Aaron T. Kornblum
United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum Archives Branch
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC 200242126
Photo: Max Reid, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum promotes collection of and research in a variety of Masonic-related materials.
In Washington, D.C., close to the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Smithsonian Institutions museums, and the memorials to those who risked their lives and/or died safeguarding American freedoms and liberties while serving in this countrys Armed Forces, there is a memorial and museum whose core values are similarly American and democratic. Unlike the other memorials and museums, however, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also stands as a reminder of what can happen when people fail to assume their civic responsibilities and, instead, take their civil rights and freedoms for granted. Not only should visiting Freemasons find a visit to the Museum both interesting and informative, but they can also find significant historical material relating to the Fraternity.
The Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Jews were its primary victimsup to six million were murdered. Also, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), disabled persons, and Poles were targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovahs Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny.
The Museum, observing its fifth anniversary this year, is Americas national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history, and it also serves as this countrys memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. Its primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy, to preserve the memory of those who suffered, and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.
During the course of the Third Reich, Nazi historians and ideologues intended to "prove" that there was a "Jewish-Masonic conspiracy" to take over the world and thus legitimate the Nazis anti-Masonic actions. That Freemasonry was both a "secret" and an international organization that was not tied to Germany and a German leader further fueled Nazi conspiracy theories. The Nazis were also against Freemasonry because the Fraternity was dedicated to certain ideals and values (including peace, tolerance, and open communication between men of different religions, races, and nationalities) that the Nazi Party found threatening to its fascist and racist ideology. Therefore, Nazi Party organizations and German police agencies confiscated a tremendous number of documents, books, membership lists, and objects from Masonic lodges that they had closed throughout the Reich and Nazi-occupied Europe. Not only were these materials used, or meant to be used, for reasons of Nazi ideology and propaganda, but they were also used to persecute individual Masons.
|In a number of popular public exhibitions,
the Nazis created mock Lodge rooms, as above, in Munich, Germany,
and other displays to inflame anti-Masonic feeling.
Photo: National Archives, Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
After World War II, members of the Soviet forces found much of the Masonic material that had been taken by the Nazis. They transported it to archives in Russia and Poland where, except for those Soviet bloc archivists who stored it, the material remained unseen for more than 40 years. The Soviets, like the Nazis before them, wanted to learn about the Fraternity because they, too, found Freemasonry threatening to their totalitarian government.
With a thaw in American-Soviet relations, the end of the Cold War, and the eventual break-up of the Soviet Union, the Museum Archives, helping to fulfill the Museums Federal mandate to document and to study the Holocaust, was and has been in a unique position to collect materials from archives of the former Soviet Union, Poland, and Romania that were formerly closed to the West. After securing agreements with many of these countries archives to microfilm some of their document collections, the Museum Archives began to receive a wealth of information relating to the Holocaust.
Since that time, the Museum Archives has received in excess of one million microfilmed pages. As a result of these efforts, the Museum Archives has amassed a large amount of material relating to the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry. Visiting Freemasons interested in this subject are invited to examine this material, and, if they have found or collected any relevant materials of their own, are encouraged to contact the Museum and to share what they have.
For example, from the former Osobyi Archives in Moscow and from the Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Warsaw, Poland, the Museum Archives has received microfilms that contain thousands of pages of (1) reports by the German secret police, the Gestapo, relating to their monitoring of Freemason activities in Germany and in other countries; a few of these reports claim that American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was either a Mason himself or influenced by Masonic advisors; (2) investigations into and lists of the contents of Masonic Lodges, archives, and libraries that had been confiscated by the Nazis; (3) papers and publications compiled by various Nazi organizations that relate the threat they saw in Masonry; and (4) lists of members of Masonic Lodges from various Nazi-occupied countries.
In addition to the documents created and compiled by the Nazis during the years of the Third Reich, the Museum Archives also contains thousands of microfilmed pages that the Nazis confiscated from Freemason Lodges and libraries whose contents do not specifically pertain to the Nazi persecution of Masonry.
Consisting of documents from various Masonic organizations and Lodges that date primarily from the Nineteenth Century, this material relates to what can be called the general history or practice of Masonry in Europe. Thus, those historians interested in European Freemasonry during this time period are strongly encouraged to peruse this material as well. Much of this material has not been examined or seen by Western scholars since it was taken by the Nazis.
The Fifth Floor Reading Room of the Museum Archives also has a Subject File that contains photocopied papers and reports relating to the Nazi persecution of Masonry and to the reestablishment of the Craft in Europe after World War II. In addition, the Subject File also has a large amount of photocopied articles from the Southern Jurisdictions Supreme Councils New Age Magazine for the years 19331945. These articles amply document The Supreme Councils awareness of and opposition to the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry in Europe.
The Archives collection efforts continue. For example, the Museums International Program Division has recently discovered a collection in Paris, France, that contains card files created by the Vichy French police which list demographic information about 120,000 individual French Freemasons. The forms were intended to be used to record the following about each French Freemason: his name, address and date of birth; the name and location of his Lodge; the date of his initiation; and his profession. Some forms even contain spaces where the Freemasons political affiliation and religion were to be filled out. Currently, the Museums International Program Division is exploring ways to raise the necessary money to pay for the microfilming of this collection; it expects the project to cost about $30,000. The Museum will continue to locate additional documents relating to the persecution of Freemasonry during World War II to expand its collection of resources dealing with this period.
The Museum Library is also interested in the subject of the Nazi persecution of the Fraternity, and it is collecting books on this subject. Some of the books in the Librarys collection are histories about the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry, and others are actual attacks on Freemasonry written by Nazi-era authors. To date, the Library has more than a dozen books containing information on this subject, and it hopes to collect more as additional books are either published, discovered, or contributed.
Those interested in learning more about the Nazi persecution of Masonry are encouraged to use the resources in the Museum Archives and Library located on the Fifth Floor of the Museum. A pass is not required, although a telephone call prior to visiting is always appreciated. Please note that archival collections cannot be examined during weekends, unless a phone call to the Archives has been made by 4:00 pm of the Friday prior to the visit. The Library stacks, on the other hand, are open every day of the week, 10:00 am5:00 pm.
Those interested in learning what the Museum Archives and Library contain specifically about the persecution of Freemasonry are also invited to examine the Archives and Library catalogs on the Museums World Wide Web Site at http://www.ushmm.org Click on the button that says "Access Museum Resources". After choosing a catalog to examine, the researcher should type in the search terms "Freemasonry" or "Freemasons" (or any other subject(s) that interests him/her). Please keep in mind that the catalogs contain only descriptions of the books/documents that are available; they do not contain the actual items. Those unable to examine the Museum Archives in person might be interested to learn that many of its archival collections could be duplicated and sent to interested parties for a fee.
In addition to acquiring Holocaust-related archival collections and books, the Museum has also collected thousands of artifacts, testimonies, photographs, and film footage on Holocaust subjects. Much of the material comprising the Museums collections has been donated by survivors of the Holocaust, American concentration camp liberators, and others who donated their personal items, while other items have been given to the Museum by other institutions. I invite those who own Holocaust-related items and artifacts that they wish to donate or wish to share with the Museum to contact me either by writing to me at the address above or by telephoning me (2024886113). Items offered to the Museum but found not relevant to the Museums purview will be returned to their owners.
Those visiting the Museums Permanent Exhibition, The Holocaust, might also be interested to learn that it contains segments that relate to the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry. In the segment entitled Technology and Persecution, visitors learn how the Nazis compiled and used information on their "enemies." This segments text states: "All governments gather information about their citizens. The Nazi regime, however, used such information to track political opponents, enforce racial policies, and, ultimately, implement mass murder. As early as 1934, various government bureaus began to compile card catalogs identifying political and racial enemies of the regime, such as Freemasons, Jews, Gypsies, and genetically diseased persons."
On the same floor of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, another segment, entitled Enemies of the State, uses text, artifacts, and photographs to discuss the Nazi pre-war persecution of political opponents, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), homosexuals, and Masons. Here, visitors learn about Nazi views on Freemasonry and about the Nazi belief in a "Jewish-Masonic conspiracy" which planned to take over the world. In order to illustrate these fears, a film monitor shows photographs of an anti-Masonic exhibition that was organized by the Nazis. (See photograph, page 58.)
Last, the second floor of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum houses the Wexner Learning Center. This interactive, multi-media database has texts and photographs that relate to various Holocaust-related subjects, including the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry.
Aaron T. Kornblum
is a member of Potomac Lodge No.5 and of the Scottish Rite Bodies in the District of Columbia. He is the Reference Archivist for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Branch. Before starting to work full-time for the Museum eight years ago, Bro. Kornblum began his graduate studies in archival science and theory at the University of Maryland at College Park. Prior to starting the work that led him to receive his two Masters (one in History and the other in Library Science), he graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he studied American and European history and media analysis. As an Archivist at the Museum, he strongly encourages "all Holocaust survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution, be they Freemasons or not, the relatives of Holocaust survivors and victims, and those Americans present at the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, to tell and offer their stories, artifacts, and letters to the Museum and other centers of Holocaust remembrance now, before their generation passes from view."
Photo: Max Reid, USHMM