Why are so many police officers Freemasons?
The Masonic Connection: Grand Master of Scandals
The stone cube hangs inconspicuously over the dark brown gate with the three knobs. The discreet notices in Rauhensteingasse 3 in Vienna are only recognized by the initiated. Vis-à-vis the "Bookstore for Secret Knowledge - Zum Rauen Stein" and only three minutes away from St. Stephen's Cathedral is the entrance to a hidden world full of mystical symbols and ancient rituals. The “Grand Lodge of Austria of the old, free and accepted masons” resides where men in blue aprons and white gloves regularly shake hands with each other.
There has been a huge crash in the vault of the Vienna Lodge House for a few months. Two lodge brothers in particular are responsible for this: Peter Hochegger and Rudolf Fischer. The lobbyist and the Telekom board, along with other confreres, are involved in the country's biggest affairs, including the business crime thriller Hypo Alpe Adria and the building drama at the airport Skylink. Everything together suddenly made the discreet men's association interesting for the police, the judiciary and the corruption investigation committee.
Hochegger & Fischer: Grand Masters of Scandals
While their confreres paid homage to the “Great Builder of All Worlds” (vulgo: God) on the third floor of the Vienna Temple, they turned the Masonic ideals of truth, tolerance and brotherhood upside down in the club rooms one floor below. They practiced what the British code of honor from the year 1723 ("old duties") strictly forbids: namely the evil business masonry, the cultivation of relationships out of personal pursuit of profit.
"These corruption cases are a burden for us," says Grand Master Nikolaus Schwärzler and looks worriedly out of the window on the first floor of his corner office in Rauhensteingasse. “I expect that our image will suffer badly.” Why? In the secret boxes with names like “Concordia”, “Equality” or “Future”, Hochegger and Fischer worked on a wide network of favoritism and corruption. The unwholesome structure served not only former top politicians, from Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach to Infrastructure Minister Mathias Reichhold to Interior Minister Ernst Strasser, but also selected lodge brothers. Previously unknown bills and police reports kept under lock and key, which FORMAT was allowed to inspect, fuel this suspicion.
3,200 members in 74 lodges
The Hochegger affair is taken very seriously in the Council of Officials, chaired by Grand Master Schwärzler. After all, it's about the well-being of around 3,200 members who are organized in 74 boxes nationwide - and have nothing to do with the Malversations at Telekom and Co.
But that doesn't change the fact that some masters appear on the radar of corruption investigators. Because during Hochegger raids in autumn 2009, hard drives, servers and USB sticks were confiscated, which give insight into Hochegger's box work. In countless Word and Excel files, prominent personalities from the media, business and politics who are fraternally linked to Hochegger are listed. Electronic recordings provide information about participants in so-called “covered” meetings in the Steffl or in the Haas-Haus. “Cover” in Mason Latin means the certainty that only Freemasons are present - otherwise it “rains”.
The secret alliance has historical roots and primarily served to protect life and limb. The Freemasons, inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment, were persecuted over the centuries by established rulers, crazy nationalists and the papacy, who feared a loss of power. In recent history, the National Socialists in particular hunted them down. For the Nazis, the Freemasons, as pioneers of a democratic-tolerant society, were the ideal enemy.
The world conspiracy
But the previously justified secrecy also has its downsides: It is the ideal breeding ground for conspiracy theories. The coded language, the numerous abbreviations and codes make the picture perfect. In the book "The Freemasons", the former Grand Master Michael Kraus does away with recurring stereotypes such as the "Freemason World Conspiracy".
Masonic ideals: humanity, tolerance, brotherhood
"The basic ideas of the Freemasons, ideals such as humanity, tolerance, cosmopolitan orientation and brotherhood, are reinterpreted and used for defamation," writes Kraus. “From an anti-liberal, anti-enlightenment, anti-democratic, nationalist or fundamentally religious attitude, a conspiracy theory is used as a means of socio-political debate.” Postscript: “The uncritical belief in conspiracy theories (correlates) to a large extent with low standards of education and intelligence. Strangely enough, particularly suspicious people are often particularly gullible. "
Conspiracy theory or not: The guise of secrecy suits business masons perfectly. “I am a member of the Grand Lodge Vienna 'Future'. Since 1999, ”said Hochegger in the anti-corruption committee. "Since 2009 I have been on leave due to the Buwog incident." As a reminder: At that time, FORMAT uncovered the Buwog affair involving Hochegger, Walter Meischberger and Karl-Heinz Grasser.
A leave of absence, Grand Master Schwärzler speaks of suspension, is not yet an exclusion. In contrast to Wolfgang Kulterer, who flew out of the box after many years as a master craftsman in the wake of the Hypo scandal, neither Hochegger nor fishermen were chased out of the “Temple of Salomonis”. Outright violations of Masonic ideals are apparently still accepted as a trivial offense. This also applies to incompetence, as the scandal at Schwechat Airport shows. In addition to the criminal law component that is being examined against ex-airport boss Herbert Kaufmann, the multi-billion dollar construction scandal at the Skylink is a moral picture for the failure of the control organs. Spicy: Even today, a third of the airport's supervisory board consists of regular visitors to Rauhensteingasse.
Kaufmann's dirt bucket campaign
“There is nothing defamatory about the Freemasons,” emphasizes Herbert Kaufmann, who denies membership of a lodge. Nevertheless, he made Hochegger happy with questionable consulting assignments. As a reminder: the airport paid the PR consultant one million euros, both directly and indirectly. For the merchant close to the SP, this competitor spied on dirt bucket campaigns, such as against the Indian airport dealer Rakesh Sardana or against the Lower Austrian ÖVP, which is an airport shareholder. The Korneuburg public prosecutor's office and the State Criminal Police Office are investigating the case. Similar to the Buwog investigations against Hochegger and the Telekom investigations against Fischer, the Skylink police examination will also take a while.
The slow pace of investigation feeds another popular conspiracy theory: the police and judiciary are controlled by Freemasons. The most prominent conspiracy theorist is Walter Meischberger, who with Hochegger collected around ten million euros in illegal Buwog commission. In his diary found in a raid in early 2010, "Meischi" writes that Hochegger "plays unfair games (and) uses his Freemason friends" who have promised him to get rid of all the troubles. The Freemasons are to blame for the fact that all of Austria conspired against him and his bosom friend KHG.
Spy state & "Propaganda Due"
The game of hide and seek with the authorities will soon be a thing of the past. The new Security Police Act allows the surveillance of people, cell phones and computers as part of the "extended risk research". If public security is in danger for “ideological or religious reasons”, then sniffing can be carried out without a judicial decision. The protection of the constitution would then not only be able to observe the Viennese lodge house, but also Rosenau Castle. The magnificent Waldviertel building not only houses a Masonic Museum, but is also popular as a “covered” meeting point.
A look at Italy proves that secrecy is not good. Probably the most spectacular Freemason scandal in recent history occurred around the secret box "P2". As a reminder: at the beginning of the 1980s, the Milan Public Prosecutor's Office came across links to "Propaganda Due" during corruption and terror investigations.
During a raid on the villa of "P2" Grand Master Licio Gelli, a list of more than 1,000 names of industrialists, media managers, military officers and politicians who belonged to "P2" - and who were systematically anti-democratic - was discovered. The exposure shook Italy to its foundations and led to the collapse of the ruling party system.
It cannot be ruled out that a similar scenario threatens in Austria as in Italy. When the temple in Rauhensteingasse sinks into the Telekom swamp of Hochegger and Fischer, then the Alpine republic will have its first real Freemason scandal.
Florian Horcicka, Ashwien Sankholkar
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