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freemasonry in germany
by Bro. Eric Howe, P.M.
A two part article:
PREFACEAfter 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.
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 Judaoe-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 "'HUMANTARIAN" 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 LODGESGrossloge "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" LEGENDThe 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.
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.
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part IIPresident Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor on Monday, 30th January 1933. Nothing noteworthy happened as far as the Freemasons were concerned during February. On 5th March the Nazis won the last democratic general election which the Germans were to experience during Hitler's lifetime, but only had a small majority in the Reichstag. On 23rd March, however, the Reichstag passed an Enabling Act which suspended parliamentary government for four years and thereby handed Germany over to Hitler and his henchmen. The process of Gleichschaltung, meaning the integration of every conceivable activity within the framework of Nazi ideology and organisation, now began.
The Humanitarian Grand Lodges immediately realised that Freemasonry had neither a place nor a future in the Third Reich and during the next two or three weeks voluntarily signed their own death sentences. Each of them, in its own fashion, went into liquidation. There is no evidence that this happened in response to any official instruction or demand. However, no individual or organisation which was on the Nazis' long-established black list felt safe at that time. 1
A foretoken of the kind of treatment which the Freemasons might expect to receive had already been experienced at Dusseldorf on 6th March, the day after the general election. When the members of the "Zu den drei Verburendeten" Lodge (Old Prussian, "Three Globes") arrived at their premises for a meeting that evening they learned that five S.A. Stormtroopers in uniform and a number of civilians had just left the building. They had been received by a serving Brother who asked for evidence of their respective identities. "Loaded pistols were their authority", according to a report signed by the Grand Masters of all three Old Prussian Grand Lodges which was sent to the Prussian Ministry on the Interior on 13th March. The intruders demanded the Lodge's files, which were kept in a locked cupboard in the conference room. Since the keys were not immediately available they smashed the lock and began to remove the papers to a lorry which was waiting outside. Then the deputy Master of the Lodge arrived. "He showed them the portraits of the members of the House of Hohenzollern in the banqueting room, also the Temple, which had been prepared for a Lodge of Mourning. The intruders then bared their heads and behaved decorously, explaining that they did not want to disturb the mourning ceremony."The three Old Prussian Grand Lodges now began a long drawn-out and, indeed, hopeless battle for survival - not in any conventional Masonic context, but as "German Christian Orders". The story of their negotiations with the authorities highlights their predicament. The Old Prussians were willing, even anxious to support the regime, but now, as the three Grand Masters observed in their written protest at what had been allowed to happen at Dusseldorf, "We have the impression that we are without legal redress and are being treated as second-class citizens."
The story of how one of the three Old Prussian Grand Lodges dealt with a painfully difficult situation during the years 1933-35 can be reconstructed from the surviving "Three Globes" documents in Grand Lodge Library. After February 1933 this Grand Lodge mainly acted in close liaison with the "Friendship" Grand Lodge so this story is to some extent the latter's. We know very little about the affairs of the "Landesloge" which, as so often in the past, acted independently.
The first important document of the 1933 series is a copy of a letter to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior dated 6th March and signed by all three Grand Masters: Dr Karl Habicht (Three Globes), who was a Protestant clergyman; Lieut.-Col. Kurt von Heeringen (Landesloge) and Oskar Feistkorn (Friendship). They jointly protested about a recent article in Der Angnff which stated that "the Jew Karl Marx had been a Freemason and the Communist leaders were Jews and Freemasons". Publications of this kind, they wrote, would lead the general public to suppose that all Freemasons, including Grand Officers of the Old Prussian Grand Lodges, were Marxists and hence "enemies of the people". They asked for protection. Scores of similar articles had been published in the past and it is unlikely that any of them had resulted in a letter of complaint to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. The Grand Masters, however, were beginning to be extremely nervous because there was already evidence that the new regime would not scruple to use terror when it suited its purpose.
Four days later, on 10th March, Grand Master Habicht and all or most of the national directorate of "The Globes" resigned their offices on the grounds that they no longer possessed the confidence of the Daughter Lodges. At this time Habicht completely severed his connection with Freemasonry.
On 24th March the three Grand Masters - Habicht was just about to depart - signed yet another joint letter to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. The substance of this lengthy communication was to be repeated in similar documents during the following months. The Grand Masters referred to their respective Orders' lengthy relationship with the Prussian state. It was their urgent duty, they wrote, to ensure that their security and honour would be assured and protected by the authorities. It had unfortunately not yet occurred to the Grand Masters that it was now in some respects a waste of time to address such letters to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. Firstly the Ministry was no longer master of its own house in Prussia and secondly the rule of law was already ceasing to operate in Germany. The Grand Masters optimistically asked for the speedy renewal of the Protection (i.e. patronage) formerly accorded to the Old Prussian Grand Lodges and which had lapsed with the abdication of the Hohenzollern dynasty in 1918. The Ministry was reminded that "a species of Freemasonry has arisen in Germany which is not only opposed to our conception of patriotism, but also to our Christian viewpoint and our opposition to all kinds of internationalism".
After these lengthy preliminaries the Grand Masters at last revealed what was really worrying them. Their members were now being denied admission to certain professional and other organisations because they were branded as Freemasons, no account whatever being taken of their Christian and patriotic attitudes. Indeed, even livelihoods were being threatened because these good Germans were being indifferently lumped together with Jews and Marxists.
There is no evidence that any of the three Old Prussian Grand Masters was able to talk to one of the leading Nazi satraps until 7th April, when Lieut. Col. von Heeringen (Landesloge) had an interview with General Goering, who was the provisional Prussian Minister of the Interior. Very soon after his meeting with Goering, Von Heeringen must have tele-phoned or sent a note to Dr Otto Bordes, a Berlin dentist who had succeeded Karl Habicht as Grand Master of the Three Globes, because a brief circular letter was mailed to the Three Globes Daughter Lodges the same day.
This document merely revealed that Goering had declared himself incompetent to settle or regulate the status or future of the Old Prussian Grand Lodges. However, he had offered to raise the matter at a Reich Cabinet meeting later that day. It is unlikely that the Grand Masters were aware that the Reich Cabinet was not even as effective as a rubber stamp. The power already lay elsewhere.Whether or not the Reich Cabinet ever discussed the [affinity] of the Old Prussian Lodges is unimportant. Von Heeringen listened to Goering and took the hint. When he visited Bordes on the following Monday morning (10th April) some dramatic decisions had already been taken at the Eisenacherstrasse premises of the Landesloge. Whatever remained there of the old Masonic tradition had been summarily thrown out of the window and a complete break had been made with a past which went back to the eighteenth century.
The Mother Lodge's circular letter of Tuesday, 11th April, is an extremely revealing document. Apart from the fact that it enables us to pinpoint the date of Freemasonry's final demise in Germany, it suggests that von Heeringen and Bordes were frightened men. It can only have been fear which persuaded von Heeringen that there was no time left for lengthy consultation within the Landesloge or negotiations outside it. Reading between the lines we can infer that Goering had said: "If you don't close down Freemasonry, we'll do it for you!" There was already a smell of terror in the air in Germany and immediate capitulation was undoubtedly the only sensible solution. It was therefore a question of trying to save whatever could be preserved from the prospective wreck.
According to the Three Globes' circular letter Goering had told von Heeringen that there was no place for Freemasonry in a National Socialist state. "The Landesloge had come to the necessary conclusions. It had ceased to exist as a Masonic Order and would now continue as the 'German Christian Order of Templars'. It would necessarily break off all relations with Freemasonry. . . . If Minister Goering's intentions meet with general approval in the Reich Cabinet, it is inconceivable that our Grand Lodge [i.e. the Three Globes] can continue to exist as a Freemasons' Lodge. We know that the National Socialists raise the following conditions:
1. The disappearance of the words Freemason and Lodge.The Mother Lodge was as quick to take the hint as the Landesloge had been. Its circular of 11th April informed the Daughter Lodges that it had been decided to tell the authorities that the Grand National Mother Lodge of the Three Globes had abandoned its old and venerable title and now wished to be known as the National Christian Order of Frederick the Great. (Almost simultaneously the Grand Lodge of Prussia called "Friendship" became the German Christian Order of Friendship.) The Lodges were instructed to abandon all ritual work during the next two weeks and to organise social gatherings instead.
Bordes had an interview with an unidentified "National Socialist Fuhrer" on Wednesday, 12th April. The purpose of this meeting was to discover, if possible, whether even the successor organisation would be banned. "This does not appear to be the case or our contact would have known about it," Bordes reported. "Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler has reserved the final decision about Freemasonry for himself."
All and sundry were quickly told about the Mother Lodge's course of action, e.g. Dr Frick, the Reich Minister of the Interior, Dr Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, and the Party Headquarters at Munich. The Daughter Lodges received an urgent message to the effect that:
1. We are no longer Freemasons. Brethren are to tell this to outsiders immediately.
A letter to the Party headquarters, also dated 12th April 1933, claimed that the majority of the Order's members were in complete sympathy with the aims of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Thus, in view of all the measures that had been taken: "We therefore believe that there is no extrinsic reason to deny Party membership to our people. We are not Freemasons! Make the way free for 20,000 patriotic men who feel the call to collaborate in the building of the National Socialist state."2A draft of the Mother Lodge's new constitution had been submitted to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior for approval. On 19th April Bordes had to inform the Daughter Lodges, which were now known as Order Groups, that he had been instructed that until the new constitution had been sanctioned the Order must use its old title (Grand Mother Lodge, etc.) for all correspondence with Party and government offices. This was regrettable because it advertised the old Masonic connection which was now best forgotten.
Bordes and Feistkorn (Grand Master of the German Christian Order of Friendship) continued to talk to such senior Party functionaries as were prepared to listen to them. Early in May they went to Munich and visited the Brown House (Nazi Party H.Q.) where they conferred with "an influential person". On 10th May they jointly reported that while the Party was in principle willing to recognise the "patriotic character" of the former Old Prussian Obediences, it was still refusing to admit former Freemasons who were members of the new "Christian Orders". Next there was a statement which reveals the nature of one of their most urgent worries: "The Reich government and the Reich Chancellor have given repeated assurances that officials (i.e. civil servants and local government officials) whose attitude is firmly anchored to patriotic principles and who do not belong to the Party, need fear neither political pressure (to persuade them to join the Party) nor that their careers will be prejudiced."
In the spring of 1933 the Party authorities at Munich were taking the view that in spite of all protestations to the contrary all former Freemasons were to be regarded as "unreliable". The Grand Masters on the other hand, clearly supposed that as long as the Reich government did not actually ban the new Christian Orders the latter were relatively safe. They can hardly be blamed for falling to realise at this early stage in the history of the Third Reich that the Party already represented a parallel "administration" or the extent to which an increasingly large and inefficient Party bureaucracy was duplicating the work and functions of government departments.
In the face of so much misunderstanding the three Grand Masters decided to appeal for justice to the Fuhrer himself. A document was discussed and drafted but Lieut-Col. von Heeringen (Landesloge) finally refused to sign it. His argument was that silence was probably the best policy and that as long as the Reich government did nothing the three Orders were no doubt tolerably secure. He was also of the opinion that if and when matters came to a head Dr Frick, the Minister of the Interior, would not act contrary to the views of the Party. Bordes and Feistkorn persisted in their intention to petition the Fuhrer to intervene in their favour. Yet another wordy document was composed and dispatched. It is sufficient to quote one brief extract from it.
Together with the whole German people we have suffered under the terrible "war guilt lie" which the Versailles Treaty imposed upon us. The Brethren of the German Christian Orders have fought against this defamation. It is now our lot that the very Party whose aims we share will banish us for the rest of our lives from the ranks of good Germans, and deny us the opportunity to prove that the reasons for this are groundless.
The Grand Masters were not far wrong when they concluded on 21st June that "the great danger for us is not that the regime will banish us but that the Party will destroy us, because if our members are prevented from joining Party organisations they will resign from the Order." In default of Party membership many erstwhile Old Prussian Freemasons were now trying to join the Party's subsidiary organisations. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes there were objections. In any case the position was to remain confused for months on end.
The weeks passed by and there was no reply to the Grand Masters' letter to the Fuhrer. Bordes informed his Daughter Lodges on 8th August that there had recently been "trespassing on the premises of our Order Groups and dastardly attacks on our members, even physical threats". Once again it had been necessary to ask the Prussian Ministry of the Interior for protection but the attacks continued. A telegram was sent to the Fuhrer on 4th August requesting him to intervene. Another telegram was sent to President Hindenburg. There is no evidence that either was ever acknowledged.
Towards the end of August there were newspaper reports stating that members of the former "Johannes zum Schwarzen Adler" Lodge at Landsberg Warthe had decided by a majority vote to transfer their premises to a local S.A. (Stormtroopers) unit. Bordes circulated a denial on 1st September and revealed that the S.A. had used threats to obtain possession. The Grand Master warned the Order Groups that similar attempts to alienate property would no doubt be made elsewhere.
The two Grand Masters' joint report of 16th October 1933 reveals that the Secret State Police (i.e. Gestapo) had recently been active at Konigsberg, where as many as twenty officials spent six days reading every conceivable document, including mail which had not yet been opened, at the rooms of the Landesloge's "Totenkopf und Phoenix" Lodge.
A fortnight later Bordes reported that he had tried to arrange an interview with Hitler but had been rebuffed. Nor was it possible to arrange for any written communication to be submitted to him.
The position in January 1934, a year after the Nazis came to power, was that the three German Christian Orders had at least survived. In spite of all their protestations of loyalty to the National Socialist regime and its ideology they were tolerated, but no more. If the Orders remained more or less unmolested it was because, in spite of their former Masonic background, neither the Party nor the State found it necessary to take any precipitate action. Thus the Orders were allowed to continue to exist, although always in a state of insecurity.
In the meantime their membership was steadily declining and a number of Lodges wanted to dissolve themselves. In Germany the legal status and powers of societies and associations were far more sharply defined than they are in England. The Lodges were not autonomous but constitutionally and legally subject to the authority of their respective Grand Lodges. The situation was dramatically changed on 4th January 1934 when Wilhelm Grauert, a Secretary of State in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, signed a decree which made it possible for the Daughter Lodges to act unilaterally as their own executioners. This decree greatly weakened the already very insecure status of the Grand Lodges.
In the preamble to this document Grauert stated that without it being necessary for him to decide whether or not the Orders were statsfeindlich, i.e. hostile to the State or regime, in view of their former Masonic connections there was no good reason why the Orders and their Lodges should survive. Thus it was necessary for him to take into account the fact that some Lodges wanted to close down. Seven brief paragraphs outlined the necessary procedure. The Grand Lodges were to be kept informed, but there was no question of a Lodge applying to its Grand Lodge for permission to liquidate its affairs. In the past when a Lodge closed down its Grand Lodge acted as trustee for its assets. Now, however, the Lodges were free to dispose of funds resulting from the sale of buildings, etc., provided they complied with the usual legal provisions. Finally, should the membership of a Lodge fall below seven, Grauert reserved the right to order it to go into liquidation.
The text of Grauert's decree was the more anxiously discussed because it did not reveal whether or not yet more Draconian measures would be taken against the three Orders. There was probably a lot of activity behind the scenes because twice during the next few weeks Bordes informed his members that they should on no account dissolve their Lodges because the present negotiations with the authorities would soon lead to an entirely satisfactory settlement.
On 8th January 1934, four days after Grauert signed his decree, the Party at long last clarified the situation of former Freemasons. Those who had joined before 30th January 1933 would be allowed to remain as rank and file members but would have to accept a lifelong ban on promotion. Newcomers who had joined after 30th January must resign immediately.
This led to a distressing incident at Lubeck where Walter Plessing, a young lawyer who, like his father and grandfather, had been a member of the "Zum Ftainorn" Lodge there, made his own tragic protest. Plessing had resigned from his Lodge on 1st September 1933 in order to join the Party. He also managed to get himself accepted for the S.A. (i.e. Sturm Abteilung, the Party's brown-shirted private army). Now required to resign from both the Party and the S.A. he committed suicide on 16th March 1934, having first made a will in which he bequeathed the whole of his modest fortune (about £10,000) to his Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. The will contained a lengthy justification for his decision to terminate his life.
By what right can we who are alive be branded as traitors when the names of thousands of Freemasons are recorded in the annals of German history? - .. The three Old Prussian Grand Lodges and particularly my former lodge, the "Zum Fullhorn" at Lubeck, which I joined as the third generation of my family, have no connection whatever with Jews or Jewry. Their basis is Christ and the Bible. As long as the Bible is not banned, nor Christ burned at the stake as a traitor, we cannot be punished for a ritual which has been transmitted unaltered from one generation to the next for more than a century. . . . We can perhaps be accused of not having taken cognisance of National Socialism in good time, but this reproach also applies to 64 million Germans. Why, then, are we excluded from the Party as traitors when all (former) Social Democrats and other "Internationalists" are accepted and tolerated? This cannot be reconciled with human justice.... The fact, as I learned today, that not only the Party but also the supreme command of the S.A. means to expel us - and only us - proves that we are to be treated as third class Germans. 3
While the manner of Plessing's protest was exceptional, a few other documents in the collection indicate the extent to which former "Old Prussian" Freemasons resented not only the Party's slurs on their patriotism but also their exclusion from the task of building the Third Reich.
In the spring of 1934 it was still difficult for the three Grand Masters to realise the extent to which the rule of law had already begun to break down in Germany. In Mecklenburg, for example, the Gauleiter was busy organising unilateral action against the former Lodges without reference to any "authority" in Berlin. The Grand Masters' joint letter to the Reich Minister of Justice of 16th April reveals that S.A. stormtroopers wearing civilian clothes were literally invading Lodge premises in order "to protect them from the enraged population". In the past their protests had been addressed to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior but by now they were probably aware that they could not expect very much help from this source. They were mistaken if they believed that the Minister of Justice could do anything for them.
The three Grand Masters continued to plead their Orders' cause with undiminished energy during the summer of 1934. There was one common theme in many of their letters to various ministries and Party offices: "We are not Freemasons, nor have we ever been Freemasons in the commonly accepted sense of the word. "This particular argument was disregarded. Thus in a speech delivered at Essen on 5th August, Dr Frick, the Reich Minister of the Interior, declared: "It is inappropriate that a secret society with obscure aims should continue to exist in the Third Reich. It is high time that the Freemasons' Lodges should disappear in Germany just as they have disappeared in Italy. If this is not realised in Masonic circles, I will soon help them in this direction. "4
The Grand Masters did not take the hint. The reason for their inactivity is easy to understand. While all the Orders' usual activities could obviously be terminated without further ado, what was to be done with the three palatial Grand Lodge buildings, each with its elaborately-equipped Temples, banqueting rooms, library, archives and so on? Next, if the plunge were taken in the direction of total liquidation, which would in any case be an enormously complicated business, any particular decision was likely to be overruled by Germany's capricious new masters.
The final blow was at last delivered in May 1935 when the Reich and Prussian Ministry of the Interior ordered the immediate dissolution of the three Orders. There was to be no question of delay or negotiation. Each of the Grand Lodges was ordered to hold a general meeting at which the Grand Master would simply announce the Ministry's decision. Nor was there to be any subsequent discussion.
Gestapo officials were present at the meetings held on 16th June and 7th and 14th July 1935 when the Mother Lodge, "Friendship" and the "Landesloge" were formally dissolved. The last vestiges of the Masonic Order in Germany now disappeared.The Germans, however, were not to be allowed to forget the "Masonic peril". Almost immediately there was a new and virulent wave of anti-Masonic literature in which all the old accusations and fabrications were repeated. Former Lodge premises at Berlin, Hanover, Nuremberg,
Dusseldorf and Erlangen were converted into elaborate anti-Masonic museums. The one at Erlangen attracted more than 150,000 visitors during the first year of its existence.At this point my story must be brought to an end. There is, however, probably more than sufficient material for two further papers which could respectively deal with the post-1935 anti-Masonic campaign in Germany and Freemasonry's fate in the countries occupied by Germany during the Second World War. The story of how the Swiss Freemasons helped their Brethren in France and Italy during the 1940-44 period has not yet been told in English. Nor can I deal here with the long drawn-out success of financial liquidation which continued in Berlin until 1940.'
LIKE A PHOENIX
One of the most fascinating chapters in Brother Manfred Steffens' Freimaurer in Deutchland, 1964, describes how Freemasonry came to life again in Germany after the Second World War. In May 1945 the country lay in ruins, but soon small and isolated groups of Freemasons were meeting. Thus at Hamburg on 26th May 1945, hardly three weeks after Germany's unconditional surrender, nine members of the "Absalom zu den drei Nesseln" Lodge, which was the oldest in Germany, met for a preliminary discussion and a week later assembled again to reconstitute the Lodge. 5
Once again at Hamburg, but a year later, there is a record of Brothers Schroder and Rohden fabricating hoodwinks, of Brother Wetter devising a tracing board, of Brother Haubrich bringing with him a pair of downtrodden shoes, and of Brother Unterharck providing a Square. During the winter months the Brethren were asked to bring one or two briquettes of coal or a log of wood for the stove.
The Craft's revival in post-war Germany was beset with countless difficulties. Once again there is a story which must one day be recorded in English. Here it is only necessary to mention that the United Grand Lodge of England played an important role as accoucheur at the birth of the United Grand Lodges of Germany - Brotherhood of German Free-masons, which was constituted on 17th May 1958. There was now the national representation which had so unfortunately been absent in the past. Finally, German Freemasonry and German Brethren were happily restored to that wider Masonic Brotherhood from which time and circumstances had so long separated them.
REFERENCES1 The affairs of the individual Humanitarian Grand Lodges during January and March 1933 are by no means adequately documented. I have therefore decided merely to offer the brief statement printed above.
2 The '20,000 patriotic men" can only have referred to the members of the former Old Prussian Obediences. There were about 57,000 Old Prussian Freemasons in 1925, hence there had clearly been a formidable loss of members during the past few years. It is also probable that there had been a flood of very recent resignations.3 The membership of the Old Prussian lodges came from a far smaller cross-section of the population than would have been the case in England. A rough check of the professions of about a hundred leading members Masters, Deputy Masters and Secretaries) of thirty Old Prussian lodges in 1925 reveals a preponderance of local government officers and professional men, i.e. physicians,. lawyers, architects, etc. (41 percent). University and in particular grammar school (Gymnasium) teachers were strongly represented (15 percent). Banking. trade and industry accounted for 3l percent. A provisional inference is that Adolf Hitler would not have been a Freemason in Germany.
4 Quoted in Heinrich Blume, Das poiltsche Gesicht Freimaurerei,1936.5 For the latter see Manfred Steffens, Freimaurer in Deutchland, 1964, pp. 387ff.
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