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Editor in chief of the freemasonic
The Supreme Council 33° Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of Germany, Stuttgart.
In Germany freemasons exist since the 30's of the 18th century. During the first decade after the foundation of the first masonic lodge in Hamburg the aristocracy as well as the intellectual and military elite formed the German masonry. This was due to the fact that Friederich II., later King of Prussia, joined the masonic alliance as early as 1738. Influential people in society very quickly found their way into one of the lodges emerging all over the country. Quite soon a specific masonic culture developed which found expression in a number of manuscripts, hand-written rituals, documents, periodicals and books. Also masonic objects such as watches, tobacco tins, porcelain figures, valuable drinking glasses, silver candelabra, tapestries, aprons, jewellery became an integral part of the life of the lodges. During the 19th century the bourgeoisie also joined the lodges and increasingly influenced their cultural tradition. The members had the means necessary to establish their own culture and to build lodges where everything was kept that had been collected over the years.
By the early 30's of this century there existed 10 grand lodges consisting of 690 lodges and about 70,000 masons. The National Socialists first banned political parties and unions as well as a number of other institutions, and, in 1935, they also banned the masonry. The lodge buildings were expropriated and used for different purposes. The lodge archives were confiscated, the libraries were taken to Berlin where they were kept in the "Reichssicherheitshauptamt" (Main Security Office of the Reich) and used for various purposes.
Due to increasing bombardments, a great part of the lodge archives and libraries were evacuated to Silesia and stored in various castles. Among others, a large part of the papers used by the "Reichssicherheitshauptamt" for the investigation of the freemasons remained in Berlin. Evacuated objects as well as part of the stock taken by the Gestapo and stored in the basements of the former lodges at Emserstraß were confiscated by the Soviet troops and taken to Moscow.
In the article The Cellars of the Gestapo Building Berlin Emserstraße a NKWD-report is mentioned which must have been written by officers of the Soviet Secret Service some time after the war. There it says: In the cellars of the destroyed Gestapo building, Berlin, books, periodicals and newspapers have been discovered which had been confiscated by the Gestapo. Most books carried stamps of different masonic lodges of Germany, whose activities were forbidden by the fascists
Before the war, the freemasons in Germany were, in number of lodges and members, the second most important in the world. Many persons of the public were members of the German masonic lodges, and today some of the oldest freemason lodges in the former zone of the Allies are taking up their activities. This leads to the conclusion that the freemason literature discovered, including books from the 18th century until the 30's of this century, is a valuable source for special studies. Besides the freemason literature other material was kept in the cellars mentioned. After listing five positions of non-freemasonic stock, the report quoted closes with the note that 47 boxes were taken from here
The archival material was collected, and later inspected and put in order at the Central State Archive (Special Archive) in Moscow, while the library and museum objects were distributed to different institutions. In the 50's a great number of looted cultural properties were restituted to the former GDR. Among this restituted material also was a large part of the freemason material which had been transported to Moscow. All in all about 1,400 meters of files were returned.
Around 1975 the inspection of the completely disordered freemason stock, composed of thousands of documents, files, protocols, rituals, membership lists and other materials began. The result of this work, from 1975 until 1993, is - inter alia - an index which allows systematic access to the material. Also an inventory list of all those freemasonic objects integrated into the Secret State Archive, Prussian Cultural Property. We owe this extensive work to the scientific archivists Renate Endler and Elisabeth Schwarze-Neuß and to the general archivist Bettina Ehrentraut, who were in charge of the freemasonic material at the Prussian State Archives Merseburg. This is the first self-contained central archive in the 250 years of history of German freemasons which is now kept in Berlin-Dahlem and, as it is, shall remain there for the future.
Since 1989 it is possible to search for and look at freemason documents in the Special Archive in Moscow. Different publications with extraordinarily detailed lists give proof of the existence of freemason documents in Moscow. The article by von Jena and Lenz state that 14,550 index units of freemason files and single documents are still situated in Moscow. Also among those is volume X of the so-called Swedish Box, which played an important role in the history of the freemasons. This is mainly a collection of files, letters and documents of the Order of the Illuminati, founded by Adam Weishaupt during the second half of the 18th century, which systematically infiltrated the lodges of those days. For this reason and because quite a number of distinguished freemasons were - at least for some time - members of this order, the Illuminati have become an essential part of the history of the freemasons.
The history of the 'Schwedenkiste' is quite an adventurous one for archival material. The leading Illuminate Bode of Weimar died in December 1793. His estate included the most important part of the correspondence of the Order of the Illuminati of Gotha and Weimar. These papers became the property of the other leading Illuminate Herzog Ernst v. Gotha, where they were kept safely. After his death in 1804 his own estate together with Bode's documents was handed over to the archive of the Grand National Lodge of Sweden, because Herzog Ernst was convinced that his heritage was not safe from publication in any of the German lodges. Under the supervision of the Swedish king Karl XIII. though, it was guaranteed that no information would ever reach the public. Some years later, in 1880, Herzog Ernst II. of Saxony Coburg Gotha (great-grandchild of the Illuminate Herzog of Saxony Coburg Gotha and Altenburg) asked for the documents to be returned, and three years later, in 1883, the stock became property of the lodge "Ernst zum Kompaß" in Gotha. Following the order of the Herzog, the material was put in order in 20 volumes. Later, in 1909, Reverend Carl Lepp added quite useful registers and lists of documents; the material was then named Schwedenkiste. Also in the freemason archive in Gotha the files were strictly kept under lock and key since the Herzog ordered the lodge not to allow any publication whatsoever. This obligation was solely taken seriously in the 1920's and 1930's, the time of the idea of total conspiracy. Until before World War I, a number of researchers, mainly freemasons, were allowed to work with the content of the Schwedenkiste. Among them were the restorer of the Order of the Illuminati, Leopold Engel, and the French author of the early, exhaustive work on the Illuminati, Rene Le Forrestier (who was not a freemason). (..) On March 20th, 1936, the documents were confiscated within the framework of the national socialist persecution of the freemasons. (...) In 1945 they were then transported to the Soviet Union.
We have to assume that in the years 1934/35 all the possessions of the freemasons were confiscated by the National Socialists. Everything, packed in boxes ended up in cellars, air-raid shelters and other store-rooms. A few items though were hidden by freemasons hoping for better times to come. Some single objects do appear here and there in antiquarian book shops and in the antique trade. Nearly all books have been found by now. Most of the still missing documents and other material are kept in Moscow, and today there is no justifiable reason to hold them back any longer.
It is difficult to investigate if at all and to which extent further possessions of the German freemasons do exist in other countries. In Poland freemason objects from Pomerania, Silesia, Brandenburg, West and East Prussia were brought together to a library near Poznan with about 80,000 German freemason books. This library exists since 1984 and keeps close contact with the Freemason Museum in Bayreuth. The keeping of these books in Poland is not considered a loss, since these editions also do exist in German freemason libraries.
A great part was destroyed during the war, and another untraceable part has fallen into private hands not only in Germany but also in other countries. Since none of the freemasons who lived during the early 30's is still alive, it is practically impossible to investigate which objects are lost or missing. The author does not rule out that sooner or later further losses will be found or that somewhere in Germany or abroad more freemason assets presumably missing will be discovered.
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