I wanted to use this Lodge Bulletin to enter into the record the Masonic Education piece I did at the August Stated on the Forget-Me-Not flower and its importance to Masonry.
The Forget-Me-Not is the colloquial term for the genus of flowers called Myosotis (Greek for “Mouse’s Ear”). There are actually 74 accepted species who all get the name Forget-Me-Not, and share very similar characteristics: about 1 centimeter (cm) in width, having a yellowish center, and 5 petals (usually in the colors of pinks, blues, and whites).
The mythology around the flower began in Germany, where the story is told that God named all the plants and a tiny unnamed flower cried out, "Forget-me-not, O Lord!" God replied, "That shall be your name!” The importance of the flower continued, and in 15th Century Germany, men and women tended to wear them as to not be forgotten by their lovers.
The English use of the Forget-Me-Not name came from England’s King Henry IV, who adopted the flower as his symbol while in exile around 1398. When he returned to England shortly after, he directly translated the German name “Das Vergissmeinnicht.”
The role of the flower in Masonry began in 1926 when the Grand Lodge of Zur Sonne in Bremen, Germany chose the emblem to remind Masons of the “Poor and Destitute” and not to forget their Obligation, specifically to those groups.
Unfortunately, with the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in early 1930’s; Masons became a political target for the new regime. One of the first edicts put out by Adolf Hitler was to have the Nazi control all manners of education within Germany, and the second, to make Masonic membership a crime against the State. Hitler saw the allegory and symbolism of Masonic history as counter to the “actual” German Aryan history, and in league with the “Jewish Conspiracy.”
Masons aware of this threat to themselves and the Craft, decided to cease using the publicly known Square and Compass, and instead used the Forget-Me-Not as a signal to other Brothers.
While the Masons were able to keep the secret of the Forget-Me-Not emblem throughout the war, the relentless attacks by the Nazis could not be held off forever.
Sadly, shortly after, Adolf Eichmann, who would go on to later orchestrate the horrible “Final Solution,” raided the Grand Lodge of Germany and was able to acquire records (including names and addresses) of the most of the 85,000 Masons in Germany at the time. His orders were to eliminate these ‘Enemies of the State’ which he did with terrifying results. It is estimated that only about 5000 Masons managed to go into hiding with Lodge documents and associated paraphernalia. Many of the others would be executed immediately, charged in shame State courts, or sent to Concentration Camps.
Masons within Nazi capture regions throughout Europe during World War II were found similarly to be political undesirables and enemies of the State. Those sent to Concentration Camps were given an inverted Red Triangle, the same symbol shared by political prisoners: social democrats, socialists, trade unionists, communists, and anarchists.
The total number of Masons killed by the Nazi regime is unknown, but many have put the value between 100,000 to 200,000.
Ironically, the factory used to make Masonic Forget-Me-Not pins in the 1920’s and early 1930’s was requisitioned by the Nazis in 1938 to make Forget-Me-Not pins for the new Nazi Charity Organization. This organization was meant to force average Germans to pay for the State’s social programs (pensions and insurance) so that money could be used instead for weapons and rearmament projects.
The Masonic use of the flower would continue throughout the war, with Masons in hiding, and those in the Camps wearing them to show their true dedication to the Craft. Actually, the Nazi’s use of the flower for their own devices, actually gave Masons some ability to be covertly public.
In 1947, as Germany begun to come out of the darkness of Nazi control and the defeat by the Allied Powers; the Grand Lodge of the Sun chose the Forget-Me-Not as a memorial to those Masons who had lost there lives, and those also who had lived through the darkness. The Light of Masonry in Germany was to be rekindled.
In 1948, the newly reformed first Convent of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, would proclaim the flower as a remembrance for all Masons who had died during World War II.