In this blog, we explore the history behind the forget-me-not, a symbol used in Freemasonry to teach a valuable and important lesson: the dedication and courage it takes to hold to Masonic principles, even in the face of grave danger.
From its beginning in 1933, Nazi Germany placed severe legal, political, and civic restrictions against institutions it saw as hostile to or inconsistent with its aims and ideals. Along with Jews, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those with mental and physical handicaps, Catholics, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons were likewise targeted for criminal prosecution and exclusion from society. The Enabling Act of 1933 dissolved all Masonic lodges in the Third Reich, confiscating all property and banning members from joining the Nazi Party. A year after, the Ministry of Defense ruled that soldiers, officers, and civilian personnel could not be members of Masonic organizations, and Hitler often linked antisemitism to conspiracy theories about Freemasonry. Some Freemasons were political prisoners in concentration camps and were forced to wear an inverted red triangle badge. The SS dedicated two separate offices towards pursuing Masonic organizations and Freemasons; this would continue into the war and into countries under German control such as France and Italy.
The most popular charges against Freemasonry by the Nazis were conspiratorial and antisemitic; they linked Masonic organizations to Communism, the international press, and the Jewish population. Nazis spread this information through Party newspapers, literature, in speeches, and through propaganda museum exhibits; for example, mock lodge displays were set up with skeletons in Masonic regalia alongside Jewish symbols.
In 1934, members of one of Germany’s pre-war Grand Lodges, Grand Lodge of the Sun, began wearing the blue forget-me-not instead of the square and compasses on their lapels as a secret mark of identity. The “forget-me-not” is the informal name for the Myosotis flower, known for being small and having blue or purple petals. Throughout this whole era, these flowers appeared on lapels across cities and even concentration camps, worn by brothers whose love for the craft remained strong, even through the worst times. In 1947, when the Grand Lodge of the Sun was reopened, a pin in the shape of a forget-me-not was adopted as an emblem of that first convention by those who survived the Nazi era. It then was also adopted as an official Masonic emblem honoring those brothers who dared to wear the flower openly, and also recognizes the contributions of Masonic educators.
Ultimately, Adolf Hitler was unsuccessful in eradicating Freemasonry in Germany and beyond. While temples were destroyed, property confiscated and burned, and Masons imprisoned and murdered, the mysteries of Freemasonry and the core principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth survived unimpaired in our brothers’ hearts. Masonic organizations promptly rebuilt following the Nazi era, and once again to thrive in the face of adversity and hardship.
Interested in learning more about common Masonic symbols? Read our blog on the Cornerstone.
What does the strength behind the symbol of the forget-me-not mean to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts; please find us on Facebook and Twitter at @GrandLodgeOhio.