongersma became an intellectual driving force behind the Netherland’s inspirational new tolerance of inter-generational homosexuality in the late 60s and 70s. Although scarcely a flower-child himself in that period many of those who were young enough to reap the delights of those blissful days owed much of their new-found freedoms to a man of whom they had never heard and with whom they would have felt little affinity.    

In the years that followed Brongersma wrote his famous ground-breaking books on boy-love and became a venerated guru. He was in demand for lectures, symposiums and media appearances. Wherever he went he sowed the seeds of enlightenment and in a sense he became the unaccredited ambassador of Dutch tolerance.    

Those were halcyon days of high, heady optimism when anything seemed possible and the future seemed to one of unalloyed hope. But the forces of reaction were already gathering their strength, and the 80s brought the first harbingers of the approaching storm that was to wash away and undermine so much of Brongersma’s achievements. 

I remember in the 70s, when I was still living in London, reading about a visit Brongersma was making to address a meeting in one of the capital’s large halls. The scurrilous Fleet Street rags, alerted to his impending arrival, had been busy stirring up trouble amongst the staff at the forum, who had probably never heard of Brongersma or his work until then. “We Don’t Want This Dirty Old Man Here!” screamed the headlines, and the catering personnel were threatening to boycott the gathering. I remember thinking how typical this was of blinkered British bigotry and how it contrasted with invigorating Dutch open-mindedness. 

The shocking tragedy of Brongersma’s life is that, 20 years on, it was his own countrymen who were hounding him from his home with abuse and threats of violence. For Edward Brongersma, the man who had suffered the humiliation and pain of persecution at the hands of his compatriots once before, the wheel had turned full circle.


A Visit with the Doctor by Robin Sharpe

John Robin Sharpe (1933-2015) was a Canadian writer best known for his assertion, heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000-1, of his innocence of charges of possession of boy pornography on the grounds that the law interfered excessively with his constitutional rights to freedom and privacy.

I probably would not have come to Amsterdam if not to see the Old Dutchman, which is how I think of and privately refer to Dr. Edward Brongersma. In my letters I always address him as Doctor. I had come to admire the Doctor from his writings and our regular correspondence over the previous two years. Dr. Brongersma had a distinguished career as a lawyer and politician in The Netherlands but now is perhaps best known for his extensive writings on boylove which is why I wanted to meet him.

Brongersmas home Tetterodeweg 1
                                Brongersma's home in his last years, Tetterodeweg 1, Overveen

He met me at the train station in Overveen, a green and compact town one stop past Haarlem. He’s a large impressive, white haired man who was surprisingly nimble for eighty-three. I walked with him to his large old victorianish house across from the station. Upstairs in his cluttered library, heavy with massive antique furniture, he offered me a small glass of gin with bitters. We discussed the growing repression of man/boy relationships which he believes is universal. He said the general blossoming of tolerance after the war in Holland was partly due to the collective guilt over the pre-war rejection of the German Jews and the ensuing holocaust. But this is now beginning to fade. He told me that the American police have been pursuing fugitives from the U.S. to Holland, recently persuading their Amsterdam counterparts to lay charges against a photographer exhibiting naturist boy pictures in a local gallery.[1] The artist was acquitted after a lengthy series of trials but several months later was recharged for some of the same photos. The prosecution argued that public opinion had changed in the intervening period. The doctor himself had been visited by American police recently. He told me about himself, his family, his writings, his friends now mostly dead, and about boys he’d known. He himself first had sex with a boy in Morocco when he was forty-nine.[2]

The doctor came from a well to do background of professionals, doctors and lawyers. A huge oil portrait of his grandfather, an atheist materialist he told me, looks on paternalistically from the wall to one side of his large ornate desk. His father[3] was a medical doctor in the atheistic tradition of the family and he and his siblings were encouraged to be freethinkers in the impassioned religious politics of the time.

Brongersmas living quarters
Brongersma's study, including the portrait of his grandfather, Dr. Hotse Sjuks Brongersma (1840-1922), director of the Municipal Grammar School in Haarlem, and (upper left) the one of Angelino described by Sharpe

However his older sister happened to meet the local archbishop and they became friends with her later converting to Roman Catholicism. His brother, seven years his senior, bought himself a Bible which was taken from him. But he persevered, saving his allowance to buy another which he was allowed to keep. At fourteen he sought religious instruction and was allowed to study under Protestant pastors after proving too precocious for Sunday School. He soon expressed his desire to become a Roman Catholic and after some disagreement with his father he was allowed to be baptized into the Roman Church at sixteen. A condition was that he did not proselytize young Edward who was close to him. A few years later his brother became a Benedictine monk and Edward visited him frequently. Years later the Doctor himself became a Catholic though he later lapsed.

His politics, as well as his religion were equivocal. He flirted with the idea of the corporate state before the war when many people had become disillusioned with democracy. The German occupation quickly changed his mind. During the war he wrote a book on the Spanish Civil War. He concluded that the left deserved to lose but that Franco did not deserve to win. He subsequently supported several political positions including democratic socialism. I gathered that party politics no longer interested him.

The Doctor showed me a beautifully scripted letter he recently received from a fourteen year old boy who had been reading his Loving Boys volumes. He had replied and the boy asked to visit him that day but the Doctor had already arranged to see me.

Brongersma Edw. 13. Figurine by Julia Mendlik Mijnssen ca. 1924
Figurine of Brongersma aged 13 by Julia Mendlik-Mijnssen, ca. 1924

In a corner of his library is a large photo portrait of a blondish Sicilian boy, Angelino. He is of course beautiful, his nicely featured face half silhouetted looking up wistfully. He was the lover of a deceased Italian friend Lucchio who had a successful niche in radio doing human interest stories for overseas Italians. Outside of Palermo he picked him up from a group of boys to show him the way to a monastery that was to be the subject of a broadcast. Angelino’s left arm had been paralysed by a construction accident when he was ten. He got to know the boy’s family who had no use for a cripple on their small hillside farm. The broadcaster who became fond of the boy was not a wealthy man but he was a cunning one. Angelino became the subject of a broadcast and listeners contributed money to help him. He got the local media involved and made a deal where Air Italia provided first-class tickets for him to fly to Palermo on a new route they were promoting and bring the boy back to Rome where there was a good school that worked with the handicapped. The school also became the subject of a broadcast and opened up a free place for Angelino. A year or so later the promise of publicity enticed one of Italy’s foremost surgeons to donate a lengthy operation and a two month therapy program at his clinic. This was largely successful. Lucchio coached and opened up new opportunities for the boy who met celebrities and appeared on Italian TV. It was of course a sexual relationship amongst others and a tumultuous one at times. Boys do not like gratitude to compromise their pride.

The Doctor did not meet Angelino until later when he was fifteen, the time the portrait was taken. The story was revealed to him through his lengthy correspondence with Lucchio which he sees as comprising a book. For Lucchio the ultimate payoff came when Angelino, then a successful young man, sent him a letter on the eve of his marriage thanking him for all he had done.

After we returned from dinner at a nearby Indonesian restaurant the Doctor’s assistant Bernie came to the library and served tea. He’s a smallish cheerful young man from Bulacan, north of Manila. He was in his early teens when they met. He had been in Holland for three years, was studying Dutch and had a part-time job delivering magazines. I talked to him about the old Mabini scene in Manila, the former American military bases and Mount Pinatubo. He planned to return to the Philippines in a few months and get married. The Doctor told me after that Bernie wanted him to come with him so he could take care of him until he died.

Brngersma Edward ca. 15 1926
Brongersma aged about 15, 1926

The Doctor established the Brongersma Foundation which has extensive archives on topics relating to boylove including over three thousand publications and manuscripts and one hundred and thirty albums. He showed me a few albums which consisted of personal letters from boylovers (rarely in English) and photos almost exclusively of their boys. Many of the sets cover periods of several years and often include pictures of the boy as a young man years later. The boys all had names and brief bios. Some were of boys the Doctor had known or met. Most photos were casually posed at least to the extent that the subject was aware of it being taken while others were candid social pictures. Usually the boys were scantily clad but nude shots, seldom with erections were common. He knew the history of most sets of photos through correspondence which had arisen from his positive and widely accepted writings on boylove. There is also considerable correspondence from boys.

He especially wanted to show me pictures of Franky, a husky, stunningly beautiful blond French lad whose big eyes—he called the star eyes—proclaimed the magic of youth. Franky, bikinied, is variously posed on a small sailboat. “You can see Nice in the background.” Franky stands, sits, reclines on a sofa in his briefs, his face and body language conveying a series of typical boyish expressions. Then there were a couple of him nude standing and reclining, his spurting genitals still hairless, like a child’s. I saw Franky on the street, in cafés, at parties always with his beautiful face with those radiant eyes. I heard the tale of Franky with the Doctor and friends in some fancy restaurant volunteering to bring another pitcher of water to their table. A lady at me next table tells Franky to bring her some water too while he’s at it. Franky returns with one pitcher only, and the lady complains. The fourteen-year-old tells her to ask a waiter. In the next nude pictures taken a year after the first Franky has changed very little, perhaps more muscle on his husky build, but a long pendant cock now takes up the droop of his foreskin and a dense dark bush crowns his pubes. The nude pictures span that most intimate of metamorphoses, the magical transmutation of puberty. For many boylovers this budding of a boy’s genitals, the growth of the stamen filling in the sepal of the prepuce and its garlanding with the petals of thickening pubic fur announcing the seeds within, as the most beautiful if brief stage of youth, a wondrous flowering, a delight to view and share if the boy’s open to the experience. The Doctor still hears from Franky who’s also married. He knows many stories about boylovers and their boy lovers where the relationship, if not the sex, has lasted many years.

Sharpe Robin
Robin Sharpe

It was from his extensive association and correspondence with boylovers and boys, for whom he has profound respect, in several countries and his readings of studies relating to the field, few available in English, that enabled him to write his comprehensive two volume study, Loving Boys which examines many aspects of what is commonly called pedophilia.[4] His medical knowledge, his father was a doctor, provided him with a background to understand the psychological and physical changes occurring as boys pass though puberty and deal with their new sexual powers and interests. He relates these to the conventions and pressures they face from family, culture and peers.

What he has to say about man/boy relationships is not always positive. He discusses several problems and dangers that even the most vehement of anti-pedophiles ignore or are unaware of. He defines what he sees as real problems. What is abuse? How boys or men or both suffer when relationships are exploitive or go sour and men become abusive as some do with women.

Just as the Doctor was equivocal in religion and politics he was also equivocal in his approach to boylove despite his generally positive stance. He tries very hard to be objective and fair in his reasoning. He is however discussing things, making points and giving them authority that few if anyone else could, at least in English. He is a pioneer, a compiler, and he tries very hard to be honest, often brutally honest in say the tradition of Orwell. And he is constructive. He has given me the confidence to say and write and publish things I might not have otherwise. Boylovers, who are what they are, having no more choice than gays or lesbians—and no more curable—are often insecure, guilt ridden, subject to doubts, self hatred, alcoholism and other escapes which prevent them from being as good, constructive and useful to society and nurturing to boys as they might be. This is probably the main problem of boylove; to restore confidence and self respect to their relationships. Aside from instances of assault and exploitation the sometimes tragic results of pedophilic proclivities are a result of social/cultural repression. The question is not how to eradicate or reduce, but to enable natural human impulses to be harnessed for constructive purposes.

The Doctor was not an intellectual giant and his scholarship is not always of the highest order. He uses a fair amount of anecdotal material but has confidence in his sources. But in a tabooed area where research is lacking, and difficult if not impossible to undertake in several crucial aspects, this is probably unavoidable. His work may however make this more possible in the future. At present, one could argue that dubious assumptions, if not conclusions are required in order for studies to be taken seriously enough to be to be heard. The subject is the epitome of incorrectness.

There is I believe a place, a niche for boylovers. Just as nature, or God, given time, fills every niche in the physical ecology, and each filled in is another opportunity for the enhancement and survival of creation, so boylove has a purpose. And in these socially stressed times I suspect rather a large one. Seldom has there been a time when boys need the attention and affection of men more, or when men feel less confident in fulfilling their tradition roles.

Robin Sharpe, November 1994.  


This never appeared in print, and so is not part of the reminiscences published in the NAMBLA Bulletin, but was posted as a supplement to Sharpe’ reproduction of his article for it on his website https://www.robinsharpe.ca/Brongersma.html, still live in March 2023 despite his long having died.

Dr. Brongersma was persecuted in his last years with a mob attacking his home at one point. He had survived all his close friends and his health and eyesight were failing. He chose assisted suicide. His helpers were charged with murder, tried and acquitted twice but convicted on a third trial.. The Dutch press claimed that he had himself killed to avoid being charged with the indirect abuse of millions of children.

The Brongersma Foundation archives were seized by the Dutch police under pressure from American authorities. The reason given was to protect the boys mentioned in the archive. A list of over four thousand names of “active known pedophiles” was extracted from the archives and shared with police worldwide. Some names were released to the press as “accomplices of Brongersma”.

Hirschfeld Institute library burning. Nazi mms. at Berlin May 10 2
Nazis burning Hirschfeld's archives, Berlin, 10 May 1933

Apparently no charges were laid. A Dutch court ruled that the archives were not a “scholarly collection” but a “pedophile collection” thus removing it from any protection under the new Dutch child pornography laws which are even more restrictive than Canada’s. After a databank was established the original material was destroyed except for old editions of the sexology works of Max Hirschfeld and other pioneers in the field which were sold to an American collector. Ironically this was the greatest destruction of a sexological archive since the Nazis burnt Hirschfeld’s archives in the early 1930s. The Nazis made a public spectacle of their vandalism and were in part motivated by the fact that files on prominent party members were in the collection. In the climate of fear in the Netherlands there was no serious attempt to challenge the destruction of Brongersma’s unique archives. With Bill C-20 and more recently Bill C-12 there is no guarantee that sexological archives in Canada are any more secure from state instigated vandalism. Wide dissemination of problematic material is probably the best way to insure its survival. Unfortunately the Brongersma collection existed only in hard copy. When on my visit I suggested to Edward Brongersma that he have his archive put on microfilm he expressed no interest in the idea. Oh that he had a scanner and could have backed up his archive worldwide. Whatever else we may think of the Americans we should respect the protection their constitution gives to ideas and written material.


Edward in California by Mark

 I first met Edward when he visited San Francisco in the early 1980s. He stayed with me for a few days and I later drove him to Los Angeles.    

His formidable reputation as the doyen of man/boy love preceded him of course, but the ice broke quickly when the one toilet in my apartment went on the fritz the minute he arrived. We had started off calling each other Mr. and Dr. at the airport but after taking turns with the plunger, we were on a first-name basis from then on. A day later I introduced him to the San Francisco NAMBLA chapter meeting. Worried the folks there might be a bit intimidated but being too bashful to recount our plumbing problems, I made a point of saying that just before he flew in, he’d been up most of the night at a gay bar in Manila. He would have been a hit with the group no matter what but maybe that helped.    

Brongerma 1951 2
Brongersma in 1951

A few years later he took me to that bar, along with an elder French friend who had been a doctor in Morocco. I forget the name of the place but you can see it in the Lino Brocka film Macho Dancer. We stayed through the live show at about 3 AM. Edward and his friend didn’t show any signs of being tired - this was when they were in their mid and late ‘70s respectively — but I, 40 years younger, was ready to call it quits.

In San Francisco he wanted to visit St. Mary's, the large Catholic cathedral whose modern architecture, notably a rotund dome with wing-like protrusions, has earned the name “inside of a Maytag”. He quite enjoyed the building, much as I enjoy looking at old churches in Mexico. Walking through San Francisco’s Chinatown one day, he paused in front of a shop window displaying a Buddha statue. “Look at the laughing Buddha,” he said. “Have you ever seen a laughing Christ?” I admitted I hadn’t. The exchange helped alter my thinking about Christianity. Brought up as a Protestant, it helped me leave the religion behind, not to worry about it so.    

World War II belongs to a different generation but it has always fascinated me. Toward the end of the war the Dutch ate tulips, or so I’d read. I asked him if it were true. “Yes, we did,” he said, his somewhat cherubic face acquiring a serious mien. He didn’t elaborate and I decided not to ask him anymore.    

The long drive to L.A. was dampened by fog obscuring the view along Big Sur but once inland, he was in wonder of the wide open spaces, remarking on it more than once. It wasn’t until a decade later when I was navigating my car along Amsterdam’s narrow canal side streets, picking my way through the hordes of bicyclists, I realized how confining Europe can be. He had given me another hint in his rich store of jokes against some of Holland’s neighbors.    

Before I headed back to San Francisco, we drove down to Tijuana. I’d offered the excursion; he accepted readily as he’d never visited Mexico. We sailed through the immigration checkpoint and quickly found a prime parking spot just off Avenida Revolucion, the main drag. We piled out of the car. Confident in my piloting abilities at landing us safely in the midst of this sprawling city, I walked over to the parking meter. It dawned on me I had no Mexican coins and even if I did, didn’t know how many to use or even where to put them in. I stated at the meter saying to myself, pendejo, think of something… to come so far and now this, what will Edward think?    

Tijuana Avenida Revolucion
                                                              Avenida Revolución, Tijuana

I glanced up only to see Edward looking at me expectantly, somewhat sweetly, much too kind to say anything or even to smile. But his eyes betrayed him. I smiled and he did, too, and we started to laugh. Just then a man crossed the street and without a word put money in the meter, turned the handle and began to walk off. “Gracias!” I called, all he did was give a little wave as he strolled away. I told Edward this type of courtesy is emblematic of Mexican culture — I’d seen it many times during my stay as a student in Mexico City. It was a refreshing antidote to that of the country where I was born; it was Edward’s type of courtesy as well, of course, and it always served to put me at my ease.    

Edward was one to draw a beeline for books. He was quick to examine my rather paltry bookshelf once he arrived. I took a photo of him in my apartment and later had mine taken with him in L.A. Only later did I realize both times he grabbed whatever book was at hand and opened it—it could have been The Joy of Cooking for all he cared — then looked at the camera. No doubt this was his political training. Most U.S. politicians wouldn’t be caught dead with a book.    

His reputation may have been formidable, but it was well earned. His many articles were carefully thought out regardless of whether or not you agreed with them, and a fair number of people didn’t — the title of his piece in NAMBLA Journal Six, “A Pedagogical Eros”, was typical.    

I was privileged to copy-edit Loving Boys. In spite of my rather inadequate contribution to the manuscript, his book deserves a place on every boy lover's bookshelf. 

The future will remember him both as a man and for what he did for men loving boys loving men. His death is a loss; despite his many contributions, he could have made many more. I regret very much not getting to know him better – I’d seen him only a couple of times and never in his home — and am especially sorry he didn’t forge links with the man/boy love radicals in Boston and Toronto who have done so much for our movement.


A Reminiscence of Dr. Brongersma by an overseas prisoner

I am grateful to the prisoners’ newsletter for informing me of the passing away, in the Netherlands, of one of the titans of the boy love emancipation movement, Dr. Edouard Brongersma. 

Prior to my arrest in Thailand in 1995, I had had the privilege of observing him on several informal occasions, either at the residence of a mutual publisher and friend, or at his red-brick house at Overveen. My first impression of this man, then well into his eighties, was strangely of an almost child-like radiance and softness, an exquisite gentleness of spirit. No bearded patriarch he, but one whom wisdom had kept ever young. 

Very conscious as I was at being in the presence of greatness, I did not presume to direct his conversation. I had read his thoughts in his column “Boycaught” in PAN magazine, and in his monumental work written in English, Loving Boys. Instead, on the one occasion that we shared an extended conversation, I asked him about his experience of totalitarianism. As a young man before the war, he had published a thesis on the Corporate State of Dr. Salazar’s Portugal. He proudly took a copy from his shelves to show me, but, not knowing Dutch. I declined his offer to let me read it. I asked him about life in Holland under the German Occupation. In his reminiscences he was surprisingly objective. He did not heroify himself or demonize the occupiers. 

German occupation Amsterdam 1940
                                                 Amsterdam occupied by the Germans, 1940

He recognized the reality of power, and that, with hindsight, it is easy to oversimplify the past. If one were at the mercy of tyranny, one had to deal with it day by day, year after year. One could not afford to allow oneself to be driven by the gales of moral outrage and survive. Is there here something for today’s persecuted boy lovers to ponder? Whereas some resisters used extreme violence, at great cost to the helpless, Brongersma would brazenly walk into the German Kommandantur to argue cases point by point, thus saving lives by argument, not blood. It was his rare empathy with humanity, perhaps his belief in that goodness that we as boy lovers glimpse in all boys, however delinquent, and which we may feel can never wholly be expunged by manhood, that gave him the courage to confront those hard men clothed in near-monastic gray or black, as if on equal terms. He looked evil in the face, not with the glare of defiance, nor with the hauteur of self-righteousness, but with the inquiring gaze of one searching for a long-lost brother, of one man calling to another in quest of a common humanity. 

His resistance to evil was not so much a deliberate design, but rather the natural symptom of his innate sympathy for life. The instinct to cherish and nurture the young, whatever the sacrifice was the focus of his reverence for Creation. He bore the suffering of others on his shoulders, but did not give a fig for his own travails. Of the Occupation, he remarked wistfully, what lingered in his memory was the diet of tulip bulbs on which he subsisted during the last terrible winter of war. 


Brongersma 1987 U
Brongersma in 1987

Finally, it was not the tyranny of the Third Reich which defeated him, but this unexpected terror unleashed by a supposedly enlightened and liberal Western democracy — his own country, a nation self-toadying to its tradition of tolerance. “Defeat,” however, is not the word to describe his passing from this world, for his death had about it the grandeur of the leave-taking of the philosophers, such as of a Socrates disdaining to extend his existence amid the mad-dog froth of popular prejudice, or of a Seneca cutting himself adrift at the last from a consumerist society gross with blood of the innocent and the good.

In the early darkness of an evening in October, 1993, I bade goodbye to Brongersma on the threshold of his house. “When will l see you again?” he asked. I explained that I was going to spend two years working in Thailand. He gave a wry grin and said, shaking my hand. “Well, at my age, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be here when you get back.” As it was, it was I who was to be entombed first.



[1] The American artist was the scholar and clergyman Donald H. Mader (1948-2022), who settled permanently in the Netherlands in 1986. [Website’s note}

[2] This claim is strange since Brongersma was only thirty-eight on 8 July 1950 when he was arrested and then imprisoned for eleven months for sex with a youth of 16, about which he wrote at length. [Website’s note]

[3] Gerard Wybren Brongersma (1878-1965). [Website's footnote]

[4] The correlation is however false, not so much because Loving Boys was about loving boys of any age (whether or not “pedophilia” includes loving adolescents being the main difference between the accurate and vulgar definitions), but because pedophilia by any definition includes attraction to girls, which Brongersma did not write about and disclaimed expert knowledge of. [Website’s footnote]




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