by Jeff Stokes on 31/05/10 at 12:50 am
THE STORY BEHIND THIS BELOVED EMBLEM OF THE CRAFT IN GERMANY
This being Memorial Day I was thinking about our last great war, World War II and our Brothers who fought. I was also mulling about the atmosphere that existed for Freemasons in Europe during those years leading up to the conflict. Here is something that I think may enlighten some of you to a period in time, not so long ago when Freemasonry was forced to the shadows of secrecy, underground AGAIN, to once again reprise its’ ancient role and people’s lives were in relentless danger for being in the great Society. It was not so long ago…
In early 1934, soon after Hitler’s rise to power, it became evident that Freimaurerei, German for “Freemasonry” was in danger.
He issued two decree on the same day: all local control over schools, colleges and universities was at an end; all the educational processes in Germany would henceforth be controlled by the Nazi Party and centralized in Berlin. The other degree was to proscribe Freemasonry and make membership and/or activity in Freemasonry a crime. Thus members of the Fraternity were to be regarded in the same category of common criminals or traitors. Hitler had long viewed Freemasonry as a part of “the Jewish conspiracy” and he lost little time in trying to eradicate Freemasonry. German Masonic lodges went dark; the organized Craft was broken; the Working Tools were either seized by Storm Troopers or secreted before their arrival; the Great Lights were extinguished. Freemasonry, as an organization, was no more in Germany.
In that same year, the “Grand Lodge of the Sun” (one of the pre-war German Grand Lodges, located in Bayreuth) realizing the grave dangers involved, adopted the little blue Forget-Me-Not flower as a substitute for the traditional square and compasses. It was felt the flower would provide brethren with an outward means of identification – in public, in cities and in concentration camps throughout Europe – while lessening the risk of possible recognition in public by the Nazis, who were engaged in wholesale confiscation of all Masonic Lodge properties.
He never quite understood that though he could desecrate or destroy Masonic Temples and disperse Masonic gatherings and imprison Freemasons that he was unable to invade the Temple that is in man and which is invulnerable except to God.
Freemasonry went undercover, and this delicate flower assumed its role as a symbol of Masonry surviving throughout the reign of darkness.
At no time did the Nazis ever detect this or learn of its having a special significance. And so did Freemasonry survive this great holocaust.
During the ensuing decade of Nazi power a little blue Forget-Me-Not flower worn in a Brother’s lapel served as one method whereby brethren could identify each other . The Forget-Me-Not distinguished the lapels of countless brethren who staunchly refused to allow the symbolic Light of Masonry to be completely extinguished.
When the ‘Grand Lodge of the Sun’ was reopened in Bayreuth in 1947, by Past Grand Master Beyer, a little pin in the shape of a Forget-Me-Not was officially adopted as the emblem of that first annual convention of the brethren who had survived the bitter years of semi-darkness to rekindle the Masonic Light.
At the first Annual Convent of the new United Grand Lodge of Germany AF&AM (VGLvD), in 1948, the pin was adopted as an official Masonic emblem in honor of the thousands of valiant Brethren who carried on their masonic work under adverse conditions. The following year, each delegate to the Conference of Grand Masters in Washington, D.C., received one from Dr. Theodor Vogel, Grand Master of the VGLvD.
Thus did a simple flower blossom forth into a symbol of the fraternity, and become perhaps the most widely worn emblem among Freemasons in Germany; a pin presented ceremoniously to newly-made Masons in most of the Lodges of the American-Canadian Grand Lodge, AF&AM within the United Grand Lodges of Germany. In the years since adoption, its significance world-wide has been attested to by the tens of thousands of brethren who now display it with meaningful pride.
What follows is another view – written by a Brother Mason, not by me.
The origin of the information is an article in TAU 2/95 p.95f (the German Quatuor Coronati periodical), a “letter to the Editor” which appeared in TAU 1/96 in reply to that article, and additional research and conversations with old German Masons over the last few years.
In the years between WWI and WWII the blue forget-me-not was a standard symbol used by most charitable organizations in Germany, with a very clear meaning: “Do not forget the poor and the destitute”. It was first introduced in German Masonry in 1926, well before the Nazi era, at the annual Communication of the Grand Lodge “Zur Sonne”, in Bremen, where it was distributed to all the participants. That was a terrible time in Germany, economically speaking, further aggravated in 1929 following that year’s “Great Depression”. That economic situation, by the way, contributed a lot to Hitler’s accession to power. Very many people depended on charity, some of which was Masonic. Distributing the forget-me-not at the Grand Lodge Communication was meant to remind German Brethren of the charitable activities of the Grand Lodge.
In 1936 (Hitler was already in control since 1933) the “Winterhilfswerk” (a non- Masonic winter charity drive) held a collection and used and distributed the same symbol, again with its obvious charitable connotation. Some of the Masons who remembered the 1926 Communication –and the forget-me-not– possibly also wore it later as a sign of recognition. We have no evidence of that and its general signification still was charity, but not specifically Masonic charity. Moreover it rapidly became quite impossible to risk wearing anything but Nazi pins. So there were probably only a very few Brethren wearing the forget-me-not, and probably only for a brief time, until wearing any non-Nazi pins became suspect. There is absolutely no record of the pin, or the flower, ever having been worn during the war (that is after 1939), even less in concentration camps, as the legend also goes.
In 1948 Bro. Theodor Vogel, Master of the Lodge “Zum weißen Gold am Kornberg”, in Selb (then in Western-occupied Germany), remembered the 1926 and 1936 pin, had a few hundred made and started handing it out as a Masonic symbol wherever he went. When Brother Vogel was later elected GM of the Grand Lodge AFuAM of Germany and visited a Grand Masters’ conference in Washington, DC, he distributed it there too, and this was the way it first came to the USA.
Its sudden popularity caused many manufacturers, some Masonic, some not, to pounce upon the occasion and sell the pin all over the world, with a variety of rather contrived and imaginative notes of explanation. The pin is nowadays quite well-known, as are the legends written about its origin, purpose and use… Which does not deter after all from the new message it carries today, through its authors’ imagination if not through rigorous historical record…
Since we are discussing the history of our adopted flower, the forget-me-not, it is any of about 50-odd species of the genus Myosotis, family Boraginaceae, carrying clusters of blue flowers and native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America.