ISSUE 15, October 2005
Editorial
Historic: Nelson and Freemasonry
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's Speech
Grand Lodge: Quarterly Communication
Hurricane Katrina: Grand Charity Relief Chest
Royal Arch: John Knight
Masonic Embroidery: A stitch in time...
Travel: Walzing along the Danube
Specialist Lodges: Martial arts
Library & Museum: The two Freemasons' Halls
    Anniversary: Jersey's Liberation
Anniversary: Dorset's 225 years
Obituaries: Lord Swansea OSM
Pro Grand Master: Whither directing our course?
Charmian Hussey: A Mason's wife on Masonry
International: The Grand Lodge of Israel
Education: Sheffield's big plans
Education: Forthcoming events
Education: The Second Degree
Masonic Charities
Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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It subsequently came to light, from articles published in the local newspaper (which was under the control of the occupying authorities), that the reason for removing the main furnishings of the temple intact was to transport them to Berlin for use in staging an anti-Masonic exhibition.
     Likewise, the reason for taking photographs was to enable exhibition managers to replicate precisely the layout of a traditional Lodge room. Exhibitions were also staged in Paris and in Brussels using artefacts stolen in similar fashion from French and Belgian Lodges. Another was held in Belgrade, in connection with which a set of commemorative stamps was issued.
     Thankfully, no action was taken to defile the main fabric of the building, and for the remainder of the Occupation it was used as a wine/liquor store and to house confiscated wireless sets.
     What was most remarkable was that, having taken such drastic action against the physical attributes of Freemasonry, and given the purpose of the notorious Black Book, no action was taken to harass or persecute individual Freemasons, full details of whom would have been ascertainable from the stolen records.
     The situation becomes more astonishing given that in 1942 and again in 1943, Hitler ordered all high-ranking Freemasons to be deported to Germany. The orders were sent directly to the Commander-in-Chief, but no action was taken to identify, locate and deport these senior Masons, of whom there were many, including my own father. This opens up the intriguing line of speculation that some of the most senior military commanders had Masonic connections or sympathies, or may even have been members of the Craft at some time.
     The Germans were anxious to study closely the behaviour of the Channel Islanders under enemy occupation to learn how best they might shortly govern Britain. Berlin felt therefore that the occupying forces should be led by individuals who would create, as far as possible in the circumstances, a favourable and sympathetic impression on the local population.
     And it is clear from the many accounts, including the Official History of the Occupation of the Channel Islands by the late Charles Cruickshank, that they could not have made a wiser choice of Commander-in-Chief than Major-General Rudolph Graf von Schmettow for almost the whole of those five awful years.
     ‘Graf’ means ‘Count’ and he was head of an ancient Silesian dynasty with long military traditions. He already had the respect of his troops, but also quickly gained that of the local population, including Alexander Coutanche, the Bailiff of Jersey and Ambrose Sherwill, the Attorney General in Guernsey, who described the General as a man of great charm and humanity, someone who earned the reputation of favouring the Channel Islanders whenever he could.
     And von Schmettow was most certainly not a Nazi, as Coutanche writes in his memoirs. He records that the General told him quite openly that he suspected that most of his personal guard were Nazi party members and were spying on him. And there were numerous occasions when, as Cruickshank illustrated, von Schmettow completely ignored instructions from Berlin if he felt their effect on the civilian population would have been unjustifiably harsh and inhumane.
     It is therefore perhaps not surprising, in furtherance of the policy of trying to create the right kind of impression, that when he came to Jersey in September 1940, the General brought with him Major Prince Georg von Waldeck to take command of all the regular troops, Baron Hans von Helldorf as his Chief-of-Staff and, in 1942, Baron Max von Aufsess to handle the liaison between the military government and the Jersey authorities.
     We know that none of these highly cultured intellectuals were Nazis, and that von Schmettow became increasingly suspect by his masters in Berlin.
     Baron von Helldorf also came under suspicion for his leniency towards the local civilians, and for failing to carry out orders he received from Berlin he was banished to the island of Herm, pending court martial, and the wife of von Aufsess, who was still in Germany, was declared an enemy of the state and arrested by the Gestapo.
     But what is interesting from a Masonic standpoint is that two of the senior commanders mentioned had very close Masonic connections i.e., General von Schmettow and Prince von Waldeck.
     As von Schmettow became increasingly suspect, especially after the D-Day landings when food supplies from the Continent to the Islands were almost completely cut off, the naval commander in the Channel Islands, Admiral Hufmeier, a rabid Nazi, went over the head of his C-in-C directly to Berlin.
     He reported that the General had failed to get across to his men that, come what may, they had to hold out, that the troops’ rations were too high and that the civilian population were being treated too leniently.
     Suspecting that von Schmettow might, at any time, in order to prevent further suffering by the civilian population and indeed his troops, seek terms of surrender, in February 1945 the General was summarily dismissed from his command and was succeeded by the fanatical Hufmeier.
     After the Liberation by British forces on 9 May 1945, came the massive task of restoration which confronted the Masonic authorities. Since the last meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge in October 1939, the Province had lost its PGM, his deputy and many other senior members. However, despite the immense difficulties, Provincial Grand Lodge was convened on 16 August 1945, just one month after the Masonic authorities repossessed the building.
     But the physical task of restoration was daunting. All the furniture and furnishings needed replacing, and to meet the cost the Province had to rely almost entirely on its own resources and the generosity of friends worldwide. By early 1946 the temple been restored to some kind of normality, although it took several decades to complete the restoration.
     The anti-Masonic exhibition referred to earlier was staged in an area of Berlin which suffered almost total destruction at the end of the war, and it is more than likely that the building in which it was housed was completely destroyed. So, sadly and despite endless enquiries, none of the stolen treasures except for some 250 library books have been, or are ever likely to be recovered.
     However, as those who are able to recall and compare will readily testify, the present splendour and beauty of both the exterior and interior of the very fine Jersey Masonic building even exceeds that which existed immediately prior to the traumatic events of January 1941.
     And this is indeed a tremendous tribute not only to those on whose shoulders fell the enormous burden of restoration and rehabilitation, but also to their countless friends worldwide who contributed so much and so generously to this massive task.

This article is part of Dennis Perrin’s paper, Jersey Freemasonry and the German Occupation 1940–1945: Before, During and After. Anybody who would like a signed copy of the full text and the Summons should contact the Librarian & Curator at the Jersey Masonic temple.

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