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A Dissertation



Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of
Texas A&M University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of


August 2011



Compass, Square and Swastika: Freemasonry in the Third Reich. (August 2011)

Christopher Campbell Thomas, B.A., Arizona State University; M.A., Texas A&M University

Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. Arnold Krammer

Nazi persecution was not uniform and could be negotiated by the groups being targeted based on a number of factors including the racial status of the group being persecuted, the willingness of the group members to cooperate with the regime, the services and skills the group had to offer and the willingness of the regime to allow cooperation.

The experience of Freemasons under the Third Reich provides an example of the ability of targeted groups to negotiate Nazi persecution based on these factors.

As members of the educated and professional class, Freemasons belonged to the demographic that most strongly supported Hitler from the late 1920s until war’s outbreak in 1939.

For Hitler, the skills these men possessed as doctors, lawyers, businessmen and bankers were essential to the success of the regime. So what would have otherwise been a mutually beneficial relationship eagerly sought after by both parties was prevented by the fact that the men were Freemasons and thus had ties to an organization whose ideology stood in complete contrast to that of National Socialism.

However, because the identifier “Freemason” was not one based on biology or race, Freemasons had the ability to shed their identity as Freemasons by leaving the regime, an ability that they willingly and eagerly exercised. In return, the Nazi Party had to decide to what extent former Freemasons, whose professional skills and talent were so essential, could be allowed to work with the regime.

Thus began the complex dance of compromise as each side tested the limits of what it could and couldn’t do in order to cooperate with the other. For former Freemasons, the goal was trying to prove loyalty to the regime in the face of their previous lodge membership. For the regime the goal was finding a balance between ideological purity and practical necessity. Though the Nazis destroyed Freemasonry as an institution, the success of former Freemasons in aligning with the party as individuals shows the ability of Germans, even those in targeted groups, to escape persecution and even benefit from the regime that had previously targeted them.


AMI L’association Maconnique Internationale
BArch Bundesarchiv
ERR Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg
GStA PK Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preussicher Kulturbesitz
DAF Deutsche Arbeitsfront
DDP Deutsche Demokratische Partei
DVP Deutsche Volkspartei
KSCV Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband
NARA National Archives and Records Administration
NSDAP Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
NSDStB Nationalsozialistische Deutscher Studentenbund
NSV Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt
OKH Oberkommando des Heeres
OKW Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
RFSS Reichsführer-SS
RM Reichsmark
RMdI Reichsministerium des Innern
RSHA Reichsicherheitshauptamt
RuPrMdI Reich und Preussicher Ministerium des Innern
RUSchlA/USCHLA Reich Untersuchung und Schlichtungs-Ausschuss
SA Sturmabteilung
SD Sicherheitsdienst
SGvD Symbolische Großloge von Deutschland
SPD Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
SS Schutzstaffeln
IOBB Independent Order of B’nai B’rith
USHMM United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
VB Völkischer Beobachter

Chapter I


Hitler based his hatred of Freemasonry on the belief that through it, Jews side - stepped the racial and legal barriers that marginalized them in European society. 1 Consequently, one of Hitler’s first acts after seizing power was to shut the lodges down; a task that was completed in just two years. When war broke out four years later, Hitler’s anti - Masonic attitude spread along with his invading armies, prompting Sven Lunden, a correspondent with the American Mercury, to proclaim that “there is only one group of men whom the Nazis and the Fascists hate more than the Jews. They are the Freemasons.”2 Though a n intriguing declaration, to be sure, Lunden was wrong; the Nazis did not hate Freemasons more than Jews. In fact, Nazis didn’t hate Freemasons at all; the Nazis hated “Freemasonry,” but not necessarily “Freemasons.”

The ideology was what the Nazis hated, not the men. On the contrary, the men who made up the bulk of the German Masonic lodges were very people that had increasingly gravitated toward the re gime during the Weimar Republic and supporte d it after the seizure of power. They were established, educated, middle - class and professional men of good German - stock. The only thing keeping the Nazis from welcoming these men was their membership, either p ast or present, with a fraternity that, in the words of Alfred Rosenberg, “work[ed] for the loosening of state, national and social bonds.” 3 I first stumbled across the idea of studying Freemasonry in the Third Reich while writing my masters thesis. I was reading Robert Herzstein’s The War that Hitler Won and came across the cartoon in Figure A1.

Note that in the caption, Herzstein identified the symbol above Stresemann’s head as the Star of David; however, closer inspection revealed that the symbol wasn’t the Star of David, but the compass and the square; symbol of the Freemasons (to which Stresemann belonged). Now, separately, the subjects of Nazi Germany and Freemasonry occupy entire bookshelves of printed material and thousands of ho urs of movies and documentaries, but surprisingly there is practically nothing that examines the two together. Survey texts on the Third Reich and the Holocaust mention Freemasonry, but only in passing. 4 Often the most information that can be found in secondary literature comes from books about the Christian churches under Hitler, 5 which is both misleading and unfair. Though requiring its members to believe in God, Freemasonry is not, nor has it ever claimed to be, a religion. General histories of Freemasonry likewise suffer from the same dearth . 6 Of all the available literature on the Freemasons in Nazi Germany, what is scholarly isn’t in English and what is in English isn’t scholarly.

Additionally, with the exception of Ralf Melzer’s Konflikt und Anpassung , everythi ng had been published by a Masonic publisher. 7 Next to Melzer, only Helmut Neuberger’s Freimaurerei und Nationalsozialismus was written by an author who was not also a Freemason, though Neuberger’s work was published by a Masonic press. 8 Their two contri butions represent the scholarly literature available, and both are only available in German. In English, there are a about a dozen or so short articles published since the end of the war, all written by Freemasons and published in Masonic journals. The e arliest was a report from the Masonic Service Association’s Committee on European Freemasonry on its six - week fact - finding mission in 1945. 9 In 1959, Irvine Wiest presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Society of Blue Friars writing a history of F reemasonry under the Nazis based exclusively on the documents of the Nuremberg Trials. 10

Following publication of Neuberger’s dissertation in 1980, Ars Quator Coronatorum, the journal of the most exclusive Masonic research lodge in the world, published two articles on Freemasonry in the Third Reich, one simply repeated what had already been published, the other was more devoted to a ritual history and said little about the Nazis at all. 11 It wasn’t until Alain Bernheim published “German Freemasonry and its Attitude Toward the Nazi Regime” and “Blue Forget-Me-Not: Another Side of the Story” that there was something in English that used primary sources and didn’t simply repeat what previous authors had already stated. 12 Bernheim later published “Tarnung und Gewalt: Karl Höde, die Freimaurer und die Nazis” further supporting the arguments he made in his previous article, but unfortunately not available in English. 13

In 2002, an edited volume on European and American Freemasonry included a chapter on the persecut ion of Freemasonry, although the article on Freemasonry and Nazism examines the response of American Freemasons to Nazi persecution of German Freemasonry, rather than a study of the persecution itself. 14 Minimizing the already scant amount of available mat erial is the unfortunate fact that nearly all these authors are mired in debate over whether Freemasons ought to be classified as victims or collaborators.

While all authors acknowledge the persecution of German Freemasons, only Bernheim and Melzer point out that the majority of Freemasons, both as institutions and individuals, actually tried to align with the regime, failing at the institutional level but succeeding remarkably as individuals. Bernheim tempers his argument with the statement: “This paper is not, in any way, written against Germany or German Freemasonry. On the contrary, it is meant as an expression of gratitude toward a handful of German brethren who, in my eyes, saved the honor of German Freemasonry during the most difficult period of its history, and as a contribution to a better understanding between Masons.” 15 The debate carries on because, to a degree, both sides are right. The Nazis relentlessly attacked Freemasonry as an institution both before the seizure of power and continuing unt il the last lodge shut down in 1935. Some lodge brothers lost their jobs, others lost money and possessions that they had invested in the lodges, and some even spent time in a concentration camp.

At the same time, cries of collaboration are equally valid. Many Freemasons willingly joined the Nazi party and its affiliates. One lodge brother joined the Schutzstaffeln ( SS ) and then helped it shut down his former lodge; others served as informers for the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst (SD – Security Service). Many lodges officially barred Jews , adopted “Aryan clauses,” and openly sought “coordination” with the regime. Hitler even appointed a Freemason, Hjalmar Schacht, first as president of the Reichsbank and then as Minister of Economics. As for the Symboliches Großloge von Deutschland (SGvD - Symbolic Grand Lodge of Germany), the lodge that had been praised in many of these short articles for openly criticizing Hitler, it was deemed “irregular” (not officially recognized) and looked down upon by mainstream German Freemasonry at the time. Even Freemasons outside of German disputed the legitimacy of the SGvD. 16

Rather than grab one end or the other in this victim - collaborator tug of war, I hope to make a new departure by exploring why Fr eemasons acted the way they did and trying to ascertain what motivated tens of thousands of men to abandon the lodges and seek to align with the very regime that was out to get them? Or, for the few who didn’t, why did they risk continued persecution inst ead of simply denouncing the lodges and moving on? The answer, I argue, is that the men in the lodges who sought to align with the regime were cut from virtually the same cloth as the men outside the lodges who sought to align. They came from the demogra phics that increasingly supported the Nazis throughout Weimar and into the 1930s, 17 as well as serving in those professions that will ingly “worked toward the Führer.” Or, as Peter Fritsch e more bluntly put it, “Germans became Nazis because they wanted to b ecome Nazis and because the Nazis spoke so well to their interests and inclinations.” 18 The one obstacle to an otherwise perfect match between former lodge members and the Nazi Party was the fact that these men had belonged, or continued to belong to the lodges. Freemasons were thus unique among the “victims” of National Socialism.

The Nazis targeted dozens of groups, but one cannot lump all these groups into one, label it “victims” and move on. Every group shared the forms of persecution (theft, slande r, imprisonment, murder) with at least one other group, so separating victims by what they suffered is insufficient as well as insulting. Instead, motive and endgame are a better way to separate one victim group from another. Holocaust scholar, Yehuda Ba uer, for example, distinguished between victims of persecution, victims of genocide and victims of holocaust by focusing on the purpose or intended outcome of persecution. 19

Victims of persecution were pursued until the members of that group severed ties with the group and its ideology, choosing instead to conform to the Nazi standard. Bauer puts political and religious groups (communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Freemasons) into that group. The most important difference between victims of persecution an d victims of genocide or holocaust was that their status as a target was not dependant on race, biology or “blood.” For communists the problem was political, for Jehovah’s Witnesses it was religious and for Freemasons it was ideological; all three of whic h are voluntary and controllable by the victim. Victims of genocide and holocaust included Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and the mentally disabled: groups whose “threat” lay in their blood and could therefore “taint” the blood of good, Aryan Germans through marriage and children. Classification lay with the persecutor. What separated genocide from holocaust, according to Bauer, is that victims of genocide were pursued until their racial/ethnic community was destroyed, which, though necessitating mass murder, did not necessitate the murder of all members. 20 That fate is what remained solely for the Jews; complete, total and utter extinction, not only in Germany, but worldwide. 21

Freemasons are thus unique in that they were among the Nazis’ ideological enemy, but what set Freemasons apart from other non - racial groups? Like Freemasons, communists could, and did, leave the Communist Party to avoid persecution; some even joined the Nazi Party. 22 In fact, when former Freemasons were denied membership in the party they pointed out that former communists were being allowed to join, so why not them? 23 What separated Freemasons from communists was education and class. Communism appeals primarily to uneducated workingman, whereas Freemasonry appealed to the educ ated social elite. Former Freemasons thus had skills to offer, not just party dues. As doctors, lawyers and professors, Freemasons could serve as legitimizers and perpetuators of Nazi ideology. Furthermore, as bourgeoisie, former Freemasons shared the Nazis’ detest of communism.

Freemasons differed from Witnesses in several ways; first, religious affiliation, and the changing thereof, had to be registered with the government. Freemasonry was a social organization and thus not a part of ones official identity. Freemasons could join ...


This dissertation follows the style of American Historical Review.

1 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939), 433.

2 Sven G. Lunden, “Annihilation of Freemasonry,” American Mercury, February, 1941, 184-190.

3 By “social” he means “racial.” Alfred Rosenberg, Myth of the Twentieth Century: An Evaluation of the Spiritual - Intellectual Confrontations of Our Age (Torrence, CA: Noontide Press, 1982), 47.

4 Michael Burleigh’s recently published The Third Reich: A New History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001), for example, devotes only two paragraphs (one for German Free masonry and one for Freemasonry in France) of its near 1000 pages to the topic. Ian Kershaw’s two - volume study of Hitler has a half - dozen references to Freemasons throughout its almost 2000 pages, most of which are only cursory. Richard Evans three volum e study of Nazi Germany devotes less than a paragraph to Freemasonry, again only mentioned in passing.

5 Ernst Christian Helmreich, German Churches Under Hitler (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979), Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germa ny (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964) and John Conway, Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933 - 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1968) offer the most information. Christine Elizabeth King occasionally mentions connections between the Freemasons and non - mainstream chu rches in The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non - Conformity (New York: E. Mellon Press, 1982).

6 In 1962, Friedrich John Böttner, a Mason, published Zersplitterung und Einigung: 225 Jahre Geschichte der deutschen Freimaurer , (Hamburg : “Absalom zu den drei Nesseln” lodge press, 1962), which gave a history of Freemasonry in Germany from its f ounding until 1958, but devoted just a single page of its 300 pages to the Third Reich. Two years later, Manfred Steffens, also a Mason, published Freimaurer in Deutschland; Bilanz eines Vierteljahrtausends (Flensberg: C. Wolff, 1964), which again devoted very little of its considerable length to the Third Reich. Robert Freke Gould, in his multivolume history of Freemasonry, devotes almost a hundre d pages to the history of Freemasonry in Germany, and then ends it with a single sentence stating that in 1932 [sic] Hitler suppressed the lodges and ended Masonic activity in Germany.

7 Ralf Melzer, Konflikt und Anpassung: Freimaurerei in der Weimarer Re publik und im “Dritten Reich ” (Vienna: Braumüller, 1999). An article - length summary of Melzer’s work was published in 2004 in Art DeHoyos and S. Brent Morris, eds., Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual and Controversy (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004 ).

8 Helmut Neuberger, Freimaurerei und Nationalsozialismus: die Verfolgung der deutschen Freimaurerei durch völkische Bewegung und Nationalsozialismus 1918 - 1945 (Hamburg: Bauhütten, 1980). In 2001, Neuberger published an updated and condensed version of his book, Winkelmass und Hakenkreuz: Die Freimaurer und das Dritte Reich (Munich: Herbig, 2001).

9 “Freemasonry in Europe: Report of the Committee sent abroad in August, 1945, by the Masonic Service Association to ascertain the conditions and needs of the Grand Lodges and Brethren in the Occupied Countries” (Washington: Masonic Service Association, 1945). The excursion began on August 12, 1945 and ended on September 28. It must have been a whirlwind of a tour because in that time the participants visited Sweden, Finland, France, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Austria (essentially everywhere that wasn’t under Soviet occupation). The Masonic Service Association undertook the mission to ascertain how the US lodge s could best help the lodges of war - torn Europe, but concluded the best course of action was for the lodges to support government aid agencies and programs already in place in order to avoid resentment that would surely arise if the association only helpe d other Masons.

10 Irvine Wiest, “Freemasonry and the Nuremberg Trials” ( paper read at the Fifteenth Annual Consistory of the Society of Blue Friars , Washington, D.C., February 22, 1959), available online from website of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, accessed January 3, 2011,

11 Eric Howe’s “The Collapse of Freemasonry in Nazi Germany, 1933 - 1935” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum vol. 95 (1982), is a reader’s digest versi on of Neuberger, though Neuberger is not listed among the four footnotes included in the paper ; in “The Masonic Union of the Rising Sun” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum vol. 97 (1984) J. A. Jowett gives the history of this short - lived lodge including its forced cl osure, but devotes half of the six - page article to ritual comparison between the Rising Sun and other regular lodges. By admission of the author the entire article is based on two booklets published by the Rising Sun.

12 Alain Bernheim, “Freemasonry and it s Attitude Toward the Nazi Regime” The Philalethes (Feb 97), available from Available from Pietre - Stones Review of Freemasonry, accessed January 3, 2011, . In “The Blue Forge-me-not: Another Side of th e Story,” Bernheim had an interesting run in with a flawed memory of Freemasonry and Nazi Germany. A small group within German Freemasonry wanted to induct Bernheim into the order of the Blue Forget-me-not, so named for the a flower that the group claimed was used during the war as a secret symbol of Freemasons who vowed to continue to meet and work as Freemasons, despite being outlawed. After doing some research, Bernheim had to inform the order that the flower was not a secret symbol of clandestine Free masonry. It was used by Freemasons, but not officially, and then not until the war ended. Additionally, the Nazi Winterhilfswerk sold Blue Forget - me - not pins in March, 1938 to raise money. Some lodges used the flower, but the flower was not a Masonic sy mbol. The article is available from Pietre - Stones Review of Freemasonry, accessed January 3, 2011,;

13 Alain Bernheim, “Tarnung und Gewalt: Karl Hoede, die Freimaurerei, die Nazis,” R.E.F.O.R.M. Jahrbuch 03 (2001) , 47 - 57 .

14 Aaron T. Kornblum, “The New Age Magazine’s Reportage of National Socialism, the Persecution of European Masonry, and the Holocaust” in R. William Weisberger, Wallace McLeod and S. Brent Morris, eds. Freemasonry on Both Sides of the Atla ntic: Essays Concerning the Craft in the British Isles, Europe, the United States and Mexico (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2002). In his footnotes, Kornblum suggests Melzer’s book over Neuberger’s, which is surprising given that Melzer is less kind in his treatment of Masonic reaction to persecution than Neuberger.

15 Bernheim, “Freemasonry and its Attitude Toward the Nazi Regime.”

16 For example, Arthur Schramm, a German - American Freemason who maintained correspondence with the German grand lodges, rejected the SGvD as Masonic. Arthur Schramm, “Freemasonry in Germany” (speech delivered at a meeting of the Liberal Arts Lodge, No. 677, Westwood California, May 7, 1931); Hans - Heinrich Solf also challenges t he validity of the SGvD, calling it “more or less irregular” in comparison to the “perfectly respectable Hamburg Grand Lodge” after its exile to Chile. Hans - Heinrich Solf, “The Revival of Freemasonry in Postwar Germany,” ArsQuatuor Coronatorum 97 (1984), 5.

17 The two most significant studies of German voting, Richard Hamilton’s Who Voted for Hitler? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982) and Thomas Childers, The Nazi Voter: The Social Foundations of Fascism in Germany, 1919 - 1933 (Chapel Hill, N C: University of North Carolina Press, 1983) both concluded that while the petite bourgeoisie made up the backbone of the NSDAP in its infancy, the party swelled to become the largest party in Germany by 1932 because of increasing support from the upper an d upper - middle classes; the very demographic to which the majority of Freemasons belonged.

18 Peter Fritsch, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 8.

19 Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale, 2001), 1 - 13. Bauer differentiates between “holocaust” and “Holocaust.” The former is the attempt at completely eradicating a racial group, the Holocaust is the specific instance of the former.

20 Bauer, for example, points out that Nazis distinguished between varying degrees of Gypsy blood as well as separating nomadic and sedentary Gypsies, ruthlessly pushing both out of Germany, but allowing the sedentary Gypsies outside of Germany to continue to live so long as their status as an community had been destroyed, see Rethinking , 60 - 62.

21 Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust , 12.

22 Bauer states that the number of ex - communists in the Nazi Party numbered in the millions, Rethinking the Holocaust , 11.

23 January 19, 1939, SD Lagebericht for 1938. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Record Group 15.007M, Records of the Reichsicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), reel 5, folder 30.

Table of Contents

Abstract ................................................ iii 
Nomenclature .............................................. v 
Table of Contents ....................................... vii 
  I   Introduction ........................................ 1 
  II  Who were the Freemasons, really? ................... 21 
  III Lodge Closures an Reactions ........................ 48 
  IV  Defining "Freemason" ............................... 82 
  V   Looting Lodges, looting Limits .................... 117 
  VI  The strange Case of Dr. Schacht and Mr. Hitler .... 144 
  VII Epilogue and Conclusion ........................... 176 
References .............................................. 190 
Appendix . .............................................. 201 
Vita .................................................... 209 


Christopher Campbell Thomas received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Arizona State University in 2004. He entered the graduate program at Texas A&M University in September 2004, receiving his Master of Arts in history in May 2007 and his Doctor of Philosophy in history in August 2011. His research interests include modern Europe, modern United States and history and film. Mr. Thomas may be reached at the Department of History, Melburn G. Glasscock Building, Room 101, TAMU 4236, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, 77843.

His email address is

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