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In memoriam Frits Bernard

28 August 1920 - 23 May 2006

Hans Visser, in KOINOS # 51 (2006 #3)

Mentally and physically strong until a high age, Frits Bernard has left us unexpectedly. On 23 May 2006 he died at the age of 86 in his place of residence, Rotterdam. Frits was a psychologist and has made important contributions to sexology. He carried out thorough investigations into pedophilia on a national and international level. Many articles, many books – including the novellas Costa Brava and Persecuted Minority – appeared under his name (and around 1960 under his pseudonym Victor Servatius, eds.) both in the Netherlands and abroad. He was continually productive from World War II on. Frits has remained active until his death.

I knew Frits in the last phase of his life, and got to know him as an unusually wise man. At meetings and gatherings his input was always first-class. He was an erudite man, truly an enrichment. His passing is therefore a great loss.

Frits strived after the emancipation of pedophiles. This does not mean that he approved of everything pedophiles do. He could be extremely critical, also when providing counselling. He sometimes tried to correct people, but at the same time he knew pedophilia is an orientation which cannot be simply effaced. He deeply regretted the growing intolerance in society over the last ten to fifteen years, resulting in many a cold shoulder and much rejection and discrimination.

Frits took part in countless working groups, inside and outside the Dutch Society for Sexual Reform (NVSH). Internationally he was also very active, and his work appeared in several languages. He built an excellent network, was well-read and knew what he was talking about. It saddened him to find that in the last years pedophilia could no longer be discussed. The subject has become taboo. The pedophile is not really allowed to exist; he is pathologized or criminalized. One wonders how a young pedophile struggling to come to terms with his orientation must feel in this society. Where can he turn? A few decades ago there were people like Alje Klamer, Edward Brongersma and many others who showed understanding, who engaged in the debate and who looked for ways in which a pedophile might deal with his orientation.

Frits was someone who also dealt carefully with the issue in his personal life. He did not take irresponsible risks. When once they tried to arrest him, it turned out that his things were in order. Frits was simply a sound scholar who wanted to understand the pedophile’s world of experience.

Has the work of Frits and many others been in vain? I don’t believe so. Of course, we are going through hard times, but I am convinced that common sense will win out in the long run. Eventually, people will once more deal carefully with the issue of children’s and adults’ sexual experiences and relations between children and adults. Both children and adults stand to benefit from this. Presently there is often an atmosphere of hysteria and rejection; people are subject to character assassination and are hounded. We even have regular ‘pedophile hunters’ in our society. In such a situation we must above all remain calm. In this respect, too, Frits provided an exceptional example.

Frits moreover knew how to gradually shift back gears in view of his age. He often no longer wanted to take centre stage. But from a humbler position he still clearly made his presence felt with his often essential contributions.

It gives me great joy to have known Frits, to have learned from him. He has in many respects been a fine example to me. In many respects he has been a fine example to me and to all who were close to him. We shall sorely miss the presence of this wise man. We are grateful that he could reach such a beautiful high age and be productive to the benefit of all of us for so long.

Reverend Hans Visser
Social Welfare Work of Paul’s Church, Rotterdam

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