Liberté Chérie: A Lodge of Hope

Written by Matthew D. Edson.


Freemasonry has long been held in contempt by autocratic dictators, for reasons ranging from the moral values of its members to the lack of control these dictators were able to exercise over members of the various Masonic Grand Lodges.


Fascist leaders, especially, hold the order in particular disregard. With early prominent members of the Nazi Party playing an important role in the creation and distribution of anti-Masonic propaganda, with Erich Ludendorff releasing Vernichtung der Freimaurerei durch Enthüllung ihrer Geheimnisse (Exterminating Freemasonry by Revealing its Secrets), within which, he refers to Masons as ‘artificial Jews’, condemning the open and accepting nature of the organisation for it’s support of Jewish emancipation, in 1927. With Adolf Hitler sharing these views, writing as such in Mein Kampf.


Hitler and his Inner Circle believed that there was a Jeudo-Masonic Conspiracy which strove to take over of the world and destroy ‘German Ideals’. Therefore, when the Enabling Act was passed in 1933, the Humanitarian Lodges (which accepted both Jewish men and atheists) closed voluntarily; in order to protect their members from the SA. There were however, attempts by the Prussian Grand Lodges (who had only Protestant membership) to continue. Despite their best attempts to gain the support of Herman Georing these Grand Lodges too were forced to cease all activity in May 1935.

The text reads: "World politics World revolution." The text at the bottom reads, "Freemasonry is an international organization beholden to Jewry with the political goal of establishing Jewish domination through world-wide revolution." The map, decorated with Masonic symbols (temple, square, and apron), shows where revolutions took place in Europe from the French Revolution in 1789 through the German Revolution in 1919.

Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Judeo-Masonic_Conspiracy.jpg.



The persecution of Masonic members intensified during the invasion of Belgium, where a story of immense bravery and resistance, takes place.


This is a story of hope, brotherhood and resistance, the story of the only lodge to initiate new members and the only lodge to meet right under the very noses of the SS, in the heart of a Nazi Concentration Camp, Lodge Liberté Chérie. Cherished Liberty Lodge.

The Lodge was formed by seven Belgian Masons, who through different (and mostly unknown) circumstances found themselves imprisoned in Emslander VII (Esterwergen), with the actual founding of the Lodge happening in Hut 6 on the 15th November 1943. The original founding members where, Franz Rochat, Paul Hanson, Luc Somerhausen, Jean Sugg, Amédée Mialotte, and Guy Hannecart; with Hanson becoming the first Master. The prisoners were kept in terrible conditions, with the average man losing around four kilograms of weight per month. If SS forces had discovered this formation of a Masonic Lodge, the repercussions would have led to unimaginable horrors. Despite this, the brethren of Liberté Chérie continued undaunted by the dangers that their love of the Craft entailed.


https://www.facebook.com/BelfastMasonic/photos/a.720021191504729/977683392405173/?type=3&theater. CR: A Belfast Freemason via. Facebook



Their meetings took place within Esterwergens Hut 6, with a Roman Catholic Priest acting as a look out for the Lodge's members (in a showing of support that one would rarely expect from an organisation that holds such anti-Masonic views) . Other priests were also willing to make any meeting appear to be prayer meeting if the guards were to have discovered the group.

Memorial of the Nazi concentration camp Esterwegen for the Masonic Lodge Liberté chérie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libert%C3%A9_ch%C3%A9rie#/media/File:Libert%C3%A9_ch%C3%A9rie2.jpg.


With the help of these priests, the Lodge was able to Initiate, Pass and Raise Brother Fernand Erauw. With Somerhausen later writing that the ceremony was simple; “taking place at one of the tables….after a highly simplified ritual – whose individual components were, however, explained to the initiate; that from now on could allow him to participate in the working of the Lodge”.


After the Initiation of Erauw, the meetings became more thematic, discussing (among other things) the future of Belgium and the position of women within Freemasonry. However, by early 1944, the Lodge was broken up by the splitting up of all the members, only two of whom would ever meet again.

Hanson died during an air raid on his prison in Essen on the 26th March 1944, with the other members being murdered by the Nazis in the months leading up to the end of the war in Europe. Except for Luc Somerhausan and Fernand Erauw, who, upon being reunited in Sachenhausen became inseparable, both crediting their brotherhood with saving their lives.

In 1945, Somerhausan committed the story of Liberté Chérie to paper, sending the history to the Grand Orient of Belgium, before passing away, peacefully in 1982 at the age of 79. The last surviving member of the Lodge, Fernand Erauw, passed away at the age of 83 in 1997.


On the 13th November 2004, a monument was erected at the location of this unique Lodge, being payed for by a selection of Masons from both Belgium and Germany. At it’s dedication, the Grand Master of Belgium, Wim Rutten, stated “We are gathered here today on this Cemetery in Esterwegen, not to mourn, but to express free thoughts in public." - "In memory of our brothers; human rights should never be forgotten.”



Memorial of the Nazi concentration camp Esterwegen for the Masonic Lodge Liberté chérie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libert%C3%A9_ch%C3%A9rie#/media/File:Libert%C3%A9_ch%C3%A9rie2.jpg.


Written by Matthew D. Edson.


Matthew D. Edson is a student of Military History at the University of Kent. Alongside the prerequisite interest in his chosen subject, beer, partying, and other aspects of the student lifestyle; he has a firm interest in both Masonic and Scouting history, having written on both.

Away from the world of academics and writing Edson is a keen Living Historian of the Napoleonic period. However, he is most often found ‘playing the game’ as a Cub Scout Leader and member of Scout Active Support.


He is also an active Freemason.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the InFocus History website or its editors.

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