Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

A stroke of luck for the clover leaves – Aschersleben Museum returns cultural assets

Date 2022.04.07

As­ch­er­sleben Mu­nic­i­pal Mu­se­um is to resti­tute sev­en­teen ob­jects to the lo­cal Ma­son­ic lodge Zu den drei Klee­blät­tern on 13 April 2022, this year’s Prove­nance Re­search Day. The mu­se­um has been housed at the lodge premis­es since 1955 and con­tains 109 Ma­son­ic ob­jects. The prove­nance of the ob­jects was in­ves­ti­gat­ed as part of a re­search project fund­ed by the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion.

The As­ch­er­sleben mu­se­um is home to the on­ly Ma­son­ic tem­ple be­long­ing to an ac­tive lodge in Ger­many that is open to the pub­lic. The build­ing on the mar­ket square was the seat of the lodge from 1798 to 1935. Af­ter the lodge was banned and liq­ui­dat­ed by the Nazi regime, the prop­er­ty passed in­to the hands of the mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties. The mu­se­um has been housed in the build­ing since 1955. In 1992, the house was re­stored to the Grand Land­lodge of the Freema­sons of Ger­many as the suc­ces­sor or­ga­ni­za­tion, and in 1993 the St. John’s Lodge – known as Zu den drei Klee­blät­tern (‘To the three clover leaves’) – was re­ac­ti­vat­ed. Since then, the lodge and the mu­se­um have shared the build­ing. The ex­hi­bi­tion there pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about the his­to­ry of the lodge and fea­tures some 50 Freema­son­ry ex­hibits. The mu­se­um al­so holds sev­er­al items with a Ma­son­ic con­nec­tion. Due to the ban im­posed on Freema­son­ry in Nazi Ger­many in 1935 and the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of the lodges, mu­se­um-owned Ma­son­ic ob­jects are sus­pect­ed of be­ing Nazi-loot­ed prop­er­ty. For this rea­son, As­ch­er­sleben Lodge Mas­ter Hans-Mar­tin Kohlmann sub­mit­ted an “ap­pli­ca­tion for the re­turn of lodge prop­er­ty” to the mu­se­um in 2019.

In a six-month re­search project fund­ed by the Foun­da­tion, art his­to­ri­an Chris­tiane Grath­wohl-Schef­fel ex­am­ined all items with a Ma­son­ic con­nec­tion at the mu­se­um – in­clud­ing cloth­ing, books and rit­u­al ob­jects – and al­so in­ves­ti­gat­ed the forced dis­so­lu­tion of the Ma­son­ic Lodge as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion. She al­so iden­ti­fied pre­vi­ous own­ers, looked in­to why they part­ed with the ob­jects, and re­con­struct­ed how these items found their way in­to the mu­nic­i­pal mu­se­um. It turns out that 48 ob­jects came in­to the pos­ses­sion of the mu­se­um from 1980 on­wards – most af­ter 1990 – as a re­sult of do­na­tions and pur­chas­es by de­scen­dants of Freema­sons ac­tive be­tween 1900 and 1935. The mu­se­um be­came the point of con­tact for such be­quests.

The dis­cov­ery of four or­na­men­tal façade stones in the shape of a three-leaf clover was par­tic­u­lar­ly spec­tac­u­lar: they were found hid­den be­hind the jamb wall in the at­tic of the mu­se­um in the course of the re­search pro­cess. A sim­i­lar stuc­co was pre­vi­ous­ly re­cov­ered from the at­tic in the 1990s, as were two canon glass­es dis­cov­ered by mu­se­um staff in the 1950s. It was al­so pos­si­ble to re­trace vir­tu­al­ly the en­tire his­to­ry of the lodge’s liq­ui­da­tion. The archived in­ven­to­ry list drawn up by the “Gestapo”, which was re­spon­si­ble for con­fis­cat­ing the As­ch­er­sleben lodge prop­er­ty in 1935, lists 340 items. These have not been found to date.

As a re­sult of the prove­nance re­search, an agree­ment was ul­ti­mate­ly reached with the Lodge Mas­ter on the resti­tu­tion of 17 ob­jects. In ad­di­tion to the five façade or­na­ments and the two can­non glass­es, the han­dover in­cludes sev­er­al books and a lodge badge. Two oth­er own­ers were al­so iden­ti­fied: three books with own­er­ship ref­er­ences to the two liq­ui­dat­ed Eisleben lodges are to be resti­tut­ed to the re-es­tab­lished lodge Zum auf­blühen­den Baum in Eisleben. The hand­writ­ten Kat­a­log der Medaillen- und Bi­joux-Samm­lung der Großen Lan­desloge d. Frm. Von Deutsch­land. Schlicht­ing 31.12.50 (‘Cat­a­logue of the Medal and Bi­joux Col­lec­tion of the Grand Land­lodge of the Freema­sons of Ger­many. Schlicht­ing 31.12.50’) does not date from the Nazi pe­ri­od and will go to the Lodge Mu­se­um in St. Michaelis­donn, which holds the col­lec­tion in ques­tion.

The resti­tu­tion will take place on 13 April 2022 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Lodge Tem­ple in the pres­ence of Lodge Mas­ter Hans-Mar­tin Kohlmann and the Sec­re­tary of State for Cul­ture Dr. Se­bas­tian Putz. The han­dover is open to the pub­lic. Any­one in­ter­est­ed in at­tend­ing is asked to reg­is­ter with the mu­se­um by 12.04.2022.

* Restitution Aschersleben Four of these ornamental façade stones were found in the attic of the museum during the research process. Source:  Aschersleber Kulturanstalt