UNITED GRAND LODGES OF GERMANY
Freemasonry arrived in Germany from England, and probably France, in the first half of the eighteenth century. The first recorded lodge was one erected in Hamburg in 1737, in which the King of Prussia Frederick the Great was initiated. Several other lodges followed, all originally holding warrants from London. From 1750, and for some thirty years German Masonry spread under the influence of one Baron Von Hund. By the First World War there were no fewer than eight Grand Lodges in Germany, with three more being formed in 1930. These eleven Grand Lodges, with their locations and years of Foundations are as follows:
1. The Grand Mother Lodge of the Three World Globes, at Berlin (1740)
2. The Grand Lodge of Prussia. (1760)
3. The National Grand Lodge of German Freemasons, at Berlin (1770)
4. The Grand Lodge of Hamburg. (1743)
5. The Grand Lodge of the Sun, at Bayreuth (1741)
6. The Mother Grand Lodge of the Eclectic Union, at Frankfurt. (1742)
7. The National Grand Lodge of Saxony, at Dresden (1811)
8. The Grand Lodge ‘Concord’ at Darmstadt (1846)
9. The Grand Lodge ‘Chain of German Brotherhood’ at Leipzig (1924)
10. The Grand Lodge ‘Freimauererbund’ at Nuremberg, later at Hamburg(1907)
11. The Symbolic Grand Lodge at Hamburg, later at Berlin (1930)
The first three of the Grand Lodges, all based at Berlin, were called the Old Prussian Lodges. They generally enjoyed the protection of the Prussian Kings and admitted only men professing the Christian Faith. The Grand Lodges numbered four to nine, admitted men of any monotheistic faith and have been called the Humanitarian Lodges. All the first nine Grand Lodges recognized each other and enjoyed fraternal relations. The last two Grand Lodges were not recognized by the other nine, evidently because they did not conform to several of the ancient landmarks of the order. By 1930 there were an estimated 100,000 freemasons in Germany, indicating that Freemasonry was wider spread in that country than in any other Continental country at the time. The rise to power of the Nazis in 1933 saw this happy situation quickly reversed. By 1935, all lodges in Germany were dissolved and their property confiscated by the Nazi German Government. Thereupon, Freemasonry remained completely suppressed until the end of the Second World War in 1945. After the War, the Craft rapidly re-established itself in West Germany.
Freemasonry remained suppressed in East Germany under Soviet Rule until the reunification of Germany in 1989. In 1949 representatives of 151 German Lodges met at Frankfurt and founded the United Grand Lodge of German Freemasons.
However complete unity was still not achieved as former members of the old Grand Lodges which were working under the Swedish Rite system which presented them with governmental and ritualistic difficulties. However by protracted negotiations the United Grand Lodges of Germany were founded in 1958 with a membership of 264 Lodges of the Grand Lodge AF & AM along with 82 Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Order of Freemasons (FO) at that time. Particular attention should be paid to the word Lodges since the basis of the unity was a Magna Charta which passed sovereignty to the United Grand Lodges, but maintained the two forming bodies as Grand Lodges. There still remained outside the Union the original Grand Lodge of the Three World Globes, which had been resuscitated at West Berlin. This situation was rectified after the Union, when it joined the United Grand Lodges as a Fellow Member Grand Lodge. Meanwhile since the end of the Second World War a large number of English-speaking Lodges had been founded in Germany by stationed American, Canadian and British troops. These Lodges formed themselves into two Provincial Grand Lodges, namely the American Canadian Grand Lodge A.F.& A.M., and the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons whereupon they both affiliated with the United Grand Lodges. In 1970, the status of the three latterly joining Grand Lodges was changed under an amended Magna Charta. Each Grand Lodge with the exception of the Three World Globes, is represented by two members in a Senate governing body of the United Grand Lodges of Germany (VGLvD). The Three World Globes has one member which represents them. Thus German Masonry has an unique system of five largely independent Grand Lodges bonded together under the roof of the United Grand Lodges of Germany.
STRUCTURE OF FREEMASONRY
within the United Grandlodges of Germany (VGLvD)
The purpose of this paper is to describe the present structure of the VGLvD (acronym for: Vereinigte Grosslogen von Deutschland) as it exists today (2000).
Historically, German Freemasonry can trace its origins back to September 13, 1740, when the “Grosse National Mutterloge zu den drei Weltkugeln” (translation: Grand National Mother Lodge of the Three World Globes) was established as the first Grand Lodge in Germany, by Frederick The Great, who served as its first Grand Master. It still proudly exists today as part of the VGLvD.
The VGLvD can best be described as a federation of five grand lodges, united to form one sovereign Grand Body for Germany. This unification originally was designed to accomplish two basic goals; first, to facilitate the need to regain recognition for German Freemasonry after the debacle of World War II, second, to unite different Masonic ‘systems’ existing in Germany under one common roof. Prior to the war, there were a number of active Grand Lodges in Germany. After the war, the partition of Germany and the near-decimation of Masonic membership in Germany over the preceding decade resulted in efforts to consolidate the somewhat varying ‘systems’ existing within the remnants of Freemasonry in Germany.
A detailed discussion of these developments would be too lengthy for inclusion in this brief paper; suffice it to say that the VGLvD was formed, and the constituting Grand Lodges united under the terms of what is called the “Magna Charta” (pronounced Karta) of German Freemasonry. The Magna Charta, the ‘constitution’ of the VGLvD. can perhaps be more appropriately termed articles of confederation’.
The Magna Charta has been amended several times, and under its authority, laws and regulations for the government of the VGLvD have been adopted. Following is a listing of the five constituent or ‘partner’ Grand Lodges which comprise the VGLvD, shown in the order in which they became signatories to the Magna Charta of Freemasonry in Germany:
1. Grossloge A.F.u.A.M. von Deutschland 1958:
Sometimes referred to simply as “AFAM., and currently composed of between 8,500-9,000 members, this Grand Lodge was established through consolidation of surviving members of seven, pre-World War II Grand Lodges.
2. Grosse Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland 1958:
Sometimes referred to as “FO” (referring to Freimaurer Orden”) it should be more accurately abbreviated as VvD”. Currently composed of approximately 3,600 members, the FvD is part of a complete ‘system’ of Masonic degrees based on the so-called Swedish or Scandinavian Rite. Christian dogma is highly stressed within the FvD system, especially in its advanced degrees, which in some ways can be equated with the American York Rite system.
3. Grosse National-Mutterloge “Zu den drei Weltkugeln” 1958:
The oldest Grand Lodge in Germany, it is often referred to simply as “3WK”
(three world globes). Time, and the partition of Germany (we must remember its greatest strength was in Prussia.) have taken its toll, and current membership is currently at about 800 members. This Grand Lodge’s system also includes additional steps or degrees known as “Erkenntnisstufen” (Steps of Enlightenment).
4. Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany:
Often very simply referred to as “the Brits”, “BFG” this Grand Lodge is composed of approximately 1,200 members. Its membership is composed predominantly of British Forces personnel, with the result that more than half the total membership is not physically resident in Germany.
5. American Canadian Grand Lodge A.F.&A.M. 1970:
Generally referred to simply as “ACGL” this jurisdiction is composed of approximately 6,500 Master Masons (we mention MMs only because membership figures for each of the other German-speaking jurisdictions include Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts). Composed predominantly of members of the American and Canadian Forces or government personnel stationed in Germany, subject to constant turnover resulting from reassignments, most of its current membership is not physically resident in Germany.
In almost every other jurisdiction, reference to the Grand Lodge is always simply “the Grand Lodge”. Here in Germany, we almost always use the acronym or nickname - even for the VGLvD itself. This may be a natural result of the proliferation of Bodies, or simply the result of the German penchant for abbreviating everything, a habit which comes quite naturally to military and government personnel as well.
In 1995 Türkay Lodge # 995 was chartered by the VGLvD under the ACGL and consecrated in Frankfurt am Main. This Lodge usually works in the Turkish language.
The Magna Charta
Previously mentioned this document clearly states the constituent Grand Lodges are autonomous; they govern their own internal affairs. The Magna Charta also contains rules for electing a Grand Master and one Deputy Grand Master; regulations for the regular convening of a Communication (called ‘Konvent’ in German; a word akin to the English convention); and-various other rules for the government-of the VGLvD. There are no Grand Wardens in the VGLvD, but a Grand Treasurer and a Grand Secretary are part of the so called “Grossmeisteramt”
(Grand Master’s Bureau). The governing organ of the VGLvD is the ‘Senate’, composed of members elected or appointed by their respective Grand Lodges, based on a proportionate membership representation, and in the interest of continuity most are normally re-elected or appointed for successive terms. Several committees exist, which are appointed or confirmed by the Senate.
Since the VGLvD is recognized and acknowledged as the sovereign Grand Lodge in Germany, each constituent Grand Lodge enjoys recognition as the result of its membership in the VGLvD. Fraternal relations with other Grand Lodges, including any exchange of representatives, are strictly within the sphere of responsibility of the VGLvD. Generally, correspondence between Grand Lodges must be channeled through the VGLvD, except when this authority is delegated. A prime example of this delegation may be noted in the fact that the ACGL has conducted its vast correspondence direct to all other jurisdictions, as the VGLvD is neither administratively nor financially in a position to handle the administrative requirements of the ACGL.
While the five partner Grand Lodges are autonomous and govern their internal affairs without interference, specific restrictions are placed on their activities. As ‘subordinate’ Grand Lodges, those matters normally construed as the inherent right or responsibility of in the ‘sense of absolute responsibility and matters normally construed as the inherent right or responsibility a sovereign Grand Lodge (in the sense of absolute responsibility and authority for a territorial jurisdiction), they cannot individually pre-empt the prerogatives or rights of the VGLvD. As the VGLvD is the guarantor of recognition with all other Grand Lodges, it bears the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that all lodges working under its sovereign authority are regular.
In effect, a ‘federal’ or ‘collective’ voice exists for recognized Freemasonry in Germany, and as the result of this ‘partnership’ in the VGLvD. each partner is involved in the decision-making process in regard to those matters and laws affecting all Freemasons in Germany.
Needless to say, as in any federal system, efforts to effect better coordination among the partner Grand Lodges, as well as efforts to establish greater uniformity in respect of certain Masonic procedures are among the many subjects that constantly involve the Grand Master and the Senate. On-going attempts to define and regulate these and other important Masonic matters are undertaken at the regularly scheduled meetings of the Senate and the several Senate committees.
The Konvent is the regularly convened Communication of the United Grand
Lodges of Germany. As currently regulated, the Konvent is convened every three years for the purpose of electing a new Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master, who serve for a three-year period. Each Lodge is entitled to one vote at the Konvent, and that vote can only be exercised by the Master, one of the Wardens in succession, or by a proxy as specified in the regulations governing the Konvent.
Interim Konvents may be called at any time, but these would be more ceremonial in nature, with legislation normally not introduced except in emergency circumstances.
The Grand Master of the VGLvD, together with the Senate, determines when and where Konvents may be called in the intervening years. The triennial Konvent is normally held in the City of Berlin, the official domicile or seat of the VGLvD. As this is written, Most Worshipful Brother Prof. Alfred F. Koska of Berlin and Vienna, Austria is Grand Master of the VGLvD, having been elected in 1997. At the Konvent scheduled for October, 2000 his successor for the next three years is scheduled to be elected and installed.
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