The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah. This is the day it is observed in Israel, and in the rest of the world among most of the world's Jews. I'm not aware what day the Soviets remembered their dead (the USSR tried to downplay the Holocaust as separate from the invasion of the USSR by the Wehrmacht), nor what day the Poles, Romani, the disabled, masons, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other victims of the Nazis chose. As a Jewish Freemason, and the grandson of a Jewish Freemason, this hits close to home for me. My grandfather, Brother Louis Barron, MD., was a surgeon in Patton's army, which helped liberate Buchenwald, and attended to the survivors, and he came back to Lynn, Massachusetts to find anti-Semitism still prevalent in his community. He was initiated, passed and raised a few years later in Mount Sinai Lodge in Lynn (a lodge which has since gone dark), founded a synagogue, and studied Torah every day in his later years, until his final years of severe illness. A proud man, he never told his lodge about his condition, and was suspended for non-payment of dues a few years before his death. I'd love to pay his dues for the last four years of his life and posthumously reinstate him, but his lodge has gone dark, and I have no idea whom to pay.

Many Jews regard themselves as the central victims of the Holocaust, because two out of three European Jews were extinguished from the earth. However, it should be remembered that 2-3 million Soviet POWs, about 2 million ethnic Poles, between 220,000 and 1.5 million Romani people (sometimes crudely called gypsies), half a million Yugoslavs (mostly Serbs), about a quarter million physically and mentally disabled people, between 80 and 200 thousand Freemasons, between 5 and 15 thousand gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people and people questioning their sexual orientations, and between 2.5 and 5 thousand Jehovah's Witnesses were murdered systematically by the people of the Third Reich. I couldn't get a number on the trade-unionists, left-wing and right-wing groups that opposed Hitler, or those who were unlucky enough to be be mistaken for one of the above groups. Even if you belong to none of these groups, and have not a single person whom you love who belongs to one of these groups, you can still feel the chill of horror at the awfulness of this crime.

There is no consensus among Jews on how to remember this atrocity, only a consensus that it must be remembered for all time. The ultra-Orthodox believe that it is wrong to create a new memorial day, because the ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of Solomon's Temple, also the anniversary of the destruction of the Second Temple, also the anniversary of the Bar Kochba revolt, the razing of Jerusalem by the Romans, the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, and the mass deportation to Auschwitz of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, should also be the day we remember the Holocaust. They believe that modern rabbis do not have the power to create new days of religious observance.

Europeans and the UN choose January 27th, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I was unable to learn why the Israeli Knesset chose 27 Nissan (today) for the day. It was originally going to be 14 Nissan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943, but that is too close to Passover, so it was moved forward 13 days.

In a small concentration camp in Lower Saxony, a group of Freemasons who were prisoners there formed a lodge, Loge Liberté chérie, in the camp. Worshipful Brother Paul Hanson, the Master, established a lodge room in Hut #6 using an empty ammunition box as the Altar. A Catholic priest who was not a mason tyled the lodge. Most of the brothers died before liberation, but two brothers survived, Fernand Erauw, who was initiated, passed and raised there, and (later Right Worshipful) Luc Somerhausen. The two later found each other at Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and never were separated until the end of their captivity. In the spring of 1945, they were Death Marched together away from the Allied liberating army, and by the time they landed in hospital in Brussels, Brother Erauw, who was over six feet tall, weighed less than 71 pounds. In August of 1945. Brother Somerhausen sent a report to the Grand Orient of Belgium, detailing the lodge records of Loge Liberté chérie to the best of his memory. Right Worshipful Brother Somerhausen died in 1982. Brother Erauw died in 1997, the last survivor of Loge Liberté chérie.

As a mason, I thought I would point out that the masonic symbol of remembrance of the Holocaust is the forget-me-not. A German pin manufacturer who made masonic emblems also made the forget-me-not pin for a group within the SS which disbanded in 1934. The factory continued to make the pins, so German masons began buying them and using them as a secret symbol of membership in the Craft. As lodges across Germany were raided, their records and valuables confiscated, and their brothers imprisoned and murdered, German Brothers continued to shine the light of masonry in secret using these forget-me-not pins. Another story suggests that the forget-me-not was a common symbol of many charities in Germany. In any case, when the Grand Lodge of the Sun, in Bayreuth, was opened again in 1947, the forget-me-not pin was officially adopted as a symbol of masonic remembrance of the Holocaust.


  1. I just wanted to let you know I am big fan of your blog. Wish you had an email address I could write to.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Eric. If you want to email me, point your browser at the following link:

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