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'Geheimzinnigheid is zijn fort': Assien Bohmers (archeoloog), 1912-1988

Carmiggelt, A. H., 2019, [Groningen]: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. 729 p.

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DOI

  • Arnold Hendrik Carmiggelt
‘Secrecy is his fortress’
Assien Bohmers (archaeologist), 1912-1988

Assien Bohmers (1912-1988) is a controversial Dutch archaeologist who was employed by the University of Groningen in the previous century. Although he retired in 1965, there are still many stories going around about him. For instance about his suspected involvement in the sensational Vermaning affair, an archaeological fraud in the northern Netherlands that regularly featured in the media from 1975 onwards. Besides, rumour has it that he had been very friendly with the nazi’s during the Second World War. In this biography Arnold Carmiggelt explores these rumours.
From 1937 onwards Bohmers works as an archaeologist for Ahnenerbe, the think tank of the SS. In 1941 the nazi’s see to it that he is admitted as a ‘privaatdocent’ (private lecturer) to the Biologisch Archaeologisch Instituut or BAI (Biological Archaeological Institute) of the University of Groningen. After liberation the Dutch authorities start an investigation into his wartime activities. This does not yield any evidence for prosecution. In 1947 the renowned archaeologist A.E. van Giffen adds Bohmers to the BAI staff as an expert in paleolithic and mesolithic research.
In 1965 Bohmers is suspended from the university because of the possession of clandestine fire arms. Shortly before he had paid a visit to the amateur archaeologist Tjerk Vermaning (1929-1987) to have a look at the amazing neanderthal artefacts that Vermaning had found. Ten years later ‘the Vermaning stones’ are proved to be forgeries. H.T. Waterbolk (born in 1924), professor and managing director of the BAI after Van Giffen, is still convinced of Bohmers’ involvement in the fraud.
For his research Carmiggelt draws on many hitherto unknown sources. He not only describes Bohmers’ life, scientific work and contribution to Dutch archaeology, but also explores his political ambitions and partly hidden networks during and after the war. He dwells on Bohmers’ collaboration with the ‘Friese Beweging’ (‘Frisian Movement’), his work for Ahnenerbe and his relations with the mysterious Kreis (circle) of the charismatic Friedrich Hielscher. He goes into Bohmers’ philosophical ideas, in which he connects evolution to the far future – and which turn out to be surprisingly relevant today. All along he introduces the reader to questions about science, society and moral integrity, which go far beyond the realm of archaeology.
Bohmers’ war past remained a source of stories and rumours because he refused to be frank about it. Until his death he denied any involvement whatsoever in the Vermaning affair. In this balanced biography Carmiggelt describes Bohmers’ life and his choices that shaped it. Having reached the end of his ‘biographical journey’ he offers his moral judgment on this secretive archaeologist who is still not forgotten.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date7-Nov-2019
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-94-6301-239-3
Electronic ISBNs978-94-6301-253-9
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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