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Masonic Encyclopedia

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War Ii, World, and Freemasonry in Europe

After he declared a world-wide war on Freemasonry Pope Leo XIII set up the headquarters of his international anti-Masonic bureaus in France, in 1896, as described on another page of this Supplement in an article on Leo Taxil, and utilized for the purpose the machinery of persecution and accusation which already had long been in operation against the Jews: Masons were accused of being devil-worshiper, atheists, enemies of the family, humanitarians, democrats, Protestants, etc. This anti-Masonry was consolidated with the Church's attack on the Republic of France, which it had carried on since the Franco-Prussian war in an attempt to restore the monarchy to the country. French Masonry never was large, having from 300 to 400 Lodges, and from 30,000 to 40,000 members under a Grand Lodge and a Grand Orient, but it more than made up in influence and prestige what it lacked in numbers. As against Roman Catholicism it continued a more-or-less passive resistance, but as against the schemes to destroy the French Republic it worked in the open, not as a member or champion of any one of the numerous political parties, but on the ground that freedom in state, society, and religion and the maintenance of a public school system are right and just.

The paramount social purpose of French Masonry mas to help establish a permanent peace in Europe. Long before Woodrow Wilson's presidency it held conferences for discussing a League of Nations. Early in 1914, the first year of World War I, it sponsored a conference of German and French parliamentarians at Berne, Switzerland. Between the two Wars it worked continuously to establish a friendlier feeling between French and German peoples. It became identified in the public mind with liberty, education, and peace, and so much so that when on December 28, 1935, a clique of Roman Catholic members of the House of Deputies introduced an amendment to abolish Freemasonry they were defeated by a vote of 370 to 91, which in the tangle of the many political parties was tantamount to a unanimous defeat.

When the Nazis set up their Fifth Column in France under Otto Abetz at about that time, they provided for a special division to plan means to undermine and destroy the Fraternity, that work being placed under the direction of Bernard Fa. This brought the Roman Catholics, royalists, and Nazis (or Fascists) into a single front against a Fraternity which had no army, possessed no governmental offices or powers, had no newspapers, no gendarmerie, and no hundreds of millions of francs,--a tribute to the power and vitality of the Masonic ideal! This combined anti-Masonic bloc also was used as under-cover machinery for attacking the United States and explains why upon the fall of France, Americans there were shocked to discover so much hatred of themselves; and why in his last radio address to the nation before he fled from Paris, Premier Renaud laid the blame for "France's defeat" on President Roosevelt!

Upon their entrance into Paris the Germans confiscated Masonic property, looted Lodge funds, burned Masonic buildings, carried the great Masonic Library off to Berlin, opened up a derisive "Masonic exposition" (which fell flat, and was a pitiable spectacle in which grown men who had graduated from the German universities acted and tallied like morons), shot some hundreds of Masons, imprisoned thousands of others, and sent other thousands to labor camps in the Reich. Almost as soon as he took control of Unoccupied France at Vichy, Ptain announced over the radio in one of his mumbled speeches that no Masonic dignitary (from a Worshipful Master up) could hold office or retain army commissions.

He removed some forty or more generals for having been Masons, and took the Legion of Honor away from many other Masons prominent in the army and in public life, among the latter being Pierre Comert, Alexis Leger, and Col. Charles Felix Pijeard, and denounced a number of members of the House of Deputies. He ordered Masonic property to be auctioned. Freemasonry was introduced into Italy about 1733, began to work under the best of auspices, and was led by men most eminent in the nation.

After the Popes began their crusade against it with the Bull by Clement XII in 1738, it had an honorable though checkered career, and in the Regiment numbered such Masons in its membership as Cavour, Mazzini, and Garibaldi, the last named a Grand Master. But Freemasonry was disturbed by the rise of the Carbonari with its endless branches and off- shoots, and often found itself compromised in the public eye by political secret societies falsely calling themselves Masonic. In self-defense some Lodges engaged in political work, thereby cutting themselves off from English-speaking Freemasonry; others refused to. The confusion became more confounded after World War I, and it was only when Torrigiani gained leadership, aided by the moral support of the Grand Lodge of New York (interested because of its own large Italian membership), that the Italian Craft began to regularize itself and to weed out false and clandestine bodies.

A short time before the so-called March on Rome (it had the King's knowledge and consent; Mussolini traveled in a Pullman sleeper) the Grand Fascist Council on February 13, 1923, resolved, among other things, that since "Freemasons pursue a program and employ methods contrary to those which inspire the whole activity of Fascism, the Council calls upon those Fascists who are Freemasons to choose between membership of the National Fascist Party and Freemasonry." Only a few days before, the Grand Orient, with Grand Master Torrigiani presiding, had proclaimed "that Freemasonry can never become a political party, and that, in the interests of national thought, it must be above all parties." Among the Masonic leaders who chose Freemasonry as against Fascism was General Luigi Capello. Among those who deserted Masonry were Rossi, Balbo, and Acerbo.

Late in 1923 young Fascist toughs began to burn, loot, and destroy Lodge rooms and their furniture-- even in Milan. On January 10, 1925, the Parliament outlawed the Fraternity. In a debate on the Bill, Mussolini thundered: "The Bill will demonstrate that Freemasonry is out of date and no longer has the right to exist in the present century." For the sake of national peace Torrigiani declared the cessation of Masonic activity in Italy.

Then, about Nov. 5, 1926, the great bombshell exploded ! on a trumped-up charge manufactured out of the whole cloth, General Capello was arrested and accused of conspiring to assassinate Mussolini. This charge against a national hero who had given fifty years of his life to the Italian army covered the whole nation with gloom, because everybody knew he was innocent and his "trial" therefore showed the people by what means the Fascists would rule. He was brought to "trial" in the Spring of 1927, and sentenced to an imprisonment of thirty years, the first six to be in solitary confinement. Almost immediately secret police arrested Grand Master Torrigiani, "tried" him in secret court, and banished him to starve to death on one of the Lipari islands, to be followed later by some hundreds of other Masons. Torrigiani first went blind, or nearly 80, and then dsessene attempt after another was made from New York City to send food and medicines to those men on the little rock islands in the Mediterranean, but without much success. How many died from hunger and exposure may never be known. By the time Mussolini opened World War II with the rape of Abyssinia, Italian Freemasonry had become completely obliterated--for the time being.

General Ludendorff and his wife began the Nazi crusade against the Fraternity in Germany immediately after the end of World War I, and in the beginning tool; over enbloc the technique of anti-Masonry which had been used in France, which was character assassination coupled with a device for transferring to Masons the century-old Roman Catholic hatred of the Jews. (Ludendorff was a Nazi before Hitler was, and marched in the punch at hiunich )

In Mein Kamp Hitler wrote that the pacification of men and nations, that is, their civilization, which would destroy Germany's "Germanness," had been "introduced into the circles of the so-called 'intelligentsia' by Freemasonry," and from them "is transmitted to the great masses but above all to the bourgeoisie, by the activity of the great press, which today is always Jewish." (Hitler was startlingly ignorant, one of the most ignorant of a line of despots which always has hated "intellectuality"--and with good reason; he borrowed "bourgeoisie" at second hand from Karl Marx and often used it, but never understood its meaning.) Dr. Alfred Rosenberg, the "philosopher" of the Nazi Party (not a German, but a Balt, and psychopathic throughout his life), wrote at greater length in his Masonic Work Polmes, and with equal ignorance, even to the extent, and in defiance of his own claim to great learning, of accepting and promulgating the fable of the Protocol of the Elders of Zion.

In 1933, and in almost one of his first utterances as Prime Minister of Prussia, Hermann Goering declared that "in National Socialist Germany there is no place for Freemasonry." In 1927 Joseph Goebbels set up an "exposition" in Berlin to display regalia, furniture, books, etc., taken from Masonic Lodge rooms. At the outbreak of the war in 1939 there were (or had been) about 700 Lodges in Germany, with some 100,000 members. (In a Brown Shirt Berlin street parade so an eye-witness reported in a letter to the writer--Masons were hauled through the streets in a cage like animals.) How many Masons were mobbed, beaten to death, murdered, executed, or sent to concentration camps in Germany may never be know.

In Spain the sufferings of Masons were more terrible than in any other country. What was called Fascism in Italy, Naziism in Germany, Vichyism in France, was called The Falange, or Falangism, there. It was headed by the hierarchy of the Roman Church, the landlords, the higher officers in the army, by royalists, by local representatives of international finance, and was armed, accounted, and financed by Italy and Germany. Under Falangist rule membership in a Lodge automatically called for imprisonment for ten years, later changed to twelve years. In one town during the Franco Rebellion 80 men were garroted on six scaffolds for being Masons; in another 50 were made to dig a trench and then were shot and buried in it.

Savages from Morocco were turned loose on Masons' families; thousands of Masons were hanged shot, stabbed, burned, beaten to death for no other crime than Masonry; not in a Nazi crematory in Poland was there such an amount of savagery, bloodlust, brutality, murder, and unbelievable cruelty. (See an eye-witness account in Pierre van Paasen's The Days of our Years.) Prior to the Franco Rebellion Spain had two Grand Lodged some 175 Lodges, and a membership of about 10,000.

Freemasonry in Austria had a very old and proud history but by 1938, the year of the annexation of Austria it was reduced to one Grand Lodge, some 20 Lodgers and 1500 members. Hitler immediately abolished it and sent some 9000 of the Masons to the concentration camp at Dachau, or had them shot.

Belgium had one Grand Lodge, 24 Lodges, and 4000 members, but possessed an influence out of proportion to its size. Immediately the Germans entered Belgium in April, 1940, the Lodges were closed, their properties were confiscated, and their members, most of them, were imprisoned.

Before 1938 Czechoslovakia had two Grand Lodges, 60 Lodges, and 2600 members-- Masaryk and Benes both were Masons. Hitler closed the Lodges, confiscated the property, imprisoned Masons, and shot many leaders.

Greece had before the War one Grand Lodge, 70 Lodges, 6000 members. King George was a Past Masters The Germans obliterated the Fraternity-- perhaps the Greeks suffered more frightfully than any other Masons except in Spain.

Freemasonry was strong in Holland before the War with one Grand Lodge, 151 Lodges, and 10,000 members. In April, 1940, the Germans closed the Lodges, confiscated real estate, used jewels and leather aprons for making military goods, and arrested hundreds of Masons, among whom a number of Grand Officers committed suicide under torture.

Norway had one Grand Lodge, 30 Lodges, 11,500 members; Quisling and the Germans obliterated the Craft, following the usual program. Poland had one Grand Lodge, 12 Lodges, and 1,000 members. Roumania had two Grand Lodges, 40 Lodges, 1700 members. Yugoslavia had one Grand Lodges, 20 Lodges, 800 members. Denmark had one Grand Lodge (the King is Grand Master), 30 Lodges, 8,000 members. In each of these countries the Germans carried out the same program of suppression, confiscation, imprisonment, torture, execution, and the terrorism often was extended to Masons' families. As with the Germans so with the Japanese: in Japan, China, Philippine Islands, Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Thailand, and Indo China they destroyed Masons and Masonic buildings with the same ferocity as their Teutonic allies.

Within a space of less than five years more than 200,000 men overt martyred for being Masons, their properties confiscated, their families broken, themselves tortured, imprisoned, or shot. The Masonic Fraternity has a long memory, as long a memory as has the Roman Church; but it has nowhere in its memory any martyrdom such as that of those years; and it is hoped it never will have again; but it will carry a long memory into the future also, and a thousand years from now it will not have forgotten Spain, and Greece, and Holland, and France, and Italy of 1940 A.D.

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