Situated at the intersection of Stopford and Oxford Roads in Saint Helier, the Masonic Temple is a very recognisable building. Librarian & Curator for the Temple (and CIOS Member) Geoff Morris kindly lead an interactive talk with numerous artefacts and photographs, describing the building’s extensive Occupation history.
After their arrival, the German military command proclaimed that the lives, property and liberty of Jersey’s inhabitats was ‘solemnly guaranteed’, and gave assurances to the Jersey Freemasons that the building would be left undisturbed provided that all Masonic activity ceased. All the contents of the building, including many priceless historical artefacts and furnishings, were left inside the building, which was locked up and a caretaker was allowed to look after the building.
The German assurances were short-lived however, due to increasing Nazi paranoia about various organisations such as the Freemasons, the Oddfellows, the Salvation Army, and even youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.
19th November 1940 brought the first sign of trouble, when a Lieutenant from the Geheim Feld Polizei arrived and demanded keys to all rooms in the building, then placed seals on all the doors.
On 23rd January a squad of Einsatzstab (Special Troops) arrived from France to inventory and photograph the building’s contents. Four days later additional squads arrived from Germany and proceeded to loot and pillage the building. The furniture and anything else believed to be valuable was loaded onto lorries and shipped off-island.
Anything the Germans did not want was smashed up or set alight in a huge bonfire in the adjacent caretakers garden (now a paved car park).
It later transpired that the main furnishings from the Temple were sent to Berlin, to be used for anti-Masonic exhibitions. Later in 1941 the commander of the German forces in France issued an order that all property of the Freemasons Lodge and other organisations was to be liquidated. This required the States of Jersey to pass an Act transferring all assets of these groups to itself.
For the remainder of the Occupation the Temple was used by the authorities as a liquor store and a place to keep confiscated radios.
One interesting fact is that despite orders from Hitler himself that ‘all Jews and high ranking Freemasons’ shall be deported to Germany, no action was taken to pursue or harass any Freemasons in Jersey, despite readily available access to complete records and membership lists kept inside the Temple.
The looted artefacts and furnishings were exhibited in the Potsdam area of Berlin, which suffered complete destruction during the fighting towards the end of the war, and sadly it is most likely that none of the objects survived. However one small quantity of books from the Temple’s library was recovered in Offenbach and returned by the British Army after the war.