During the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s, Germany was an oppressed state. People lived in fear of their lives, and personal freedoms, creative expression, and community groups and organizations were all but banned by Adolf Hitler and his cronies.
There are records that show that Freemasonry continued underground during the Nazi regime, but like all other community groups, it was unfavoured by the Nazis and brutally repressed. The Nazis were notorious thieves, stealing priceless artifacts and literature from anyone they deemed to be a threat.
Practicing Freemasons were sent to concentration camps, as the Nazis tried to eradicate any evidence of Masonic tradition from memory. This was a signature move of the Nazis, as they hated anything unique or creative that threatened the status quo.
In the 1930s, the Nazis stole hundreds of books from Masonic lodges, that many people had written off as lost or destroyed while the Nazis remained in power. However, in 2019, the Bavarian State Library returned 203 books to the German Freemason Museum, after the library was prepared to acknowledge that the collection had been pilfered from Masonic lodges before the Second World War.
The books are mainly concerned with Masonic rituals and history, and will now be dutifully preserved in the Masonic library for the reference of future generations. While it’s unclear where most of the books originated, two were known to have been taken by Nazis from a Masonic lodge in Bayreuth – which is why the Bavarian State Library decided to return all of the books to that location.
Such an act is testament to the recovery of the German state from the brutal Nazi rule that destroyed the fabric of their society throughout the middle of the twentieth century. Modern German leaders have been concerted in their efforts to try and right the many wrongs of the Nazis, and have focused rebuilding Germany based upon values of peace and reconciliation.
While in the grand scheme of things returning Masonic books seems to be a rather innocuous event, it’s actually vital to the preservation of Freemasonry in Germany and throughout Europe. The reference books harbor much important and instructional information regarding the structure and rituals of Freemasonry, and as such it’s excellent to know they have been returned to their rightful home.
We can be grateful that Masons actively participated in resistance to the Nazi party, and the fact that our fraternity survived the brutal repression of the regime is thanks to the values of the brothers that preserved the sanctity of the Craft throughout this difficult period of history.