The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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28 September 1933

Certificate confirming Siegmund Baruch‘s membership of the "Zur Bruderkette" Freemason lodge

National Socialists had a particularly hostile relationship with the Freemason movement from the start. The five Masonic principles—tolerance, freedom, equality, fraternity and humanity—were diametrically opposed to the ethnic, nationalist, racist and totalitarian ideology of the Nazis. Furthermore, a cornerstone of Nazi ideology was the idea of a Jewish-Masonic world conspiracy, propagated in the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion (first published in German in 1920). This antisemitic pamphlet had a major influence on the worldview of Adolf Hitler and leading members of the Nazi Party.

Persecution of the Freemasons began immediately after Hitler took power and many Freemason lodges disbanded to escape it. Among them was the "Zur Bruderkette" lodge in Hamburg, which closed its doors on 18 April 1933. Founded in 1847 and made up primarily of businessmen, it had been open to Jews from its inception. It is no longer possible to determine what percentage of its members were Jewish, but the fact that the teacher Joseph Feiner headed the lodge as "Worshipful Master" from 1921 to 1926 shows that Jews held many important posts.

Siegmund Baruch (1884–1957), who received the certificate shown here, was another Jewish member who performed many important duties, serving alternately as librarian, archivist and speaker during his twenty-one years at the lodge. We can assume that he attended the last general meeting on 12 September, at which the members decided how the lodge's assets were to be distributed.

"Zur Bruderkette" was re-founded after the war in October 1945. It is unclear whether any attempt was made to contact the former Jewish members. The festschrift published in 1972 to commemorate the lodge‘s 125th anniversary remains silent on this point, mentioning only that very few members "survived the years of darkness."

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): associations | Hamburg | merchants
Certificate confirming Siegmund Baruch‘s membership in the "Zur Bruderkette" Freemason lodge, Hamburg, 28 September 1933
Gift of Lisa Baruch Eyck and Andrew Hans Eyck, descendents of Siegmund Baruch

To America

Siegmund Baruch was born in 1884 in the small town of Volkmarsen in the Prussian province of Hessia-Nassau. At age sixteen he emigrated to the USA and received American citizenship in April 1906. Two years later he returned to Europe for a short visit to his parents and siblings, but was offered a job managing a sawmill in Bukovina and chose not to return to the US. In 1912 he moved to Hamburg and established a box factory. His marriage to Helene Elias from Gudensberg followed in 1916 and three daughters were born.

In 1933, Siegmund Baruch was forced by National Socialist policies to take his children out of the Lichtwarkschule in Hamburg and he subsequently sent them to a school in Switzerland. Neither they nor his wife had American citizenship. The youngest daughter Lisa went from England to Switzerland in the mid 1930s, where, thanks to the connection of her father to the Quakers, she was able to secure work at the Quaker-owned Cadbury Chocolate Company. Her sister Ellen followed her to London, where she found work as a nurse.

Once he was sure that his family was safe, Siegmund Baruch himself went to Great Britain in 1938 and to New York in March of 1939. Lisa and Ellen arrived together in July 1940, after they had received US passports in London. Helene Baruch, who had gone to Switzerland in the late 1930s, followed with the eldest daughter Inge in January 1941 via Lisbon.

Too old and impoverished to reestablish his manufacturing business, Siegmund Baruch became a wholesaler of wooden boxes. He died in 1957 at the age of 73 in New York State.

Siegmund Baruch, around 1945–1950
Private collection of Andrew Hans Eyck