Jan Meisels Allen
Poland has a vast archive of items that shed light on the history
of Freemasonry in Europe JANEK SKARZYNSKI AFP
An old university library in western Poland—UAM in Poznan, is sheding light on works including women’s Masonic ledges and musical scores used in closed ceremonies. There are 80,000 items dating from the 17th century to pre World War ll period. Fine prints, copies of speeches and membership lists of Masonic lodges in Germany and beyond feature in the archive. Some documents still bear Nazi stamps.
“Initially tolerated by the Nazis, Freemasons became the subject of regime conspiracy theories in the 1930s, seen as liberal intellectuals whose secretive circles could become centres of opposition.
Lodges were broken up and their members imprisoned and killed both in Germany and elsewhere as Nazi troops advanced during WWII.
The collection was put together under the orders of top Nazi henchman and SS chief Heinrich Himmler and is composed of many smaller archives from European Masonic lodges that were seized by the Nazis.”
During the war as Allied bombing intensified, the collection was moved from Germany for safekeeping and broken up 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 others were taken by the Red Army.
In 1959, the Polish Masonic collection was formally established as an archive and curators began studying it -- at that time, Freemasonry was banned in the country under Communism.
The collection is open to researchers and other visitors.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee