Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type

Open Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Richard Byers

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Proulx

Abstract

Europe’s twentieth century history is filled with stories of minorities, social groups, and institutions facing persecution at the hands of authoritarian, fascist, or nationalist governments. Freemasons, though not usually widely analyzed outside of Masonic research bodies, were one of many groups which faced this onslaught of persecution. Though there have been many reasons proffered for this persecution— support for democratic or republican ideals, Jewish references in Masonic rituals, freethinking attitudes within the Lodge itself—this thesis shows a different side of the story. This thesis demonstrates through a comparative analysis of a number of countries and a case study examining Nazi Germany itself, that in fact what aroused suspicions regarding Freemasons in the minds of European nationalist demagogues more than anything else was the alleged, and in many cases real, internationalist outlook and cosmopolitan attitude of many Lodges in Europe at the time. Most held an idealistic view of what the Masonic Fraternity as a whole could bring to a world recently wracked and torn by war and bloodshed: a fraternal union of all humanity without reference to race, color, creed, or national origin. This internationalist outlook made Freemasons threatening to right-wing nationalist European governments. An institution that put the needs of humanity as a whole before the needs of the state and national glory, was not a welcome institution in many of the affected countries during this period. Therefore, for many, Freemasons formed both a potential and a real “fifth column” which placed them in the cross hairs of many governments of twentieth century Europe. Masons themselves paid a heavy price, losing their Lodges, their possessions, and ultimately their lives. What these governments ultimately failed to extract from many of them though, was their integrity.

Rights

© 2017 Daniel P Bennett

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