Monument in Commemoration of Prof. Dr. A. de Froe
Monument in Commemoration of Prof. Dr. A. de Froe
Monument in Commemoration of Prof. Dr. A. de Froe
2013 - 2018
University of Amsterdam (UVA)

Monument in Commemoration of Prof. Dr. A. de Froe 2013 - 2018

In 2012, the University of Amsterdam (UVA) commissioned a monument to be erected in 2015 in honor of Prof. Dr. Arie de Froe (1907-1992), professor of Physical Anthropology and Genetics and from 1973 to 1977 also rector magnificus at the UVA. A physical anthropologist, de Froe committed academic fraud, resisting the German occupiers during World War II. Specializing in ethnology and held in high academic esteem by the Nazis, he fraudulently identified Sephardic Jews as non-Jews in order to prevent their deportation during the racial 'purification' of the Netherlands. In these circumstances, academic integrity yielded to human morality.


Erecting this monument raises several crucial concerns regarding time and timing. On the one hand, the commemoration of Arie de Froe must stand the test of time; as befits a monument, it should keep the memories of this person alive, to save him from oblivion. On the other hand, no timeless paradigm exists to evaluate de Froe's work, because its ethics shift over time. The way we remember this historical figure is not determined by history. the contrary, his memorialization is inextricably connected to the contemporary discourse on academic integrity. De Froe’s monument will not be bound by linear time but will unfold in a state of “contra-time,” where past, present and future run in parallel.

A victim of the German occupier, he performed a heroic act by preventing groups of Jews to be deported during the racial ‘purification’ of the Netherlands. However, practicing as a race specialist, he worked within the scientific discipline on which the Nazis based their racial policy - he tricked the Nazis within their own racial doctrine. If the enemy does not observe any ethical code, why should a scholar do so? But can science determine the moment scientific fraud is permitted? what terms? Deontology is the core of science and at the same time its Achilles heel.

And how does time relate to academic integrity? Ethnology and scientific fraud - the two main themes in De Froe's case - took on different dimensions over time. Back then, racial science was a common academic discipline, but does time condone inhumane science - because it was normal back then? It is impossible to judge this past without conflicting contemporary moral perspectives. De Froe confronts us with questions on how circumstances, scientific integrity and time relate to each other. Updating De Froe’s historical scientific fraud into a newly erected monument also adds a contemporary political dimension to the commemorational process. This posthumous monument will in fact render Prof. Dr. A. de Froe the embodiment of ethical dilemmas in science.


Art is the pre-eminently suitable stage on which the continuous nervousness with which science, ethics and time relate can be shown and assessed with impunity.  A large collection of human bones and skulls acquired for scientific purposes by physical anthropologists during the first half of the 20th century now lies idle and stigmatized in the depot of the KIT. The proposal is to once again move this collection to the university and put it at the service of science—as monument in honor of Dr. Arie de Froe. The monument will consist of galvanized steel boxes reading: MONUMENT TO PROF. DR. A. DE FROE 1907-1992. They contain all parts of the collection, exactly as currently organized and archived, with the registration codes perforated on the side.


At this time when scientific ethics are in the spotlights, the Physical Anthropology Collection is intrinsically of great scientific value, which can be revealed on the stage of art. The nature of science does not provide a suitable model to present scientific dilemmas, the nature of art however presents a reality of incompatible contradictions. A system perceived as infallible by definition cannot incorporate its own flaws, but art can. Academe has no code of conduct governing the infringement of the code of conduct, just as no code of conduct governs the perpetration of fraud. However, the intrinsic obstacles of scientific ethics can exist next to one another on the platform of art, openly and with impunity. Artistic methodology casts a different view on this collection providing it with a method of reflection that does not exist in other disciplines.


Albeit the university has an opportunity to once again render this collection scientifically relevant, on the platform of art. Not a platform from which to view a different reality, but to view the contours of science through the eyes of art. The monument, therefore, is the proper artistic medium. Arie de Froe is the proper personification of these dilemmas. The Physical Anthropology Collection is the tangible material that connects de Froe with this monument.