Curators browsing a vast historical archive of Freemasonry in Europe amassed by the Nazis in their wartime anti-Masonic purge say they believe there are still secrets to be uncovered.
From the glimpse of the women’s Masonic lodges to the musical scores used in closed-door ceremonies, the treasure – housed in a former university library in western Poland – has already shed light on a little-known story.
But there is still work to be done to fully examine all 80,000 objects dating from the 17th century to the pre-WWII period.
“It is one of the largest Masonic archives in Europe,” said curator Iuliana Grazynska, who has just started working on dozens of boxes of papers that have yet to be properly classified.
“There are still mysteries there,” she told AFP, of the collection curators started to browse decades ago and which is housed in the UAM library in the city of Poznan.
Initially tolerated by the Nazis, Freemasons became the object of regime conspiracy theories in the 1930s, viewed as liberal intellectuals whose secret circles could become centers of opposition.
The lodges were dismantled and their members imprisoned and killed both in Germany and elsewhere as Nazi troops advanced during World War II.
The collection was assembled under the orders of the main Nazi henchman and SS leader Heinrich Himmler and consists of many smaller archives of European Masonic lodges that were seized by the Nazis.
It is considered by researchers as a valuable repository of the history of daily lodge activities across Europe, ranging from menus for celebrations to educational texts.
– ‘Mine of information’ –
The fine print, copies of speeches and lists of members of Masonic lodges in Germany and beyond are in the archives. Some documents still bear Nazi stamps.
“The Nazis hated Freemasons,” Andrzej Karpowicz, who ran the collection for three decades, told AFP.
Nazi ideology, he said, was inherently “anti-Masonic” because of its anti-intellectual and anti-elite tendencies.
The library exhibits a few selected items, including the first edition of the first Masonic constitution written in 1723, six years after the establishment of the first lodge in England.
“It is one of our proudest possessions,” said Grazynska.
The oldest documents in the collection are 17th-century prints relating to the Rosicrucians – an esoteric spiritual movement believed to be a precursor to Freemasons whose symbol was a crucifix with a rose at its center.
During the war, as the Allied bombardments intensified, the collection was moved from Germany for preservation and divided into three parts – two were taken to what is now Poland and one to the Czech Republic.
The section left in the town of Slawa Slaska in Poland was seized by Polish authorities in 1945, while the rest were taken by the Red Army.
In 1959, the Polish Masonic Collection was officially created as an archive, and curators began to study it – at that time, Freemasonry was banned in the country under Communism.
The collection is open to scholars and other visitors, which have included representatives of German Masonic lodges wishing to reclaim their pre-war history.
It’s “a wealth of information that you can dig into at will,” Karpowicz said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)