The Story Behind Forget Me Not Emblem!

In the years between World War 1 and World War 2 The blue Forget Me Not Emblem (Das Vergissmeinnicht) 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, contributed to Hitler’s accession to power. 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 early 1934, it became evident that Freemasonry was in danger.  In that same year, the Grand Lodge of the Sun (one of the pre-war German Grand Lodges, located in Bayreuth) realising 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 while lessening the risk of possible recognition in public by the Nazis, who were engaged in wholesale confiscation of all Masonic Lodge properties. Freemasonry went undercover, and this delicate flower assumed its role as a symbol of Masonry surviving throughout the reign of darkness.

In 1936 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 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.

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 in public (although even then it was not always safe to wear any non-Nazi pin), and in cities and concentration camps throughout Europe. 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 Lodges Of Germany AF&AM (VGLvD), 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.

But is the story True?

Information about the Masonic tradition surrounding the blue forget me not amounts to very little. It is true that the flower was used by some German Masons about 1926, and it appears likely that in March 1938 some of them did wear it again as a Nazi badge, even though by an extraordinary coincidence, it had been chosen as a Masonic emblem twelve years earlier. It is likely not true that it was ever worn after March 1938 as a secret mean of recognition.

However, even if many German Masons (together with the great majority of German citizens of that time) never objected to the Nazi politics and went so far as to support Hitler, some were brave enough to fight him openly.

Based on the membership of all the then existing German Lodges, it is likely that around 1 or 2%. Out of the 174 Lodges which participated in the creation of the first United Grand Lodge of Germany, five only belonged to the Symbolical Grand Lodge of 1930, the only German Grand Lodge which resisted Hitler.

For human and political reasons as well, those Masons who thought it their duty to rebuild German Freemasonry once the War was over could hardly tell the whole truth to their foreign brethren. I personally believe they might have told the story of those dark years in a different way, but I am ready to admit that it is probably easier to say so in 2009 than it was in the 1950s.

Accordingly a legend was born. Not the legend of the forget-me-not, but that of a German Freemasonry too weak to resist, banned as soon as Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, wearing a badge on the streets and – of all things ! – in concentration camps. That legend was likely born as the result of an unconscious effort to inhibit the past as well as a conscious manoeuvre. It was believed not only because it was the logical thing to do, but also because it was reassuring to imagine Freemasons acting according to their ideals, fighting for freedom and defending it.

Lets keep it at that and let us admit to the Masonic Brotherhood of the blue Forget Me Not  and 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.

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.

8 thoughts on “The Story Behind Forget Me Not Emblem!

  1. Hi Brother, very interesting the lecture. I also do believe that much of the German Brothers were fore the Nat.Soc.Party. If you study history,it seems to be true. Plse. do comment thise fact by proves.
    Br:. Regards from the Netherlands, Mason.

  2. Worth bearing in mind, perhaps, that the story of Templars receiving sanctuary from Robert the Bruce and then fighting at Bannockburn was invented by James Burnes in the 1860s. There is no evidence to suppot the story – absolutely none. It is true that you cannot prove a negative, but a victorian romantic assertion with no supporting evidence is hardly a decent basis for assuming that the templar tale has any merit.

  3. I just purchased my 1st Forget-Me-Not pin at the GRAND LODGE of PENNSYLVANIA. It came with a little card that explained the tradition. Given it’s representation of charity to all, I think it plausable that the badge could have been worn without repercussion. Maybe not 100% of the time, but, the symbolism of our distress signs may have extended across the party lines. Protecting some.

  4. AS a Sir Knight I have a different opinion as to why there was no documented proof. How could you hide the vast treasure that escaped the King and His Pope if youlet anyone know exactly who you were? Local fireside tales tell of Knights in White garb coming from out of no where to help them to defend themselves. Then disappearing just as quickly! Norse tales are interesting too!!

  5. I have spent time reading and searching for more info behind Forget Me Not.

    “Alaska’s official State flower & floral emblem was a popular representative of the Alaska Territory years before Alaska entered the Union.

    The story starts almost 100 years ago at around the turn of the century and shortly after the population boom caused by the discovery of gold in Alaska and the Klondike gold rush.”

    In 1959, when Alaska was granted entry to the Union, the forget-me-not was adopted as the official State flower and floral emblem of the 49th state”.

    However, it’s can not be denied that your lecture is very informative and helpful.

  6. Writing as an observer looking in from out, It is clear that the brethren in Nazi occupied Germany were cautious for their lifes (Let us not forget that Germany was the first country the Nazi’s Invaded).

    That said it may be safe to assume that the ‘forget me not’ was adopted as a sign to brethren on both sides of the political divide to show cahrity to each other across the gulf of hatred which was created by the Nazi Ideaology. I’ve spent time studying the modes of the organization and one thing is made clear ‘Politics is not disscussed at the lodge’ therefore it may have been impossible to persuade brethren who fell under the banner of the Nazi government at meetings to change their political orientations (The hatred and campaign of terror of the Nazi’s was initiated as a political movement).

    The real significance of the forget me not flower in my opinion is that it is one of the few times that the organizaion allowed itself to be influenced by politics, it is one of the few times that the organization (ever so subtly) tried to influence the political views and agendas of brethren. By wearing the forget me not sign, members could remeber to measure all actions against charity, morality and humanity.

    Again this is my opinion as an outsiders looking in from out.

  7. I have to say! As a Veteran, ive made it my job to help those Veteran or not who need assistance. It was awesome one of my brothers shared this article and it just goes to show, great things dont die…

  8. this was every enlightment to me,because a lot of older brethern didn”t know about this .TRAVEL LITE GOD BLESS
    Your bro

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