There is only one group of men whom the Nazis and the Fascists hate
more than the Jews. They are the Freemasons. In Italy, indeed, the
anti-Jewish feeling is of recent vintage and largely artificial, whereas
the blackshirt hatred of Freemasonry is old and deep. In their own
countries Hitler and Mussolini Inaugurated their respective reigns with
outrages against Masons and Masonic institutions, and they have never
relaxed the systematic persecution. Now Nazi conquests of other
European nations -- whether by invasion of forcible "persuasion" -- are
followed automatically by hostile measures against Freemasons. From
Norway to the Balkans, the progress of the Swastika has brought
outlawry, and often vandalism and death in its wake for all Masons. The
anti-Semetic excesses have been widely reported, the anti-Catholic
outrages have had considerable publicity, but the merciless totalitarian
assaults on Freemasonry have not receive a tithe of the world-wide
attention they richly merit. They are practically an unknown chapter.
Nazi and Fascist publications leave no doubt of their belief that all
evil in the world, from the high mortality rate among the dinner guests
of the Borgias down to the Versailles Treaty, has been the work of
Freemasons, alone or with the help of Israel. In "Mein Kampf", Hitler
merges his twin phobias:
"The general pacifistic paralyzation of the national instinct of
self-preservation, introduced into the circles of the so-called
`intelligentsia' by Freemasonry, is transmitted to the great masses, but
above all to the bourgeoisie, by the activity of the great press, which
today is always Jewish."
And one of the first official statements made by Hermann Goering in
his capacity as Prime Minister of Prussia, when the Nazis took over
power in 1933, was that "in National Socialist Germany there is no place
for Freemasonry.: That view was not news. It had run through all the
Nazi propaganda and had been an intrinsic part of the Fascist attitude
in Mussolini's realm.
After the German debacle of 1918, the frustrated man who had been the
virtual master of Germany's destinies, General Erich Ludendorff, south
an outlet for his bitterness in diatribes against Freemasonry. Right up
to his death, Ludendorff devoted himself wholly to propaganda intended
to prove that the war, the ensuing German revolution, and most other
world ills had been the doing of the Masons. He published a pamphlet
entitled "Annihilation of Freemasonry Through the Revelation of Its
Secrets" wherein the so-called secrets of Freemasonry were "revealed"
for the hundredth time since the foundation of the Order in 1717,
without, however, annihilating Masonry. The senile general's main
thesis was that Freemasonry is a Jewish device intended to make
"artificial Jews." On one page the hand that had led Germany to
disaster in 1918 wrote: "It is cheating the people to fight the Jew
while allowing his auxiliary troop, Freemasonry ... to function."
The Nazis continued where Ludendorff left off. But others had
preceded them in Mason-baiting. In 1917, as one of their acts, the
Bolsheviks dissolved all lodges in Russia. In 1919, when Bela Kun
proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary, one of his
first decrees ordered the dissolution of Masonic lodges. In 1925,
Spain's first dictator of this generation, General Primo de Rivera,
ordered the abolition of Freemasonry in his country.
Benito Mussolini went about the same business more methodically.
Having established his regime, Il Duce proceeded step by step to
exterminate the lodges and the influence of Italian Freemasonry. Even
the Nazi apostle, Dr. Alfred Rosenberg, has admitted in his book
"Masonic World Policies" that the Freemasons had been the creators of
the united democratic Kingdom of Italy. But this did not win them any
mitigation of horrors at the hands of ultra-patriotic Fascists. In
1924, Mussolini decreed that every member of his Fascist Party who was a
Mason must abandon one or the other organization. Thereupon General
Cappello, one of the most prominent Fascists, who had held the post of
Deputy Grand Master of Grande Oriente, Italy's leading Grand Lodge, gave
up membership in Fascism rather than betray his Masonic ideals. He was
to pay dearly for this loyalty. Less than a year later, he was charged
with complicity in an attempt on Mussolini's life. It was a palpable
frame-up by an OVRA stoolpigeon name Quaglia, but General Cappello was
sentenced to thirty years in prison, where he probably still lingers.
In the summer of 1925 Mussolini got around to dissolving Italian
Freemasonry. In an open letter to Il Duce, the Grand Master of the
Grande Oriente, Domizio Torrigiani, had the courage to stand up for
democracy and freedom of thought. The price he paid was exile to the
Lipari islands. After nearly going blind there, he died soon
afterwards. Hundreds of other prominent Masons shared the harsh Lipari
exile with him. At the peak of the anti-Mason agitation, in 1925-27,
blackshirt strong-arm squads looted the homes of well-known Masons in
Milan, Florence and other cities, and murdered at least 100 of them.
The Nazis acted more swiftly. Immediately on Hitler's rise to power,
the ten Grand Lodges of Germany were dissolved. Many among the
prominent dignitaries and members of the Order were sent to
concentration camps. The Gestapo seized the membership lists of the
Grand Lodges and looted their libraries and collections of Masonic
objects. Much of this loot was then exhibited in an "Anti-Masonic
Exposition" inaugurated in 1937 by Herr Dr. Joseph Goebbels in Munich.
The Exposition included completely furnished Masonic temples.
The persecution was carried over into Austria when the country was
captured by the Nazis. The Masters of the various Vienna lodges were
immediately confined in the most notorious concentration camps,
including the horrible living hell at Dachau in Bavaria. The same
procedure was repeated when Hitler took over Czechoslovakia, then
Poland. Immediately after conquering Holland and Belgium, the Nazis
ordered the dissolution of the lodges in those nations. It was also
Point One on the agenda of Major Quisling in Norway. It may be taken as
part of the same ugly picture that General Franco of Spain in 1940
sentenced all Freemasons in his realm automatically to ten years in
prison. When France fell last June, the Vichy government caused the two
Masonic bodies of France, the Grand Orient and the Grenade Loge to be
dissolved, their property being seized and sold at auction.
The countries which are still ostensibly independent, but actually
under the heel of Germany, must prove their conformity to the Nazi
pattern by taking harsh measures against Masonry. In Hungary the
dissolution of the lodges was unnecessary because they were never
allowed to resume after Bela Kun was overthrown. Mason-baiting is one
"principle" on which White Terrors and Red Terrors have always agreed.
Rumania recently prohibited Freemasonry to prove its subservience to
Germany. Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, inhabited by levelheaded and tolerant
peasantry, were also obliged to enact the twin sets of laws --
anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic -- that demonstrate "friendship for
The summary does not begin to convey the full terror of the Calvary
to which Freemasonry has been subjected wherever the totalitarians took
power. Murder, imprisonment, economic looting, social outlawry have
been the bitter lot of individual Masons. Rapine has been the fate of
their organizations, their treasures, their institutions of charity.
Why does this implacable and fanatic hatred of the Order obsess the
totalitarian mind? The answer is in the whole history and temper of
Freemasonry. For more than two centuries its leaders have been
consistently on the side of political freedom and human dignity, reaping
a harvest of persecution at the hands of tyrants. Before going into
that, however, we must distinguish clearly between two things:
Freemasonry and Freemasons. The chief trick of mason-haters through the
generations, a trick followed by the Nazis, is to direct their
accusations not against Freemasons personally but against the whole
Freemasonry is made up of Masonic bodies: lodges, Grand Lodges and
other groupings. All of these scrupulously refrain from meddling in
politics or any other subject not directly related to Masonic matters or
charity. The Constitution of the Order stipulates that every member
must be a loyal citizen of his country, and it professes adherence "to
that religion in which all men agree" -- that is, belief in a Divine
power, in morality and in charity. In contrast to narrow nationalism,
it believe in serving Humanity as a whole. That is all that the Masonic
Order itself professes and is interested in. What individual Masons do
as citizens of their respective countries to serve the ideals they
personally believe is, is their own business.
This attitude is no subterfuge. On the contrary, the enlightened
Freemason not only admits but prides himself in the fact that modern
democracy and human progress owe so much to the heroism and idealism of
individual Freemasons. Unless he is a very naive person he will also
admit that the lodge is a place where congenial people meet to gather
that moral strength which they need to stand up for the ideals of
liberty and equality outside the lodge. At the same time, however, to
true Masons the lodge is hallowed ground, and inside its gates politics
and the other concerns of the market-place are taboo.
Some of the less critically-minded Masons like to trace the origins
of the Order back to ancient Egypt. But in its present form,
Freemasonry originated in England, probably in the Seventeentyh Century,
while the first Grand Lodge was founded in London in 1717 and the
regulations, by-laws and constitutions of Masonry were laid down in what
is known as Anderson's Constitutions in 1722-23. The spiritual elements
underlying these precepts were decidedly "advanced" for their time,
emphasizing as they did tolerance for other men's religions and the
brotherhood of all human beings.
The intellectual and spiritual foundations of modern democracy,
including the American Revolution and the American Constitution, are to
be found in large part in the teachings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and in
the ideas cemented into the great first Encyclopedia. And it is a fact
that most of the authors of that epoch-making Encyclopedia -- Diderot,
D'Alembert, Condorcet, the famous Swiss philosopher Helvetius, etc. --
were Freemasons. The envoy to France from the rebellious American
colonies, Benjamin Franklin, also was an ardent Freemason. So ere
George Washington, sixty among his generals, John Hancock and a great
many of his co-signers of the Declaration of Independence. Both
Washington and Franklin long held the post of Grand Master.
The most distinguished among the Masonic lodges of Paris in the
Eighteenth Century was the "Lodge of the Nine Sisters" -- that is, the
nine Muses -- and its membership included the intellectual cream of
France. When Voltaire paid a visit to Paris in the year of his death,
at the age of 79, he was initiated into Freemasonry in this lodge. The
climax of the ceremony came when Brother Benjamin Franklin of
Philadelphia handed to Voltaire the Masonic apron which the great
Helvetius had worn before him. Voltaire raised the apron to his aged
Six years before that memorable day, something even more memorable
happened in Boston. It has come down in history as the Boston Tea
Party. And it is no secret that the "Indians" who dumped the cargo on
December 16, 1773, had emerged from the building which housed the St.
Andrews Lodge, the leading Masonic body in Boston. Their job done, the
"Indians" were seen to troop back ti the lodge building -- and no
Indians ever again emerged from the lodge. Instead, a lot of prominent
Bostonians, known to be Masons, did emerge. And in the book which used
to contain the minutes of the lodge and which still exists, there is an
almost blank page where the minutes of that memorable Thursday should
be. Instead, the page bears but one letter -- a large T. Can it have
anything to do with Tea? It is perhaps the only instance in the History
of Freemasonry were a lodge, as a body, has taken an active part in
Practically everywhere, INDIVIDUAL Masons have thus been in the
forefront in movements of liberation. Goethe, who considered himself a
European more than a German and so often criticized his fellow-Germans,
was a fervent Freemason, as was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart's opera
"The Magic Flute" is full of allusions and symbolism relating to
Freemasonry. In fact, its theme is the search for truth and the victory
of tolerance over the fanaticism that springs from ignorance, a theme
which Mozart shared with his brother Masons. But few Masons today,
listening to the delightful tunes of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro",
realize that they are enjoying a "revolutionary" play, set to music by a
Mason who believed in the "revolutionary" principle of the equality of
all men. Beaumarchais' Figaro comedy was written and staged under Louis
XV of France as an attack against the prevalent feudal social system.
Mozart's choice of this play, at a time when the success of the yound
American democracy was firing the imagination of the world, was not
Hebert, Andre Chenier, Camille Desmoulins and many other "Girondins"
of the French Revolution were Freemasons. The Masonic ideal of freedom
was strong in the heart of a Frenchman who became a Mason while in the
youthful United States of America -- the Marquis de Lafayette. He
remained an enthusiastic Mason all his life, and was until his death in
1829 Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France.
And during the whole of the Nineteenth Century, to be a Freemason was
tantamount to being a champion of democracy. Many of the leaders in the
great year 1848, which saw so many uprising against feudal rule in
Europe, were members of the Order; among them was the great Hungarian
hero of democracy, Louis Kossuth, who found temporary refuge in America.
Like Kossuth, another celebrated champion of democracy, Guiseppe
Garibaldi, was a thirty-third degree Freemason and Grand Master of the
Italian Freemasons. Most leaders of the Young Turkish Committee, which
in 1908 forced Sultan Abdul Hamid "the Damned" to give his nation a
parliamentary form of government, and who deposed the "Red Sultan" in
the following year, were likewise Masons. In Latin America, too, the
process of liberation from the Spanish yoke was the work of Freemasons,
in large measure. Simon Bolivar was one of the most active of Masonry's
sons, and so were San martin, Mitre, Alvear, Sarmiento, Benito Juarez --
all hallowed names to Latin Americans.
Thus, while the Order as such kept out of politics, it attracted to
itself the most democratically minded, the champions of human decencies
-- and won for itself the undying hatred of those who feared progress.
Yet Masonry has never been a subversive movement. In countries where
democracy is a reality, even Royalty belongs to the Order. Both King
George VI and the Duke of Kent are Freemasons; so is the Duke of
Windsor. His grandfather, Edward VII, was the chief of British Masonry,
and he was succeeded in the post by the aged Duke of Connaught. King
Gustav V heads the Freemasons of Sweden.
It is clear, consequently, why the Nazis and Fascist and Bolsheviks
must hate an organization so steeped in humanitarian traditions. They
know that Maosns, as individuals, have founded a great number of modern
democratic states, have drafted the Declaration of Independence and
created liberal Constitutions the world over. But the totalitarian
hatred for the Order is not merely emotional. It is clearly defined in
the fundamental divergence between their creed and the Masonic ideal.
In his book to which we have already referred, the Nazi Dr. Rosenberg
"Without doubt the Masonic dogma of Humanity is a relapse into worlds of
the most primitive conceptions; everywhere where it is put into practice
it is accompanied by decadence, because it conflicts with the
aristocratic laws of Nature".
Thus in his own dogmatic terms he indicts Freemasonry for what is its
greatest pride, its ideal of equality.
In 1938 Hitler's own publishing house, which puts out both "Main
Kampf" and the official "Volkischer Beobachter", issed a volume on
"Freemasonry, Its World View (Weltanschauung), Organization and
Policies". The preface is written by Herr Heydrich, second in command
of the Gestapo, and hence an expert on oppression and violence, and
hints openly at the seizure of libraries and property of German
Freemasonry. The book itself, by one Dieter Schwarz, discloses that
every new Nazi member must "confirm by his word of honor that he does
not belong to a Masonic lodge." In outlining the official Nazi on the
subject, it says in part:
"Nordic is the Nazi conception of the world, Jewish-Oriental that of
the Freemasons; incontrast to the anti-racial attitude of the lodges,
the Nazi attitude is race conscious...."
"Masonic lodges are... associations of men who, closely bound
together in a union employing symbolical usages, represent a
supra-national spiritual movement, the idea of Humanity... a general
association of mankind, without distinction of races, peoples,
religions, social and political convictions."
I have read several hundred books about Freemasonry and scores of
original Masonic documents. But never have I seen masonry's basic
ideals expressed more clearly than by its mortal enemies in the passage
above. Herr Heydrich and Herr Schwarz are right -- the gulf between
their "Weltanschauung" and the Masonic Ideals can never be bridged.