Persecuted Masons: The Holocaust and Hitler’s Attack on Freemasonry

Persecuted Masons: The Holocaust and Hitler’s Attack on Freemasonry

As one of the deadliest genocides in world history, the Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of millions of individuals by the Nazi Regime. The word Holocaust comes from the Greek word Holókauston, which refers to an animal sacrifice offered to a god in which the whole animal, Olos, is completely burnt, Kaustos. The first recorded chronicler of the term Holocaustum in an English work was a 12th century British monk named Richard of Devizes.  In his political work of 1658, Discourse Urn Burial, Thomas Browne utilized the word “holocaust”  to denote “a great massacre.”

From 1941 to 1945, targeted individuals were systematically murdered in the Holocaust as part of broader acts of oppression of various ethnic and political groups in Europe by the Nazi party. While the Jews were the largest group targeted, other victims included the Gypsies, the Slavs, the disabled, homosexuals, Communists, and Freemasons. Over six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, while the total number of murder individuals is calculated to be over eleven million people. Historical scholars estimate that more than 80,000 Freemasons were executed by the Nazis and their collaborators. 

Nazi Propaganda: Connecting Jews and Freemasonry

Adolf Hitler’s hatred of Freemasonry, as well as his belief that Freemasonry supported the Jews, is well documented. In 1925, Hitler wrote of hisGermanCartoonAgainstJews1934 plans to destroy Freemasonry stating: “Ourselves or the Freemasons or the Church: there is room for one of the three and no more. We are the strongest of the three and shall get rid of the other two.” Nazi party officials were given a “Guide and Instructional Letter” which outlined part of Hitler’s propaganda scheme against Freemasonry and Jews which stated, “The natural hostility of the peasant against the Jews, and his hostility against the Freemason as a servant of the Jew, must be worked up to a frenzy.”  

Nazi propaganda was directed to link the Jewish people and the Freemasons, where both groups were represented by the form of a snake. The German publication Der Stuermer, “The Assault Trooper,” published articles and cartoons that attempted to portray a “Jewish-Masonic” conspiracy. Freemasonry also became a particular obsession of Reinhard Heydrich, the Chief of the Nazi Intelligence Force, who stated that Freemasons, along with the Jews and the clergy, were the “most implacable enemies of the German race.” In 1935, Heydrich wrote that “a Jewish, liberal, and Masonic infectious residue that remains in the unconscious of many, above all in the academic and intellectual world.”

As part of their propaganda campaign against Freemasonry, the Nazis created anti-Masonic exhibitions throughout occupied Europe. The Nazi Gestapo seized the membership lists of the Grand Lodges and ransacked masonic libraries and lodges. The items stolen from Masonic buildings were exhibited in many anti-Masonic Expositions. The Nazi leader, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, created the first of these public displays  in Munich, Germany in 1937.  In October of 1940, the German occupied Paris erected an anti-Masonic exhibition. A similar event was hosted in German occupied Brussels in February 1941. Displaying Masonic tools, ritual, and regalia stolen from lodges, these exhibitions were intended to instill ridicule, hatred, and fear towards Freemasons. In addition, the displays were intended to establish a connection in public sentiment between the Jewish people and Freemasonry. German propaganda argued that the Jews and the Masons had provoked World War II, particularly through the policies of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who the Germans identified as a Freemason. The Nazi Primer, The Official Handbook for the Schooling of Hitler Youth, attacked Freemasons for their “mistaken teaching of the equality of all men” by which these groups were said to be seeking power over the world.

Hitler’s Attack on Freemasonry

NaziPropogandaAgainstJewsandFreemasonsAdolf Hitler became Reich Chancellor in January of 1933, and he swiftly moved to seize power for the Nazi Party across Germany. On April 7, 1933, Nazi Leader Hermann Goering held a meeting with the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Germany, where he informed him that there would be no place for Freemasonry in Nazi Germany. That year, the Nazi Party created an intelligence agency, the Sicherheitsdienst (S.D.), within their larger Security Service, the Schutzstaffel (S.S.). The Inland S.D. (Office IIwas responsible for intelligence gathering and security within Germany, with a special section created to investigate and deal with Freemasonry. S.D. written documents and officers stated that Freemasonry exercised actual political power and shaped public opinion. Freemasonry was targeted for destruction and its members selected for extermination in part because the Nazi Party believed that the Masonic organization was powerful enough to provoke war, subversion, and revolution. The Nazi Party Court System issued an ultimatum to Freemasons that they must abandon their Masonic affiliation prior January 30, 1933 or be excluded from the protection of the Nazi Party.  

On October 28, 1934, Reich Minister Wilhelm Frick issued a decree defining Freemasonic lodges as “hostile to the state” and their property was subject to seizure by the state. Finally, on August 17, 1935, citing the authority of the Reichstag Fire Decree, Frick ordered all remaining organizations dissolved and their assets confiscated. Freemasons were required by the Nazi Party to publicly declare their Masonic membership, similar to the requirements of forced registration of the Jewish people. The Freemasons who were registered were later rounded up using the state’s registries and sent to concentration camps for extermination.

In August 1940, the Vichy Regime in France issued a decree declaring French Freemasons to be enemies of the state and authorizing police surveillance of them. The French wartime authorities created a card file that identified all members. That registry survived WWII and is now part of the holdings of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives. When France fell to the Germans, the Vichy government decreed the dissolution of  Masonic organizations, including the Grand Orient and the Grande Loge of France. The property of the French Masons was seized by the Nazis, confiscated, destroyed, or sold. 

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Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi German authorities deported millions of individuals, including Freemasons, to ghettos and concentration camps where multitudes were murdered in specially developed gassing facilities. Across Europe, Freemasons were subjected to surveillance, persecuted, arrested and sent to extermination camps.  In Austria, members of the Vienna lodges were captured and sent to one of the most notorious concentration camps: Dachau in Bavaria. The Nazi Protocol was repeated when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, and Belgium. 

 

Columbia: An American Goddess

Columbia: An American Goddess

If you were to ask the average American which mythical figure best represents the national character, most would reply with a household name: Uncle Sam. The genial yet intimidating patriarch has dominated artistic and poetic descriptions of the American nation-state for a hundred years.

However there is another, more deeply ingrained avatar of the American populace, the omnipresent Columbia. Most famously depicted as the Statue of Liberty , upon which is inscribed Emma Lazarus’ poem reproduced above, Columbia was the mythical figure adopted by the founding generation of the early United States. After the defeat of the British in 1783, America found itself free from international harassment and a wide open frontier of unknowable bounty. What was needed was an icon, a symbol by which to galvanize and direct the consciousness of the American people. By the late 1790’s, Columbia was born.  Columbia quickly became the patron saint of Manifest Destiny, the doctrine of westward expansion embraced with genocidal fervor by the pioneers and politicians alike.

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Columbia advancing towards the darkness of the West, bringing light and civilization in her wake.

Columbia’s figure appears on or within many state and federal buildings constructed in the 19th century, usually cast in bronze and often pointing or facing West. She adorns the Wisconsin Capitol building, sculpted by the same Daniel Chester French who constructed the greatest rendition of Columbia in history, the 65-foot-tall Statue of the Republic commissioned for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois. She reposes atop the Texas Capitol holding the sword of Justice and raising aloft a blazing golden star. She lends her name to numerous towns across America, she is the patron of Columbia University and the seat of governmental power stands in a district built in her honor: The District of Columbia.

Columbia as a symbol is far too complex and deeply-rooted to be ascribed as a creation of political machinations. Columbia is only the latest name given to a goddess who is older than recorded history and can be traced in her modern form to the early Egyptian dynasties. She has been known throughout history variously as Inanna and Ishtar by the Sumerians, Kali by the Hindus, Freya by the Norse and most notably as Isis by the ancient Egyptians. She is the goddess of love, wisdom, warfare and destiny and is venerated by all cultures as the mother of civilization. In the original

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Isis with the infant Horus at her left breast.

Egyptian telling of her tale, Isis is also the goddess of magic, friend of slave and aristocrat by equal measure. It was Isis that kept the veil of night cloaked about the light of wisdom and it was her name invoked in the rites and rituals of the numerous fertility cults that sprang up along the banks of the Nile. The pentagram, or five-pointed star, the primary symbol of magical and initiatory societies across the world, is the shape traced in the heavens by the transit of the planet Venus throughout the year. In this Roman context the parallels between Isis and the western conception of the Virgin Goddess in her myriad forms become starkly apparent.

She has also enjoyed considerable veneration throughout history as a figurehead of Freemasonry or as Manly Palmer Hall put it, “The Virgin of The World”. Numerous Masonic writers have expounded lengthy treatises on the Masonic symbolism inherent in the legend of Isis, it being so closely tied to the inner curriculum of Masonry. In the pre-Christian Mystery traditions, Wisdom was always depicted as feminine. In Greece, Wisdom was personified as Athena, Goddess of Knowledge and Crafts. The seven liberal arts are given female representations and the nine Muses invoked by countless artisans and artists are all of female form. For an organization with an historical opposition to the admittance of women, Freemasonry has an oddly persistent fascination with feminine representations of their Craft.

It is often acknowledged that many, if not most, of the founding figures of early America were Freemasons. Could it be that this small group of men, working with the vast repository of Masonic symbolism, crafted a symbol to forge a specific path forward into the future? Is it coincidence that Columbia led the waves of settlers of the New World from ‘sea to shining sea’, transporting the light of civilization from its birth on the Eastern horizon to its maturity in the West? Though she has been subsumed in popular understanding by the withered visage of Uncle Sam, Columbia keeps constant vigil from the forgotten and overlooked corners of American history and geography, a testament to a different time. She may remain cloaked behind the veil she draws so closely to her breast yet the light of her torch still burns for those with eyes to see.


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

~ Emma Lazarus, 1883