Province of Guernsey & Alderney return book looted by German occupiers in 1941 back to Jersey

Friday, 24 May 2019

A looted book has been returned to its rightful owners after more than 70 years of searching

In January 1941, the four Masonic temples in the Channel Islands were ransacked by the Germans. The contents were loaded on to a ship called the SS Holland and taken to Granville, France. Most of the items were lost forever – some were exhibited in Berlin – but three cases were intercepted and captured by the French resistance in the area. Three members of that group were French Freemasons of Lodge Perservance No. 27, working English ritual.

From the items they recovered they realised that the cases were from the Channel Islands and kept them safe for the rest of the war. Through connections with Guernsey, arrangements were made to return the items to Guernsey Freemasons.

'We were missing one of the many books that were returned in the case, so assumed it was ours', explained Simon Hamon, President of the Guernsey and Alderney Library and Museum Committee. 'Everything else we sent across to Jersey'.

When Michael Beacham, historian and researcher for Guernsey and Alderney Museum, was studying the books, he recognised a Jersey book plate inside one of them. ‘If we had just opened it when it was returned to us and hadn't just put it straight into storage, we would have known that it belonged to Jersey,' said Michael.

The book, Kennings Masonic Encyclopaedia from about 1850, was formally returned  to the Province of Jersey, where it was accepted by their Museum and Library Curator Geoff Morris in Guernsey. 'This really goes to show that items that were looted are still out there,' he said.

Simon Hamon said that Guernsey were delighted to be able to return the book to its correct home. 'It's unbelievable that it has taken us nearly 74 years – to figure out that it belongs to Jersey – when the book plate was in there the whole time. The books are so fragile we don't like to open them too much.’

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