The Sack Of The Masonic Temple In Jersey By The Nazis In 1941


The Sack Of The Masonic Temple In Jersey By The Nazis In 1941

by: W. Bro. Dennis G. Perrin PAGDC, Prov. Grand Sec. (Jersey)

Introduction:

Jersey is the largest channel Islands, roughly rectangular in
shape and covering an area of about 45 square miles - or about
one third the size of the Isle of Wight. It now has a population
of between 70,000 and 75,000, which is virtually saturation
point if the various Social and public services are not to
collapse, hence immigration is strictly controlled. It is the
most southerly Of the British Isles, being situated about 160
kilometres to the south west of England, within sight of the
French coast of Normandy, more specifically to the west of the
Cherbourg penin-sular, and at the nearest point, only twelve
miles from France.

In the year 933 A. D. Jersey was annexed, with the other
neighbouring Channel islands, to the Duchy of Normandy. In 1066
A.D. when William Duke of Normandy, became King of England, the
Island became British and has remained proudly so ever since.
The Island government, Les Etats de Jersey or the States of
Jersey, is respons-ible for, and dictates, all matters of purely
domestic concern to the Island which has its own taxation laws
and system. Nevertheless, it has retained certain Norman customs
and laws, and much of the language.

The States Assembly is composed of 52 members, divided into
Senators, Deputies, and Constables, who are elected on an
independent basis as there are no political parties in the
Island. The Assembly is presided over by the Bailiff of Jersey,
the highest civil and judicial office in the Island. As well as
acting as the Speaker of the local legislative Assembly, the
Bailiff Is also head of the judiciary and his appointment,
together with those of his Deputy and the local Attorney and
Solicitor Generals, are Crown appointments.

The common language in Jersey is English and its currency is
Sterling. The laws of Jersey are founded on the ancient common
law of Normandy, which today still remains the basis of the
Island's legislation, one which differs in many aspects from
English law.

In the 18th century the population never exceeded 20,000 and
there was much poverty. The chief industry was the knitting of
woollen jerseys and stockings for export. Farming and fishing
were subsidiary industries, eked out by a little smuggling and
privateering!

The Channel Islands, and particularly Jersey, being so close to
Continental Europe, have always been exposed to raids and
invasion, therefore, from the early days there were usually
small garrisons of the British Army stationed there. During the
Napoleonic Wars the garrisons were increased and the
fortifications strengthened. Over the years the economic
situation improved steadily and the steamship in particular
proved a great boon to the Islanders, making it possible to
export agricultural products to the English Markets and by the
time of the outbreak of World War 2 a thriving tourist industry
was being developed. Whereas World War 1 treated the Islands
comparatively lightly, disaster came with the Second World War.
From 1940 to 1945 the Channel Islands were occupied by German
Forces and many adults, not Jersey-born, were deported to
internment camps in Europe. For those who remained it was a long
period of hardship, isolation, and frustration.

At the end of the war however, there was a remarkable recovery.
Tourism very quickly picked up again and eventually, because of
its fiscal independence, the Channel Islands were able to pursue
a very strong and profitable financial policy which has drawn
great wealth to Jersey and thereby to Britain. Agriculture also,
remains a source of substantial revenue, hence Jersey is now
economically sound and prosperous, and in such favourable
conditions there is no reason why Freemasonry should not
flourish, as indeed it does.

FREEMASONRY IN JERSEY

Speculative Freemasonry came to Jersey through the military
garrisons stationed there who happened to be in possession of
travelling Warrants enabling them to meet together. But they
made no real impact as military lodges were not permitted to
initiate local inhabitants and it was not until 1765 that the
first lodge in Jersey was formed. By the time of the Union in
1813 there were traces of at least 16 military lodges in Jersey
and three local lodges. Two of those, Yarborough Lodge (formerly
Farmers Lodge) No. 244 and the Duke of Normandy Lodge (formerly
the Mechanics Lodge or Mechanical Lodge) No. 245 still survive.

Before the building of the present Masonic  all the local lodges
could meet, on premises to be used for halls, whereas the
military lodges met in the castles and barracks in which the
garrisons were stationed. Following the appointment of James
John Hammond as Provincial Grand Master in 1848, who was a
Jerseyman, moves began to be made to carry out his expressed
wish that "a central home" as he termed it, should be found, or
built, preferably in St. Helier, the Island's capitals found and
the foundation stone was laid with great public Masonic purposes
only. Eventually a suitable site was found procession and much
pomp and ceremony on 17 December 1862. A copy of that programme
is still extant and is printed on silk.

Within fourteen months of the laying of the foundation stone,
the building, comprising the Temple which is large enough to
seat 150 in comfort, together with an equally large dining room,
a Chapter room and several smaller rooms, plus a library and
museum and committee rooms, was ready for consecration. Because
the total membership of all the Masonic bodies did not number
more than 120, it shows great courage and  foresight on the part
of the brethren concerned to build a Masonic hall so far in
excess of the needs of their day.

During the period from the consecration in 1864 to the outbreak
of World War 2 in 1939, the interior of the Temple and the
library and museum had been furnished to a very high standard.
The museum housed a splendid collec-tion of old Seals; the
famous Vonberg collection of silver and gold Masonic jewels,
some made by Thomas Harper, a prominent jeweller and medallist,
Deputy G.M. of the Antients; the Vatcher Masonic collection; a
large number of valuable Masonic books, pre-Union Certificates,
Warrants, and Masonic memorabilia, Portraits in oils, some by
Bro. John St. Helier Lander, R.A. a member of Yarborough Lodge,
and silken embroidered banners of the various lodges and Orders
operating in the Province, decorated the walls. It was to this
beautifully appointed building that, soon after the German
Occupation of the Channel Islands in 1940, disaster struck.

WRECKING AND LOOTING

The visit of the SA troops from France was preparatory to the
arrival of a special squad nf professional wreckers who had been
sent from Berlin. At 8 a.m. on the morning of Monday the 27
January 1941, 30 Germans in military uniforms marched up
Stopford Road, entered the building and commenced their
operation of destruction. Because the building was heavily
guarded by armed military police it was not possible to know
exactly how they set about their fiendish business but the
removal of the loot to the waiting lorries was discreetly
observed and checked as far as possible by the then, in effect,
redundant Librarian and Curator of the Jersey Masonic Library
and Museum, W.Bro. George Stodart Knocker.

Later in the day the original 30 were joined by another
detachment so that there were as many as 65 men on the premises;
during the operation they were visited by many of the higher
officers of the German Headquarters staff, but it was noted that
the Commander of the German forces, in Jersey, Colonel
Schumacher, was not among them; his Adjutant, Major Dimmler
apparently being in charge. Books and smaller articles were
stowed into large packing cases and three 3-ton lorry loads were
seen to be despatched, after which the furniture was loaded
loosely on other lorries. They included the magnificent Master's
Chair, two Warden's Chairs and other State Chairs, the
Pedestals, the columns B and J, kneeling stools, Tracing Boards,
Banners, carpets, curtains, etc. etc.

Even the 1914-18 War Memorial, commemorating brethren who had
made the supreme sacrifice in that war, and which had been
erected on the south west wall of the Temple, was ripped out and
has never been recovered. The senseless savagery of the wrecking
squad is, however, better exemplified by their work of wanton
destruction in the Library and Museum. There, not only were the
whole of the contents of the dozens of show cases taken away but
most of the mahogany cases themselves were smashed, together
with picture frames from which portraits in oils and other
pictures had been ripped out and thrown on to a rubbish heap in
the caretaker's garden. During the time of the ransacking of the
building was in progress a huge bonfire was kept alight in the
garden and fed with papers and other items, but it is quite
impossible to know what documents and records were destroyed in
that way. The work of destruction took two days. The items were
loaded on to lorries and taken to St Helier Harbour, shipped to
France on the S.S. Holland, and thence to Berlin. On the 12
March 1941, in Issue No. 71 of the Volkischer Beobachter, 
published in Berlin, and on the 15 March 1941 in
Issue No. 74 of the Brusseler Zeitung published in Brussels,
articles were printed describing an anti-Masonic exhibition
staged in Berlin under the direct orders of notorious
Jew-baiter, Reichleader Alfred Rosenberg using items looted from
Jersey and Guernsey earlier in the year. He was eventually tried
at Nuremberg and executed for his war crimes.
 
After the sack had been completed the Gestapo closed and locked
all the doors in the building, with the exception of the
caretaker's living quarters, and replaced their seals. For the
next few months frequent visits were made to make certain that
the seals remained intact as some of the rooms had not been
stripped entirely of some of the domestic furniture, tables,
chairs, and cutlery, glass, linen, etc. Eventually Lieutenant
Foringher arrived with a party of uniformed men and took away
many of those domestic items. The final clearance was made by
Lieutenant Zastre with another party of military personnel.
 
Seemingly in an act of spite or vindictiveness, on Tuesday 9
December 1941 the seals were removed by an officer of the
Gestapo Section FK515 from German HQ in France, one Underfichter
Miehle, who ordered that the devastation be viewed by the
Provincial Grand Master, the Attorney General, and the Crown
Solicitor, W.Bro. Vivian J. Bailhache; the latter was a
prominent freemason at that time and, after the War became
Deputy Prov. G.M., and Grand Superintendent of Provincial Grand
Chapter.
 
Soon afterwards the order came for the compulsory liquidation
and proscription of all those clubs, associations, and societies
which the Germans classified as being secret and subversive.
They included with the Freemasons, the Salvation Army, the Girl
Guides, the Boy Scouts, the Rotarians, and others, but the
Ancient Order of Foresters were exempt presumably because the
occupying authorities thought they were engaged in conservation
and hence were rendering an essential service at a time when the
Island was desperate for all forms of fuel.
 
For the remainder of the Occupation the Germans used the Temple
as a liquor store and at the liberation it was found to contain
thousands of empty bottles and much broken glass, as well as the
pieces of smashed furniture which the wreckers of 1941 had not
even bothered to burn.
 
The looting of the Masonic Halls in Jersey and Guernsey was an
integral part of the machinery of Nazi anti-Masonic propaganda
as the articles in the newspapers referred to show quite
clearly. The articles were aimed to prove that freemasons in
close alliance with International Jewry were fostering and
deliberately expanding British world power; they contained such
statements as:
 
"The mystic darkness of Freemasonry has ceased to be a darkness
long since. These secrets have been brought to light; since 1933
the intrigues of the lodges have come to an end. It is all the
more instructive when the world, and especially we Germans, are
now being shown that the entire Freemasonry is an organisation
created and expanded deliberately by England, fostering the
ultimate aim of promoting and strengthening British world power.
The close alliance with international Jewry was the safest way
to obtain this. The instructive show which has now been opened
in Berlin, by order of Reich Leader Alfred Rosenberg, is based
on the comprehensive Masonic material originating from the
lodges of the British Island of Jersey.... And now we stand in
the Holy of Holies, the great Temple of the Lodge of Jersey,
created here in the original, showing the seat of the Master of
the Lodge, his Deputy and of his Assistant. In front of the
altar with the bible and master(s) hammer (gavel) and before it
the ark of the covenant (kneeling stool)"
 
LIBERATION
 
The long-awaited liberation of the Channel Islands took place on
9 May 1945 amid the greatest rejoicing the Islands have ever
known. One of the officers of the relieving British Force
brought a letter from the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, the
Earl of Harewood, which was dated some days previously.
Addressed to the Brethren of the Province of Jersey it welcomed
their liberation. That prompt fraternal greeting must have given
great pleasure and was to act as a stimulus to all those on
whose shoulders would fall the massive burden of rehabilitation,
refurbishment, and re-establishment Freemasonry in the province.
The provincial Grand Master as well as his Deputy, both of whom
had remained in the Island during the Occupation, and many
senior freemasons with them, had died. The main burden of
restoration and reorganisation fell to five Grand Officers, all
well past middle age and whose health had not exactly benefited
from the rigours of the Occupation. However, in less than a
month of the Liberation they were able to report to the Grand
Secretary at Freemasons' Hall in London and one paragraph in
that report gives examples of their problems: 
 
You will note from our brief report that our position is without
precedent; we are without a provincial Grand Master or a Deputy
Provincial Grand Master and without any lodge Warrants, these
having been taken away by  the Germans; also we have failed to
pay any dues for five years.

They had some difficulty in gaining access to the Masonic Hall
which, owing to the laws forced through the Jersey States by the
Occupying power, was no longer Masonic property. However, in due
course the red tape was cut  and on 19 July 1945 W.Bro. George
Knocker who was in charge of the rehabilitation and restoration
was able to report:

" I gained access to the building and was able to take stock of
the conditions; empty and broken picture frames littered every
part of every room, broken glass, waste paper, splintered wood,
torn and shredded regalia, broken and smashed wands, empty
bottles smashed and battered showcases, broken and damaged
lockers and desks, etc. etc.."

For record purposes it was decided to photograph the Temple in
the state in which it was found, but flashlight were not then
available so the photographs were not good quality, nevertheless
they give some indication of the wanton damage and destruction.
The United Grand Lodge of England made a handsome financial
donation towards restoration, as indeed did many Provinces,
lodges, and individual brethren. All materials were in short
supply, there was clothes rationing in the United Kingdom and
that, of course, included Jersey. Most of what was needed was
improvised and even that was  not easy as the shortage of
material either for furniture or regalia was worse in the Island
than in England. Proper furniture took a long time to provide
and makeshifts had to be found; regalia was more difficult as
most the brethren had kept theirs in lockers in an anti-room and
they were looted and destroyed by the wreckers in 1941. Nearly
all the aprons had to be improvised by painting on any suitable
material and they were used for several months. Specimens of
Craft, Royal Arch, and Provincial aprons and collars were
subsequently presented to the museum at Freemasons' Hall in
London and are still on display

In spite of all difficulties the first meeting of the Provincial
Grand Lodge was held on 16 August 1945 just on month after the
building had been returned to the Masonic authorities in Jersey.
The first item was to announce that the Minutes of the last
Annual Communication, held on 12 October 1939, were missing,
believed looted. The brethren then stood to honour those
brethren who had passed away or given their lives during the war
and it is of interest to note that the collection taken at the
end of that meeting was for the Samaritan Fund of the Royal
Masonic Hospital and not for the restoration of the Temple as
one might well have expected. By September all the lodges had
commenced their regular meetings by virtue of  Dispensation from
the M.W. the Grand Master empowering them to work in the absence
of their Warrants, all of which were missing and none have ever
been recovered.

In April 1946 the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey received a
letter from the office of the Military Government of Germany to
the effect that 25 cases containing Masonic property looted from
Jersey and Guernsey had been found by the United States Army, in
the Offenbaeh Archival Depot. Through the good offices of Grand
Lodge and W. Bro. Major Kitehingman of the Intelligence Corps of
the British Army the cases were eventually returned to Jersey,
minus three which were stolen in transit. Those cases contained
mainly documents and books which the Nazis had acquired from
several sources, including 240 volumes from the Jersey Masonic
library, plus a large number of Minute books and records of
Provincial Grand Lodge as well as other Masonic Orders in the
Islands Unfortunately there was no china, glass, regalia, or
jewels. In each case, including those containing much rubbish,
was a printed card recording that the contents had been seized
by Order of Reichleader Alfred Rosenberg. Efforts have continued
to try to discover what happened to all the other material which
was looted but without success and the hope that any of it will
ever be recovered has faded.

By dint of sustained hard work and the tremendous support and
loyalty of so many Masonic friends, the Temple in Jersey has
been restored to a style and beauty even greater than its
splendour of 1939, and freemasonry continues to flourish. The
Province now has 11 Craft lodges whereas pre-war the total was
9; R.A. Chapters have doubled from 3 to 6; two Mark lodges
against the previous one- Rose Croix chapters have trebled from
one to three and the same K.T. Preceptory remains in existence;
as recently as 1985 a Royal Arch Mariner lodge, moored to the
senior of the two Mark lodges, was consecrated.

Long may Freemasonry flourish in the Channel Islands is the
earnest wish and aim of all members of the Craft wherever they
may be, for their support has, created this strengthened revival
following those dark days between 1939 and 1945.

The author wishes to place on record his appreciation of the
material made available by his colleagues in the following: The
Sack of the Temple by W.Bro. George Stodart Knocker, P
Dep.GSupt.Wks, first published In The Masonic Record in 1947,
and Freemasonry in Jersey by W.Bro. A.C.F. Jackson, PDep.GSwd.B,
In AQC Vol. 86 also The Masonic Square 1973 and 1974.