The Bavarian State Library returned 203 books to the German Freemason Museum that were stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s on Wednesday.
“The books are coming home and will be able to be used and remain alive here,” said Roland Martin Hank, curator of the German Masonic Museum in Bayreuth.
The library was prepared to face up to its responsibilities regarding its involvement in Nazi crimes, General Director Klaus Ceynowa said.
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Ceremony to return books stolen by Nazis
The return of the books was made at an official ceremony in Munich. The books are largely concerned with Masonic rituals and history. The museum holds one of the largest collections of Masonic books in the world.
Under Adolf Hitler, the Nazis persecuted Freemasons, outlawed Masonic lodges, seized many of their possessions and sent practicing Freemasons to concentration camps.
Although the provenance of most of the books is unknown, at least two were stolen from the Masonic lodge in Bayreuth. This is why the state library decided to return all the books there.
The gifted musician joined the Freemasons during his years in Vienna (1781-1791). Masonic values and ideas can be found in his opera “The Magic Flute.” The librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, was not only Mozart’s friend but also a brother from the same Masonic lodge. Mozart dedicated a song cycle and other compositions to the Freemasons.
The iconic dancer joined the lodge “La Nouvelle Jerusalem” (New Jerusalem) of the “Grande Loge Feminine de France” (Grand Feminine Lodge of France) in 1960. Although the statutes of the English Grand Lodge defined Freemasonry as a male-only society, women had access to “adoption lodges” in France. There are now 27 purely women’s lodges in Germany.
Irish author Oscar Wilde’s father being an active member of Freemasons in Dublin, Oscar joined the Apollo University Freemason Lodge No. 357 during his student years – but was expelled in 1878 because of unpaid dues. In 1883, he was also excluded from the Churchill Lodge, which brought his Masonic activities to an end.
Goethe filed his official application to join a Masonic lodge in 1780 in Weimar, writing, “I have wished to become part of the Masonic society for a long time. I wanted to get in touch with the people whom I have learned to appreciate so much but lacked the title, so I asked for admission.”
This German poet, writer and philosopher had a broad understanding of the concept of Freemasonry, viewing it as rooted in the very essence of the man and civil society. The conversation between Ernst and Falk in his “Dialogues for Freemasons” is a plea for “upright citizenry that takes a stand against social structures and national and religious prejudices.”
It is often said that the great British comedian, actor and director was a Freemason. But although the essential values of Freemasonry can be heard in the speech at the end of his film “The Great Dictator,” the Masonic Wiki states that “his son Eugene Chaplin, when personally interviewed in Zurich, declared that Charles Chaplin was not a Freemason.”
Journalist and writer Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) joined the Berlin Freemason lodge called “Zur Morgenröte” (At Sunrise) in 1924, which belonged to the pacifist “Freimaurerbund zur aufgehenden Sonne” (Freemason Association of the Rising Sun). Disappointed with its ideals and practices, Tucholsky sought out French Freemasons and entered a Parisian lodge, of which he became a master in 1925.
German-born Austrian actor Karlheinz Böhm (1928-2014) belonged to the lodge named “Zur Kette” (At the Chain) in Munich. Böhm was famous as the founder of “Menschen für Menschen” (People for People), which helps the needy in Ethiopia on the principle of “help for self-development.” Böhm received many awards, including the humanitarian award of the German Freemasons in 1986.
ed/sms (KNA, dpa)