American and Canadian Masons, many of whom proudly wear the square and compasses on their lapel pins and display Masonic emblems on their cars, are sometimes puzzled by the secrecy which appears to surround the Craft in Europe. They are told that European Masons do not wear Masonic pins or rings outside the lodge, that Masonic temples are often not recognizable as such, and that Masons usually don't tell their friends or associates of their membership.
The following is a translation of an article which appeared in the May 1994 issue of the AMT [Algemeen Mašonniek Tijdschrift], the official publication of the Grootoosten der Nederlanden, the Dutch Grand Lodge and is translated and printed with their permission. It describes the instructions given to the liquidators of Masonic Lodges by the German occupying forces in The Netherlands in November 1940. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to experience this kind of treatment of Freemasonry if it had occurred in our non-European jurisdictions just 54 years ago. In light of it, though, the more secretive practices of our European Brethren become much easier to understand.
9 NOVEMBER 1940
DE GROTE VERBIJSTERING [THE GUIDELINES OF THE GREAT DISMAY]
GUIDELINES FOR THE PROVINCIAL LIQUIDATORS*
Guidelines for the confiscation and destruction of Freemasons' libraries, the correspondence, the objects necessary for the ritual and the international Symbolism, which is separate from the property to be liquidated
For special information, let it be pointed out that the following qualify as masonic symbolism: all hand tools related to construction, as well as 5-6 and 9 stars. For the Odd Fellows three rings. For the Rotarians the gearwheel. For the Rosicrucians a cross with a rose growing around it. References abbreviated with letters must also be considered as symbolism.
Freemasons' medals, jewels, buttons from the warden's stick, and the like, which are made of precious metal, or appear to be, must be sent to the office of the Commissioner General, attention Z. H. Schwier, Fluwelen Burgwal 22, The Hague.
In the AMT article, Editor E. P Kwaadgras, adds the following comments:
I had to conquer the inclination to leave this document without commentary. During a meeting in the Grand Lodge building on 9 November 1940, Werner Schwier, the German responsible for the liquidation of Freemasonry and related organizations in The Netherlands, handed out these instructions to a dozen "Provincial Liquidators" appointed as such, each of whom had to manage the task in his own territory. His Dutch figurehead, the Hague attorney Jan Muller, named by the occupying forces as "General Liquidator," was also present at the meeting.
A dramatic moment was the arrest, during the meeting, of F. W. Adriaanse, attorney and prosecutor in Middelburg. He had received the province of Zeeland from Muller as his territory. He had been approached about it by telephone in August 1940. He had asked for time to think it over, and consulted several friends with whom he was on the board of the Netherlands Union [a Dutch political group which wished to recognize the changed circumstances and work with the Dutch and occupation authorities]. He also sought contact with "the leader of the Lodge of Freemasons in Middleburg, named Dekker." He then decided to accept the appointment "to save what could be saved." During the meeting in The Hague, Schwier explained that a "traitor had sneaked in," since Adriaanse was a member of the Union and not a National Socialist. Two Germans in uniform came in and arrested him, after which he was taken to the prison at Scheveningen. Neither Muller nor any of the others present objected to this procedure. After ten days, Adriaanse was freed. In the meantime, he was replaced by a more trustworthy subject. That such things should happen in our Grand Lodge building!
But the document speaks for itself. Among other things, it answers the question why so many lodge archives and libraries were lost, in contrast to the Grand Lodge archives and library. The latter went to Germany as research material and was largely recovered after the war. But the possessions of the individual lodges in The Netherlands were mostly destroyed or sold.
* Source: dossier no. 4500, concerning Werner Schwier, from the Subcommission on Investigation of War Crimes, in the Central Archives of Special Proceedings of the Ministry of Justice, primarily attachment 12.