There's a curious story today in the Daily Mail, and I'm hoping a blog reader actually living in Germany can fill in some missing details. The story claims that the Masonic lodge in the German town of Quedlinburg has been in posession of a former Nazi SS officer's private diary, and it has been donated to a local foundation for safekeeping and publicizing its contents.
In it, SS standartenführer Egon Ollenhauer recounted purported plans of officers of the Waffen SS to hide 250 truckloads of stolen gold and artwork in eleven different locations in lower Silesia as Red Army troops advanced near the war's end. One location is said to contain 28 tons of gold from a branch of the Reichsbank in what was then Breslau, now the Polish city of Wroclaw.
The diary also says one cache contains 47 works of art thought to be stolen from collections in France, including works by Botticelli, Rubens, Cezanne, Carravagio, Monet, Dürer, Raffael and Rembrandt.
And another stash is said to contain religious objects stolen from around the world in an attempt to find evidence for Hitler's racial theories.
It is the Daily Mail, after all. They can't go for a month without printing a 'hidden Nazi treasure' story. They're a staple of cable TV channels, too. But the Masonic lodge's connection adds a different twist.
As the Red Army started to bear down on ethnically German territory, Hitler’s SS undertook a large-scale operation involving around 260 trucks to hide Nazi gold, valuables held by the local population and treasures looted from throughout Nazi-German occupied Europe. Ollenhauer was the link between senior SS officers and local aristocrats who wanted help to protect their property from the Soviets.
The diary offers detailed lists of each of the eleven treasure caches. One is said to contain 28 tonnes of gold from the Breslau branch of the Reichsbank. Others contain gold coins, medals, jewellery and other valuables deposited by wealthy people in Wrocław to the local Nazi police for safekeeping.
The diary describes one cache as containing 47 works of art of international importance, believed to be stolen from collections in France, including works by Botticelli, Rubens, Cezanne, Carravagio, Monet, Dürer, Raffael and Rembrandt.
Yet another treasure stash is supposed to contain religious objects gathered by Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which hoovered up sacral items from around the world in an attempt to find evidence for Hitler’s racial theories.
The diary is in the possession of the foundation Schlesische Brücke (Silesian Bridge), which was set up by a businessman, Darius Franz Dziewiatek, from the Silesian city of Opole. Dziewiatek says that he received the war diary from a 1,100-year-old [sic] Christian lodge from Quedlinburger, Germany...
|The original Logenhaus of Zur Goldenen Waage|
Its much earlier pre-war precursor had been Zur Goldenen Waage ("Golden Scales") chartered June 6, 1846. Like the rest of the Masonic lodges in Germany, it was forced to disband under the Nazi's anti-Masonic laws in 1935, and their building became the county library. It was demolished in 2009, but the Masonic temple portion of that original building survives and the room preserved as a display for the public.
|The lodge room of Zur Goldenen Waage survives |
and has been opened as a public display
The new lodge has been rebuilding a much older cottage nearby in Quedlinburg's Old Town, which escaped damage during World War II. I am presuming that this SS officer's diary was discovered at this location during their renovation.
|Renovation of Zur Beständigen Freiheit N. 987's Logenhaus in Quedlinburg's Old Town|
Roman Furmaniak, who represents the foundation told TFN: “About ten years ago, after many discussions, the Quedlinburger lodge decided to hand the diary to the foundation.
“We are releasing information about the diary now as we wanted to wait until all persons who could be connected to the events and the diary had passed away, particularly officers of the Waffen SS. This was the wish of the Quedlinburger lodge.”
The foundation claims that the authenticity of the diary has been checked by five institutions in Germany, including the Department of Art History at the University of Göttingen, and these tests show that the diary is real.
In October last year, the foundation informed the Polish authorities of what they had.
Furmaniak said: “We wanted to release the information to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence and also the 1,100th anniversary of the establishment of the lodge in Quedlinburger.”
And if any of the treasures listed in the diary are ever unearthed? Furmaniak says, “It is the wish of the lodge that possessions found are reunited with their heirs if this is possible.
“However, this probably won’t be possible in every case. But it is our intention that the property is returned to its rightful owners.”
|A very real cache of Nazi gold, buried in a salt mine and |
discovered by Allied Forces after the war.
In this particular case, the Masonic connection seems to be purely accidental. But I am reaching out to area Masons there to get some clarity over this purported 1,100 year claim, along with perhaps more detail about this story.
Freemasons For Dummies
(Freimaurer für Dummies)
is available in German from Amazon.de