Background - Nazism and Freemasonry.
By BROTHER Eric Howe, P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 (E. C.)
Part I - Masonic Events Prior to the Nazi Regime
After an interval of five decades it may be the exception rather than the rule for English-speaking Brethren to have any particular knowledge of what happened in a Masonic context in Germany in 1933. Until fairly recently my own supposition was that the National Socialist regime would have outlawed Freemasonry forthwith. Adolf Hitler became Reich Chancellor on 30th January 1933 and during the next few weeks the Nazis literally seized Germany by the throat. They had been ranting against the Freemasons and all their works for years on end and an immediate interdiction would have been probable.
Curious to know what actually happened in 1933 I looked for material in the Grand Lodge of England Library. Brother John Hamill, in 1972-73 then the Assistant Librarian, soon produced a collection of duplicated circular letters which had been sent to one of its Daughter Lodges by the venerable "Old Prussian" Grand National Mother Lodge of the Three Globes in 1933-34. When I read these documents, I realised that I had stumbled across the outlines of what seemed to be a strange story and one, furthermore, which was probably not widely known outside German Masonic circles. I then learned that the Nazis did not immediately outlaw Freemasonry in 1933 but waited until May 1935 before finally pronouncing its death sentence. In the meantime, however, they had been playing a cat-and-mouse game with what amounted to a corpse because the Order had expeditiously acted as its own executioner at a very early stage in 1933.1 did not begin to appreciate the significance of the letters until I became familiar with the nature of the gulf which already separated the three "Old Prussian" Obediences and the six so-called "Humanitarian" Grand Lodges before 1933. Here I must interpolate that this article was written long before the publication of Dr Helmut Neuberger's authoritative Freimaurerei und Nationalsozialismus, which was published in two volumes by the Bauhutten Verlag, Hamburg, in 1980. If Herr Neuberger's doctoral thesis had been available in 1973 I would not have undertaken the work. He learned from the late Brother Fritz Bolle, of Munich, that the essay now published in A. Q. C. could be made available to him and we were in touch during the 1970s. Brother Hans-Heinrich Solf, of Wolfenbuttel, was another whom Brother Bolle told about my own work in progress. We first met in London in c. 1975. At that time he had no contact with Quatuor Coronati Lodge, but at the time that I write these lines in April 1983 he is our Senior Warden. It only remains to add that the article now offered to readers of A. Q. C. is not a condensation of Dr Neuberger's excellent work which, incidentally, runs to about 600 pages but is based upon my own independent research. Brethren who can read German are strongly advised to obtain Dr Neuberger's book; those who cannot may conceivably find my own modest offering better than nothing.
The problem which bedevilled and split the Masonic Order in Germany for years on end was the so-called "Jewish question". In its original form it referred to religious rather than racial prejudice. The three "Old Prussian" Grand Lodges had always refused to accept Jews for initiation because their Craft degrees were followed by higher ones of a Christian character. Thus as far as the "Old Prussians" were concerned one brief but important passage in the Antient Charges was ignored. it reads: "Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the order provided he believe in the glorious architect of heaven and earth and practise the sacred duties of morality."
The six "Humanitarian" Grand Lodges, on the other hand, nominally made no distinction between Christian and Jew. This did not mean that every Jewish candidate could be sure of joining a Lodge, because exclusion by blackball was not unknown. However, once a Jew became a Freemason he could attend "Old Prussian" Craft Lodges as a visitor.
Superficially, at least, the overall situation was that the "Old Prussian" Grand Lodges represented ultra- conservative attitudes, while the "Humanitarian" Obediences were more liberally inclined. The "Jewish question", in the sense that it was perenially a source of controversy between the two groups, was probably always basically insoluble. Nevertheless, as long as it was solely based on religious prejudice some kind of modus vivendi, although never a completely satisfactory one, was contrived.
In a non-Masonic context religious discrimination against Jews gave way after 1870 to political and economic anti-Semitism. Then, during the 1900s we encounter the early stages of the virulent racial anti-Semitism which was to afflict Germany like a disease and which culminated thirty years later in Hitler's "Final Solution", meaning genocide. The wave of anti-Semitic propaganda which flooded the country during the years 1910-14 was one of the various manifestations of German nationalism's overheated condition at that time. The Jew was now presented as the antithesis of all that was "truly German", hence as the embodiment of a whole range of negative or unattractive qualities.
It never occurred to the pre-1914 anti-Semitic propagandists to attack Freemasonry on the grounds that its Craft rituals incorporate material and symbolism derived from the Old Testament and therefore superficially of "Jewish" origin. When anti-Masonic propaganda of this kind was first disseminated by the anti-Semitic caucus immediately after the First World War, the Grand Lodges found the proposition that the Craft could conceivably be "tainted" for these reasons so ludicrous that they hardly reacted.
The anti-Semites had already created the "perfidious Jew" archetype before 1914. Yet another archetype, the "perfidious Freemason", was invented during the war but did not become well known to most Germans until immediately after their country's military defeat in 1918. The astonishing proposition that Germany had been the victim of an international Judaeo-Masonic conspiracy began to be current in 1918 and was repeated ad nauseam in a succession of books and pamphlets which were published during the era of the Weimar republic.
The "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" theory was so manifestly silly that the Grand Lodges cannot be blamed for failing to realise that its incessant repetition would ultimately damage the Craft. The "Old Prussian" sector protested that they were Christian institutions and did not admit Jews, but the market for myths 'was invariably larger than any for reasoned statements. Initially, at least, the conspiracy legend represented more of a nuisance than a positive threat to the Order's well-being. Freemasonry continued to attract much the same kind of candidates, in terms of social background, as in the past. The newcomers were mainly members of the professional middle-class, with a large proportion of school-masters, lawyers and local government officials. However, the repetitive anti-Semitic propaganda with its anti-Masonic undertones, which never abated during the era of the Weimar Republic, was to have its erosive effect and by c. 1930, about two years before the Nazis came to power, had already greatly weakened the Order from within. Many Freemasons who disliked or were afraid of being identified with an organisation which was unceasingly attacked by the political Right resigned from the Craft.
The German Grand Lodges have been criticised for their apparent inability to keep utterly aloof from politics during the Weimar period. Their involvement, however, was on the whole an involuntary one. The extremist Right's favourite hobby-horse was that "International Jewish Freemasonry", led by Germany's former enemies, was responsible for every conceivable evil that afflicted the country. The German Freemasons' frequent protests that they were just as "patriotic" as their critics inevitably led them in the direction of political controversy.
When the Nazis at last achieved power in January 1933 the Masonic Order in Germany had already begun to disintegrate. Its multiplicity of Grand Lodges and the rigid conservatism of the Old Prussian sector had always militated against unity and in 1933 the two groups of Grand Lodges were not even on speaking terms. The "Humanitarian" Grand Lodges surrendered immediately; they signed their own death warrants. The "Old Prussians" ineffectually tried to find a compromise but eventually they, too, had to capitulate.
The Origins of the Conspiracy Legend
It was unnecessary for the Nazis to invent the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" legend. It had already been widely circulated in Germany for more than a decade before the advent of the Third Reich and had been current even earlier. Indeed, in 1919 the conspiracy theory, but without an anti-Semitic component, was already about 120 years old.
The "Masonic Conspiracy" legend reflects the sempiternal qualities of irrational ideas, particularly when they provide apparently simple answers to complicated questions. The authors of two books which were published almost simultaneously in 1797 used the conspiracy thesis with astonishing success to explain the origins and causes of the French Revolution. The first to appear was the Abbe Augustin Barruel's Memoires pour servir a l'histoire du Jacobinism, which was published in 1797-98. The work was immediately translated into English. Barruel himself was a refugee from France.
It was coincidental that John Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Government of Europe carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati and Reading Societies, 1797, was published at about the same time as Barruel's book. The two men were not acquainted and their respective works were written independently. Robison's title explains the hypothesis presented by both authors sufficiently well for the purposes of this paper.
By contemporary standards Barruel's Memoires and Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy were best-sellers. Robison's book was soon forgotten, but Barruel's became known all over Europe and was still available more than a century after its original publication in E. Perrenet's abridged edition (Paris, 1912). Barruel and Robison influenced public opinion because, then as now, there was a ready market for "sensational disclosures". They did not invent the conspiracy theory; it existed underground before either of their books was published. They merely synthesised beliefs which were already current and in the process provided their readers with a lot of attractive nonsense.
The "Masonic Conspiracy" legend in a new and enlarged form as the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" became current in France in 1806 in the form of a vague rumour. Barruel, who had returned to Paris in 1802-he now had a great reputation as a witch-hunter-was mainly responsible for the contemporary gossip which hinted that mysterious and, as might be expected, unidentified Jews had infiltrated the Masonic Order for subversive purposes.'
In his old age, shortly before his death in October 1821, Barruel was obsessed with the idea that Europe was covered by a network of Masonic Lodges which was controlled by a supreme council of twenty-one members which included no less than nine Jews. This supreme council, in its turn, was supposed to be governed by an inner council of three. The latter appointed a Grand Master who was supposed to be the secret head of a vast conspiratorial organisation whose hidden aim was to produce revolutions. Professor Norman Cohn remarked that "clearly the supreme council, even although partly Jewish, already possessed that superhuman capacity for organising vast and invisible manoeuvres that later generations were to attribute to the Elders of Zion".
After Barruel's death in 1821 the conspiracy theory, no matter whether it applied to Freemasons or Jews, appears to have been more or less forgotten. It rose to the surface again in 1848 when a wave of revolutions swept Europe, not least in Germany. It is probable that the anonymous and still unidentified author of a dozen pamphlets with the title Zur Aufklarung der grossen Freirmaurer-Luge (Clarification of the Great Freemason Lie), which were published in Germany in 1848-49, had read the famous Memoires Furthermore, he attributed the 1848 Revolution in Germany to the machinations of Freemasons who were influenced or directed by Jews. This may well be the first printed reference to the Judaeo-Masonic conspiracy hypothesis.
Dr Jacob Katz, who studied these pamphlets - they do not appear to be recorded in any Masonic bibliography - at the library of the Swiss Grand Lodge "Alpina" at Zurich in 1965, thought it unlikely that they attracted very much attention when they were published.
He realised, however, the extent to which they had impressed Emil Eduard Eckert, an obscure Dresden Lawyer, for whom the conspiracy theory now became an obsession. Dr Katz wrote:
His books [i.e. Eckert's] betray the influence of this double-edged propaganda. In presenting his arguments against the Jews, Eckert quoted the same sources and followed exactly the same order as the author of the leaflets . At times he even transcribed the author's notes [in his Der Freimaurer-Orden in seiner wahren Bedeutung, Dresden, 1852]... In opposing the Masons, Eckert's point of departure was Isis fear lest the patriarchal social order begin to disintegrate. His propensity for suspecting conspiracies moved him to believe that the [social] transformations occurring before his eyes were the outcome of deliberate plots by sinister forces lurking within the closed lodges of the Freemasons.
Eckert's career as an anti-Masonic publicist began in c. 1850 and ended sixteen years later when he blew his brains out on the steps of a Viennese hospital on 9th January 1866. Both his writings and the manner of Isis death suggested a deranged personality. Eckert, however, is not without importance in relation to the much later period in German history with which this paper is concerned. He helped to give the conspiracy legend a vitality which enabled it to survive in Germany, even if underground, until it was energetically revived in 1919 by a new generation of anti-Masonic publicists.
The "Old Prussian" and "'Humanitarian" Grand Lodges in Germany in 1926
In 1925, a point in time half-way through the era of the Weimar Republic, there were no fewer than nine Grand Lodges in Germany. There were no exclusive territorial Obediences. At Munich, for instance, there were nine Lodges and these were affiliated to no fewer than six of the nine Obediences.
In 1925, when the population of the Reich was about 63 million, the total number of Freemasons was in the neighbourhood of 82,000. (Cf. England, Scotland and Ireland where there were c. 350,000 members of the Craft in that year.) Furthermore, the majority of German Freemasons belonged to Lodges under one or other of the three Old Prussian Grand Lodges. It will be recalled that these did not initiate Jews. The following statistics must be considered in relation to the "Jewish question", which by 1925 was far more closely related to racial than to religious prejudices. Craft OLD PRUSSIAN GRAND LODGES Lodges Members Grosse National-Mutterloge '"Zu den drei Weltkugelnt" (Grand National Mother Lodge of the Three Globes), Berlin. Constituted as a Grand Lodge in 1744. 171 22,8% Grosse Landes-Loge der Freimaurer in Deutscland (National Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Germany), Berlin. Constituted 1770. 168 23,039 Grosse Loge von Preussen, genannt zur Freundschaft (Grand Lodge of Prussia, called "Friendship"), Berlin. Constituted 1798. 96 10,000 435 56,935
Following the German custom I will refer to these as the "Mother Lodge", the "Landesloge" and "Friendship" respectively.
Humanitarian Grand Lodges
Grossloge "zur Sonne" (Grand Lodge "Sun"), Bayreuth. Constituted 1811. 39 4,041 Grosse Landes-Loge von Sachsen (National Grand Lodge of Saxony), Dresden. Constituted 1811. 40 7,502 Grosse Loge von Hamburg (Grand Lodge of Hamburg), Hamburg. Constituted 1811. 61 6,000 Grosse Mutterloge des Eklektischen Freimaurer-Bundes (Grand Mother Lodge of the Eclectic Union of Freemasons), Frankfurt am Main. Constituted 1823. 25 3,475 Grosse Freimauerloge "zur Eintracht" (Grand Lodge "Concord"), Darmstadt. Constituted 1846. 10 876 Grossloge Deutsche Bruderkette (Grand Lodge German Fraternal Chain), Leipzig. Constituted 1924. 5 1,730 180 23,624
In 1925 there was also a handful of old-established independent Lodges with a total membership of 1,635 Brethren.
It is next necessary to define the extent to which Jews played any significant role, in a numerical sense, in German Freemasonry at this period. As far as the Old Prussian Lodges were concerned there would presumably have been no Jews who had not already been converted to Christianity in "Mutterloge" or "Landesloge" Lodges. "Friendship", which was by far the most liberal of the three Old Prussian Obediences, had accepted Jews in its Craft Lodges between 1872 and 1924 but had now closed its doors to them.
The distribution of Jews in the six Humanitarian Obediences was uneven. The following information refers to c. 1931 when both Jewish and Christian Freemasons were beginning to resign from Lodges in the face of intense anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic pressures. There were apparently very few Jews in the fifty-five Lodges affiliated to the Saxon, Darmstadt and Fraternal Chain (Leipzig) Grand Lodges. These had a total membership of c. 10,000 in 1925. The inference, therefore, is that Jews mainly belonged to the 125 Lodges under the Hamburg, Eclectic Union (Franlecot am Main) and Bayreuth Obediences, which had a total membership of c. 13,000 in 1925. The available evidence suggests that Jews were not "over-represented" in German Freemasonry during the period 1919-33. However, since they may have tended to concentrate in certain Lodges in large towns, such as Frankfurt am Main, to that extent they could have been conspicuous.
The revival of the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" Legend
The revival of the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" legend in Germany in 1918 represents merely a single incident in the complex history of German anti-Semitic attitudes since the 1870s. Although the Jews had been finally emancipated in 1867 all branches of the public service, of which the most important were the army and the civil service, were virtually closed to them. They had been dominant in finance since the eighteenth century but now crowded into the professions, above all medicine and the law. They were also prominent in journalism, the ownership of theatres and academic callings. This phenomenon of "over-representation" in relatively few sectors of the middle-class social scene was one of the main causes of the growth of overt anti-Semitism during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. In the past it derived from religious prejudices but now had political, economic and racial connotations.
Jews became suspect on racial grounds because they were supposed to represent some-thing "alien" or different from everything which was "truly German". Wilhelm Marr, one of the first of a long line of German anti-Semitic publicists, wrote in 1879: "There must be no question here of parading religious prejudices when it is a question of race and the difference lies in the 'blood'. This theme, with the implication that the purity of the fair-haired, blue-eyed, noble, Nordic Germanic race must at all costs be defended was incessantly repeated by dozens of writers, some of whom reached very large readerships, from the early 1900s onwards.
This non-stop anti-Semitic campaign, which reached a high peak two or three years before the outbreak of the First World War, was conducted by a bewildering number of societies, leagues, associations and soon, many of which had interlocking memberships. At one end of the spectrum there was the large and influential Pan German League (Alldeutscher Verband), which was primarily a nationalist pressure group and only incidentally anti-Semitic. At the other end there were the multifarious so-called volkisch groups, which incorporated a large and always vociferous lunatic fringe. The word volkisch is almost impossible to translate. Cassell's dictionary, for instance, proposes: "national, pure German, anti-Semitic". It expresses an irrational, inward looking, hyper-chauvinistic kind of nationalism. The post-1918 anti-Masonic campaign, with its constant reiteration of the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" theme, was a typically volkisch activity.
The volkisch witch-hunters first turned their attention to Freemasonry in 1915, soon after Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Allies. Anti-Semitic periodicals such as Auf Vorposten, the organ of the Verband gegen die Uberhebung des Judentums (League against Jewish Arrogance) and Hammer began to publish articles which described the alleged anti-German machinations of the Grand Lodge of Italy and the Grand Orient of France.
Auf Vorposten was edited by Captain Ludwig Muller von Hausen, a retired army captain who was later to be one of the most active exponents of the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" thesis. Theodor Fritsch, the proprietor and editor of Hammer, was a veteran anti-Semitic publicist and had been prominent in this field since the 1880s. His Hammerbund (Hammer League), which was founded in c. 1910, was responsible for the widespread dissemination of anti-Semitic tracts and leaflets.
Muller von Hausen and Fritsch at first concentrated their attacks on what they called "Weltfreimaurerei", meaning international Freemasonry, which was supposed to be dominated by Jews. Once they gave the lead at least half a dozen books on this theme were published by Fritsch and others in 1916-17. 16 The joint indictment of Jews and Freemasons gradually began to crystallise during the war years. The average German probably took little notice of the fulminations of Muller von Hausen, Fritsch & Co. until a speech delivered in the Upper House (Herrenhaus) of the Prussian Parliament on 19th July by Prince Otto Salm-Hostmar was given enormous publicity in the German press. According to the Prince international Freemasonry was actively promoting revolutions and both Lenin and Trotsky had formerly been members of French Lodges. There is no evidence whatever to support the latter contention and Salm-Horstmar was merely quoting Muller von Hansen's inventions which he had read in Auf Vorposten. Thus only a few months before the Armistice in November 1918, scores or even hundreds of thousands of Germans had become acquainted with the broad outlines of the "Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy" story.
The conspiracy theory, which provided so many apparently plausible explanations for Germany's humiliating defeat, was to be cultivated with astonishing persistence from 1919 onwards. The Nazis kept it alive long after Freemasonry was dead and buried in Germany - they hoped for ever, although this was not to be the case.
The first important account of alleged Judaeo-Masonic activities was Dr Friedrich Wichtls Welt Freirnaurere Weltrevolution, Weltrepublik International Freemasonry, World Revolution, World Republic), which was published at Munich in 1919. Its impact was heightened by the fact that Wichtl's brisk polemical style is very readable. The book was an immediate best-seller. Edition followed edition and the work was still in print almost a quarter of a century later in 1942.
Wichtl's Weltfreimaurei was soon followed by Herr Gottfried zur Beek's Die Geheimnisse der Weisen von Zion, known in English-speaking countries as The 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Herr zur Beek, however, was none other than the indefatigable Captain Muller von Hausen. As might be expected, the conspiratorial Elders of Zion never existed and their protocols were equally imaginary. Muller von Hausen had got hold of a pre-1914 Russian anti-Semitic forgery in which Freemasonry was not mentioned at all. It only remained for him to incorporate a mass of anti-Masonic material, mainly culled from his articles in Auf Vorposten, and here was irrefutable proof of a Judaeo-Masonic plot to achieve the domination of the whole wide world. After a slow start the book's sales were literally enormous. The twenty-third German edition was published in 1939.
The most spectacularly successful anti-Masonic publication of all did not appear until 1927. This was General Ludendorff's Vernichtung der Freimaurerei durch Enthullung ihrer Geheimnisse (The Extermination of Freemasonry by the Exposure of its Secrets). It was still on sale in 1940, when the latest print order was for "184th-186th thousand". Ludenorff's main purpose was to demonstrate that Freemasonry, with its Old Testament symbolism, was a Jewish institution of the most pernicious kind. Apart from the books mentioned above there were others which were less widely read. Furthermore, the now standard anti-Masonic themes were reiterated by dozens of writers in volkisch and extreme right-wing periodicals. Individually these had small circulations but their effect on "deutsch-nationaI" (i.e. "patriotic German") public opinion was cumulative.
As far as self-defence was concerned, the problem was that the Masonic "Establishment", as represented by two groups of Grand Lodges, the "Old Prussian" and the "Humanitarian" factions, did not speak with one voice. This disability was intensified in April 1922 when the three Old Prussian Grand Lodges resigned from the Grosslogenbund (Union of Grand Lodges), which was a consultative body. By distancing themselves from the Humanitarian sector, which they accused of "pacifist and cosmopolitan policies", the Old Prussians emphasised their own deutsch-national principles. Ferdinand Runkel referred sadly to the rift in the Preface to the third volume of his Geschichte der Freimauerei in Deutschland, 1932. "The spirit of political dissension has invaded even Freemasonry's quiet Temples. Since then the two movements, the older Christian one and the younger Humanitarian one, have become more and more estranged."
In 1924 the ultra-conservative National Union of German Officers passed a resolution to the effect that membership of a Humanitarian Lodge was incompatible with a "correct patriotic attitude" in the case of its own members. Then on 28th February 1925 the Union's President, Major-General Count Waldersee , wrote to each of the "Old Prussian" Grand Masters to ask what steps they were individually taking to "eliminate alien racial elements" and to wage a decisive battle against Jewry. In a joint reply dated 11th March 1925 the Grand Masters stated that their respective Grand Lodges had repeatedly provided evidence of their "patriotic Christian attitude" and in so many words told Waldersee to mind his own business.
This, however, was not the end of the matter. That incorrigible busybody Captain Muller von Hausen, who was very active in the Union's affairs, published an extraordinary pamphlet with the title Die Altpreussischen Logen und der National-Verband Deutscher Offiziere. In spite of its muddled presentation and arguments this is an interesting document because it conveniently summarises all or most of the volkisch objections to Free- masonry. Muller von Hausen rejected the Old Prussian Grand Masters' claim that they had in every respect divorced themselves from the Humanitarians. If they want to show their good faith, then let them take the following measures, he proposed.
- Abolish all internationally recognised signs of Masonic recognition.
- Resign from all Masonic bodies which had any international basis.
- Delete everything from the rituals which had any conceivable Hebrew or Jewish connotation.
- Recognise the Holy Law of Race and expel all Jews from the Lodges.
- Reject all humanitarian expressions such as "league of humanity".
- Eliminate everything which might create the impression that Freemasonry seeks to establish a state within the national state itself.
While the Grand Lodges spoke with different voices, the old-established and independent Verein Deutscher Freimaurer (Association of German Freemasons), which had about 20,000 members drawn from all the Obediences, fulfilled an invaluable "public relations" function. Thus in 1928, a year after the appearance of Ludendorff's Vernichtung der Freimaurerei, the VDF published a rejoinder in the shape of a booklet with the title Die Vernichtung der Unwahrheiten uber die Freimaurerei (literally "The Refutation of the Untruths about Freemasonry"). One has only to read this informative pamphlet to realise the extent and diversity of the lies which were told and believed by Freemasonry's opponents. The booklet was reprinted four times during the year after its first appearance so there was evidently a demand for factual information as opposed to the nonsense perpetrated by the volkisch opposition. However, one is obliged to agree with Dr Jacob Katz's observation that "when these apologists took up the question of the Jewish presence in their Lodges, their voice faltered".
The inference is that by 1928, five years before the Nazis came to power, the "Jewish problem" had become so embarrassing within the German Masonic movement that it inhibited even the anonymous contributors to the Association's publication.
At Lodge as opposed to Grand Lodge level the relations between the "Old Prussians" and the "Humanitarians" were at least fraternal. In some towns they shared the same premises and there was reciprocal visiting. In May 1928, however, the Mother Lodge ("Three Globes") passed a resolution to the effect that the greatest possible reserve was to be maintained towards the Humanitarian Grand Lodges and only unavoidable routine business was to be transacted with them. These separatist policies became evident within even the Old Prussian sector itself. Thus in 1931 the Mother Lodge's Grand Master complained that the Landesloge was adopting an increasingly isolationist attitude. The Landesloge had long been the most conservative, even reactionary, of the three "Old Prussian" Grand Lodges.
By 1932 Freemasonry had been losing ground in Germany for some time. The world wide economic slump of the early 1930s had particularly affected Germany. This factor to some extent explains the diminution of candidates for initiation, but there was another reason: the incessant anti-Masonic propaganda of the past decade was bearing fruit. The situation relating to the Landesloge's Provincial Lodge of Lower Saxony, which had its headquarters at Hamburg, was probably typical. The combined strength of its twenty-two Craft Lodges steadily decreased after 1926 when their combined membership was 5,341. Thus: 1927,5,211; 1928,4,740; 1929,4,579; 1930,4,418; 1931,4,182; 1932,3,675. In fact this Provincial Grand Lodge had lost about a third of its members over a period of six years.
A Mother Lodge circular to its Craft Lodges dated 27th January 1932, almost exactly a year before the Nazis came to power, explained very clearly what was happening.
It unfortunately cannot be denied that the number of candidates seeking admission to our lodges has become very scanty, and on the other side very many Brethren have resigned. In most cases the reasons for this are very apparent. On the one hand financial losses and reduced incomes; on the other hand because of leanings in the direction of the National Socialist Party, which promises those who are politically dissatisfied a rosy future, and which won't accept them for membership if they are Freemasons.
In Berlin in 1931 members of General Ludendorff's Tannenberg League were actually approaching candidates for initiation and trying to persuade them not to become Freemasons. The Mother Lodge instructed its Daughter Lodges to abandon the usual practice of posting candidates' names and addresses on notice boards in Lodge premises. Furthermore, as a further security precaution, initials were now to be omitted before names in summonses to Lodge meetings.
It was both extraordinary and tragic how the anti-Semitic clamour affected even the Humanitarian sector. In 1931 the Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main (Eclectic Union) and Bayreuth Grand Lodges revised their Craft rituals so that everything which had an Old Testament connotation was eradicated. That autumn the twenty-second verse of the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to St John engaged the worried attention of the Council which supervised the Mother Lodge's "Scottish" degrees. According to this verse:
"Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." Some ingenuity was required to explain why this verse need not be deleted from the ritual.
By the summer of 1932 the situation in Germany as far as the Grand Lodges were concerned was even worse than it had ever been in the past. The Hamburg, Bayreuth and Frankfurt am Main Grand Lodges at last exchanged representatives with the United Grand Lodge of England. The Old Prussian Landesloge immediately bitterly criticised their lack of national pride and withdrew its representatives to them. A brief extract from the Landesloge's a fulmination against the erring Humanitarians follows: "We can offer no fraternal hand to our Fatherland's enemy . . . We know that our enemies sit in English Lodges." The Old Prussians were clearly horrified at the prospect of encountering an English visitor at a Lodge at Hamburg or elsewhere.
At this stage, at the end of 1932, we are approaching the era of the Third Reich, which was intended to survive for a thousand years but lasted for only twelve. Up to a point the Order had already destroyed itself in Germany and it now only remained for the Nazis to confirm its death.
The National Socialist Attitude to Freemasonry before 1933
This topic can be dealt with very briefly. It is only necessary to state that from the very beginning, i.e. from 1920, when the National Socialist German Workers Party was merely a small although vociferous local group at Munich, Hitler and the Party ideologists (at that early stage Dietrich Eckart and Alfred Rosenberg) simply adopted the conventional volkisch attitude as far as Freemasonry was concerned. There is only one reference to Freemasonry in Mein Kampf; which was mainly written when Hitler was in prison at Landsberg in 1924. Here he repeated the usual volkisch theme that Jewish Freemasons controlled the Order for their own carefully-camouflaged political ends, also that Freemasons disseminated pacifist propaganda in the Jewish- controlled press and thus weakened the national will for self-preservation.
Hitler and his followers, then, were anti-Masonic from the beginning. But whereas the old Volkischen could only fulminate against the Freemasons and all their works, the Nazis were ultimately able to translate threats into action.
(Part II - The Collapse of Freemasonry in 1933-35 )
(Reprinted by permission of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 (E. C.))