Secret Society Under Fire: 7 Facts about the Freemasons During World War II
Secret Society Under Fire: 7 Facts about the Freemasons During World War II

Secret Society Under Fire: 7 Facts about the Freemasons During World War II

Stephanie Schoppert - April 14, 2017

Secret Society Under Fire: 7 Facts about the Freemasons During World War II
Loge Liberté Chérie Memorial. Wikipedia

Freemasons Still Held Lodge Meetings in Concentration Camps

Freemasons that were sent to concentration camps were labeled as political prisoners, which meant that their uniforms were marked with a red triangle. This red triangle allowed them to recognize each other especially when coupled with the knowledge of the Forget-me-not. During German suppression of Freemasonry, the Freemasons abandoned their traditional symbols and adopted the forget-me-not flower. A man wearing a forget-me-not pin would be recognized as a Mason by fellow members but would not be noticed by the SD. This was likewise with presenting one of the flowers.

Once Freemasons in concentration camps discovered each other they tried to use the spirit of brotherhood that had uplifted them outside the camp walls to help them in their darkest time. Some Freemasons even went as far as to create their own lodges within their concentration camps. Loge Liberté Chérie (Cherished Liberty Lodge) was one such lodge.

Liberté Chérie was founded on November 15, 1943 by seven Bulgarian Freemasons and a resistance fighters. The Lodge was formed inside Hut 6 of Emslandlager VII. The men would meet for lodge work inside the hut around a table that would otherwise be used for sorting cartridges. A Catholic priest would stand outside the door in order to allow the brothers to hold their meetings and protect their secrecy.

Paul Hanson was elected master of the lodge and Brother Fernand Erauw was initiated, passed and raised by the lodge. The Hut held more than 100 prisoners who were only allowed to leave for one half-hour supervised walk per day. The rest of the time half the camp had to sort parts on the table and the other half were forced to work in the peat bogs. All of the members of the lodge, with the exception of 2, would lose their lives over the course of the war. A memorial was raised by Belgian and German Freemasons in 2004 in the Cemetery of Esterwegen.

Secret Society Under Fire: 7 Facts about the Freemasons During World War II
President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Many Allied Leaders Were Freemasons

When it came to the Allied side, Freemasonry continued to be a brotherhood for some of the most prominent members of society. President Harry S. Truman was also a Freemason and he went as far as to remain active in the brotherhood even while he was President of the United States. President Truman was received the 33rd Degree while he was in office a testament to his dedication to the fraternity. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was also a Freemason and even reached the 32nd degree.

But it wasn’t just United States Presidents that were devoted to the brotherhood. Prime Minister Winston Churchill became a brother in 1901. His family had a long tradition of being active in the brotherhood and having very prominent members so it was likely a family obligation more than a true desire that he joined the Freemasons. He never progressed in the order and largely lost focus in the brotherhood once his political career took off.

Not only political leaders that had ties to the Freemasons. The Allied military also had several prominent leaders that were Masons. General Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. Commander in the Philippines and General Omar Bradley and General Henry Arnold were all members of the world’s oldest fraternity. Likely their membership had very little to do with their military strategy but they were definitely sympathetic to the plight of their fellow brothers.

There were numerous other prominent figures on the Allied side that had ties to the brotherhood including British royalty. But there was very little that even these strong ties could do to protect their brothers in Germany and occupied territories. Estimates put the numbers of Freemasons killed because of their membership in the brotherhood between 80,000 and 200,000.

Secret Society Under Fire: 7 Facts about the Freemasons During World War II
A Masonic Service Center.

Freemasons in Devoted Themselves to Helping Those in Need During the War

Freemasons around the world who were still able to operate did what they could to help the war effort and those in need. Freemasons in Illinois created Masonic Service Centers for the men who were stationed at military bases in Illinois. These Service centers would provide fun, recreation and comfort to members of the military. Hot meals were provided and there were community events that would help get the minds of the men off the war. The Masonic Service Centers were open to all men in uniform whether or not they were members of the Freemasons.

The Masonic Service Centers would also send letters to brothers that were stationed overseas and let them know that they were making a difference and doing the brotherhood proud. Thousands of letters were sent and were gratefully received by soldiers across the world. The Service Centers were run by volunteers and funded through the savings of the Illinois Masonic lodges and donations. Every single Masonic lodge in Illinois sent donations and the Service Centers were overfunded by 25%.

Masonic lodges in England also did what they could to help those in need. Brothers donated their masonic jewels in order to help fund the war effort and by 1941 £20,000 had been raised for the war effort. But the Freemasons did more than just donate money. When the people of London ran for shelter underground during night bombings many of them choose to seek shelter in the basement of the Freemason’s Hall.

Workers from the Covent Garden Market and the people living in the local Peabody Buildings would choose to go to the Freemasons’ Hall over the Holborn Underground Station. In the morning when it was safe to emerge Grand Secretary Sydney White and his Secretary Miss Haigh would serve tea and sandwiches to those who had sought shelter. There was even a greenhouse built upon the Grand Temple in order to grow much needed fruits and vegetables.