"St George Lodge No.33 and Cedar City Lodge No.35 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator

The Sacking of the Masonic Temple in Jersey by the Nazis in 1941

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, good afternoon.

It is, as always, a pleasure to be here in this environment where some determined Brethren decided to build a monument fit to grace any Lodge in the State.

I wish to talk to you this afternoon about some similar Brethren who had the same idea way back in 1862.

But first I wish to make it clear to everyone here that I have never used a Power Point Presentation before so bear with me during the inevitable gremlins.

A few weeks ago I was reading an article in the transactions of the AQC from 1973 and the following day my father said that he was looking through some old papers and came across the same story and thought it would be a good basis for an Oration.

*My Oration is based on that article in the AQC and WB Dennis G Perrin who wrote the book my father had found.

*This is the Masonic Temple in question. A wonderful testament to the Brethren who raised the funds for its building, all 120 of them.

*This Temple is located in the Channel Isles, 10 miles off the coast of France, which has been since the time of William the Conqueror, a UK dependency.

*The Brethren took great pride in their building; both the interior of the Temple and the very fine Library and Museum had been furnished and equipped to a very high and elaborate standard.

In 1940 the German Forces occupied the Channel Islands and the local Masonic Groups decided to placate the Nazis by suspending all Masonic activities and with the exception of the Caretakers living quarters, the Temple was locked. The Germans were informed and approved of these actions. They also gave an assurance that provided no further meetings were held, nothing would be done to interfere with the property or its contents.

Maybe, with hindsight, the promises of non-intervention by the Germans should not have believed because on November 19, 1940 a Lt John of the Secret Field Police along with 2 others arrived at the Caretakers residence and demanded the keys of the Temple and proceeded to place seals on all the doors with the exception of the Caretakers living quarters.

Then on January 2, 1941 at about 5 PM six German officers and a civilian arrived in three motorcars to inspect the building. Br George Knocker, the Lodge Librarian and Curator of the Jersey Masonic Library and Museum, at some considerable risk to himself, kept an eye on the building.

The next development took place on January 23, 1941, when a squad of special German troops arrived from France and made an inventory of the contents of the building and took photographs of both the interior and exterior. The visit appears to have been an advance party before the dispatch of further squads of special wreckers and looters who were sent directly from Berlin and who arrived and commenced the sacking of the building on Monday, January 27, 1941.

At 8 AM that morning some 13 men in German uniform marched in military formation, entered the building and set about their task of looting, pillaging and burning. While it was not possible to know exactly how they organized and carried out their operation of destruction, because the building was strictly guarded by armed military police, removal of the loot was observed by Br George Knocker at a discreet distance from the building.

Later that day, the original 13 men were joined by a further detachment, so that by the afternoon about 65 men were on the premises. They were visited by many of the senior officers of the German Headquarters staff but neither the island military commander nor the supreme commander of all the Channel Islands were among the visitors.

*Books and smaller articles were stored into large packing cases and three loads were observed to have been loaded into trucks for transit. Then came the furniture etc. which were loaded onto further trucks. This included the Masters splendidly ornate chair, the Warden's chairs, the pedestals, the many other state chairs, kneeling stools, tracing boards, Lodge banners, carpets, curtains and various other items of furniture and fittings together with all the framed Lodge etc. Warrants which were in those days hung in the anteroom to the Temple. Remarkably the four large portraits which occupied prominent positions on the walls of the Temple were left undamaged and untouched. There has been some speculation as to the reason for this one of which being the Germans did not have a ladder large enough to remove them from the wall.

They also left untouched all the Past Masters Boards which adorned the walls of the Lodge room with the exception of that belonging to the Royal Sussex Lodge. This was removed from its fastenings but left undamaged on the floor.

*Practically everything else was stripped out, even the 1914-18 War Memorial which had been erected on the south west wall of the Lodge room was removed and has never been recovered.

*But the senseless savagery of the wrecking squad is best exemplified by their work of wanton destruction in the library and museum. There, not only were the whole of the contents of numerous showcases taken away, but many of the cases themselves were smashed up and with broken picture frames from which the paintings were cut out were put together with unwanted items from the Lodge room itself and piled into a great heap in the caretakers garden, where everything was burned in a fire that lasted for days.

The work of destruction took two days and all the loot was seen loaded onto the trucks outside the temple and was eventually taken to St Helier harbor and shipped to France whence it found its way to Berlin.

After the sacking had been completed, the Field police closed locked and resealed the doors except those of the caretakers living quarters. Over the following months frequent visits were paid by the occupying authorities to ensure that the seals on the doors of all the rooms remained intact.

The items that were looted and taken to Germany appeared in an anti-Masonic exhibition in Berlin. The items formed an integral part of the machinery of Nazis anti-Masonic propaganda as evidenced by an article published in issue number 71 of the German propaganda newspaper on March 12, 1941 which included photographs of the looted temple.

On May 9, 1945, however, the long-awaited liberation of the Channel Islands took place, amongst the greatest rejoicing the islands have ever known.

With one of the Officers of the relieving British forces was a letter from the Most Worshipful Grand Master dated days before V-E Day addressed to the Brethren of the Province of Jersey welcoming their liberation.

Within less than a month of the liberation, the Grand Officers were able to report to the Grand Secretary the following; '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.'

The Grand Lodge of England made a substantial financial contribution towards the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the building and many other Provinces, Lodges and individuals also made contributions of either monetary or in kind.

In spite of all the difficulties the first meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was held on August 16, 1945 one month after the Temple had been returned to the Jersey Masonic authorities.

The majority of the goods that were looted was found in Germany after the war and was returned to Jersey but sadly three packing cases were stolen in transit, the contents of which have never been recovered.

**When you see the Temple today, due to the hard work of the Brethren, it is restored as a fitting monument to those Brethren and Islanders who gave so much.

Most Worshipful Grand Master, this is but a brief historical sketch and I thank you once again for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your Visitation.

Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator September 21, 2013

AQC Volume 86 1973 The Sacking of the Masonic Temple in Jersey by WB DG Perrin PAGDC