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ÉTUDES MAÇONNIQUES - MASONIC PAPERS
by W.Bro. ALAIN BERNHEIM 33°
"THE BLUE FORGET-ME-NOT"
a paper that was published in The
Philalethes in February 1997, I contrasted the little-known courage of a
small minority of German Masons who opposed the Nazis publicly with the
until-recently-ignored cooperative attitude of the great majority of German
Freemasons and Grand Lodges toward the Hitler regime in the 1930s.
was outside the scope of that paper to mention that about 1946 leading German
Masons secretly agreed never to mention masonic events from the 1920-1935 period.
The first public Declaration of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, issued on 22
January 1949, gave a version of the past which had little in common with factual
It asserted that not one single German Mason had taken part in the Nazi crimes,
which may have been true. Nevertheless, in 1949, former members of the Nazi
party such as Wilhelm Lorenz (a member since 1 July 1936), Hermann Dörner (1
March 1937), Udo Sonanini (1 January 1938), Kurt Hendrikson (1 January 1941),
Herbert Kessler (1 May 1941) and Karl Hoede (with the personal authorization of
Hitler from 4 August 1942 since he was a Mason from 1920 to July 1933; Hoede’s
son married Theodor Vogel’s daughter) already were or became soon prominent
Masons under the new German republic. [ii]
February 1953, German Grand Master Theodor Vogel said before the Grand Master’s
Conference in Washington : ‘It will therefore be apparent to you all how
immensely difficult it was after fifteen years of ban and persecution to found
the Lodges again and build them up. It is to the credit of my good friend and
brother Ray Denslow, P.G.M., who, together with P.G.M. Dietz, visited Germany on
behalf of the Masonic Service Association in 1949, that he in his report
“After Fifteen Years” described this work with all its difficulties, its
troubles, its obstacles...’. [iii] With these words, he was
merely acknowledging the fact that his public relations operation had been a
1945 and in 1949, The Masonic Service Association had sent two delegations
headed by Bro. Ray V. Denslow, P.G.M. of Missouri, to Germany. Among the first
delegation was Judge (Bro.) George Edward Bushnell, then Grand
Lieutenant Commander of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of
the U.S.A. Bro. Martin Dietz, P.G.M. of New Jersey, who spoke German
fluently, belonged to the second one. The report signed by Denslow and Dietz
proves that American delegates received biased and incomplete information. It
did not mention once the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Germany or the Supreme Council
for Germany, both founded in 1930, the only German Masonic bodies which openly
resisted Hitler. Nor did it mention the declarations of Prussian Grand Lodges
which openly supported him in 1933 and 1934. It depicted an imaginary German
Freemasonry too weak to resist the Nazis and forcibly dissolved in 1933. That
information, which reflected the agreement to forget the past, mostly originated
in Theodor Vogel. Had the American delegates been fully informed of the attitude
of most German Masons in the 1930s, I presume that their report would have been
(1901-1977) was made a Mason in 1926, became Assistant Grand Master of the Grand
Lodge of the Sun (Bayreuth) in 1947 and its Grand Master one year later. He
certainly tried his best to unite the pre-war German Grand Lodges, partly
succeeded, and was elected at the head of the (first) United Grand Lodge (singular)
of Germany, 8 October 1948. His success was a partial one only, then the
National Grand Lodge (Grosse Landesloge)
declined to join Vogel’s United Grand Lodge and founded a Union of Christian
Grand Lodges of Germany of its own which was recognized by the Swedish Grand
Lodge in 1953.[iv]
contemporary relevant speeches and declarations, especially those made by the
German Christian Orders – as the three Prussian Grand Lodges chose to rename
– were kept secret for a long time. In a paper he read in June 1973 before Quatuor
Coronati Lodge in London, Ellic Howe was the first English-speaking Mason to
quote from their circular letters issued in 1933. He came to the following
conclusion : ‘The position in January
1934, a year after the Nazis came to power, was that the three German
Christian Orders had at least survived. In
spite of all their protestations of loyalty to the National Socialist regime and
its ideology they were tolerated but no more’.[vi]
The United Grand Lodge of England prevented the paper from being printed in AQC
86. A typewritten note at the head of
the distributed advance copies of Howe’s paper said : ‘The UGL of
England, for reasons best known to its “Rulers of the Craft” refused
publication to this article’. It appeared eventually in AQC
ALLEN E. ROBERTS’ LETTER AND THE
1996, I received a letter from Bro. Allen Roberts, announcing I had been elected
a member of the Masonic Brotherhood of the Blue Forget-Me-Not, and explaining:
‘This symbol was born in the face of Nazi persecution of Freemasonry under the
Hitler regime. Although the dictator ordered thousands of Freemasons murdered,
tortured and incarcerated, those who would not renounce the Craft and its
teachings continued to practice Freemasonry in secret. So they might know each
other, a little flower was selected as their emblem.’
with his letter, Bro. Roberts sent me a pamphlet of twelve unnumbered pages, The
Masonic Brotherhood of the Blue Forget-Me-Not. On page , a short text of
three paragraphs, possibly written by Roberts himself, began thus : ‘As
early as 1934, it became evident that Hitler and his Nazi dupes would endeavor
to eradicate Freemasonry. The Grossloge
zur Sonne (Grand Lodge of the Sun) needed a more subtle symbol than the
Square and Compasses to identify its Brethren. An unobtrusive little blue flower,
the forget-me-not, was chosen as its Masonic symbol.’ The second paragraph
quoted words by David C. Boyd from a paper issued in The
Philalethes in April 1987 which is mentioned below. Then followed the
prerequisites for becoming a member. Page  was devoted to a meeting of the
Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in the Province of Ontario in April 1973 and
to the Address on the little blue flower then made by a visitor named Gunter
Gall. Pages [5-6] explained who the Founders were, and stated ‘The first
awards were made on January 1, 1971’. The remaining pages contained the list
of ‘Members Awarded The Masonic
Brotherhood of the Blue Forget-Me-Not (Masonic Educators and Writers)
January 1, 1971 to January 1, 1993’.[vii]
was moved by the distinction, especially since I had been arrested by the
Gestapo in Paris when I was twelve. However, since I was somewhat familiar with
the history of German Freemasonry between both World Wars, the mention of an
emblem worn by German Freemasons under the Hitler regime sounded a bit odd. Many
German Freemasons wear nowadays a forget-me-not pin instead of the more
conspicuous square and compasses to show that they belong to the Craft. But
since when and why ?`I didn’t know.
ERNST GEPPERT’S POINTS
years later, my friend Bro. Pierre Noël sent me the copy of a letter recently
written by one of Germany’s foremost living historians, Bro. Ernst-G.
who was born in 1918, and has been a Freemason since 1951. Besides numerous
papers, he published in 1974 a tremendous piece of scholarship : the first
full list of all German lodges since 1737.[viii]
His letter was addressed to the Master of a newly-founded German Lodge which had
selected the blue forget-me-not as Lodge jewel, and explained why in a printed
note. Geppert wrote to the Master correcting the mistakes in the note and closed
with the dry remark : ‘You might perhaps at some time choose to adjust
your version to the factual one’.
made the following points : [ix]
The Grand Lodge zur Sonne (Bayreuth)
used to let a pin be made for its yearly meetings and it gave one to each
delegate. Those made for the meeting held in Bremen about 1926 represented a
forget-me-not, and were manufactured in a factory located in Selb, a small town
near Bayreuth. The Brethren from Bayreuth never thought of replacing the Square
and Compasses with a forget-me-not.
In 1934, the Nazis invented the so-called Winterhilfswerk,
which consisted in collecting money on the streets during specific weeks in
winter. The money was in fact used for
rearmament. Youngsters were requested to participate, and Geppert happened to be
one of those who received about one hundred badges, sometimes pins, to be sold
at a minimum price. Different ones were chosen each winter and they were worn
only during the time of a collection to identify those who had already
By an extraordinary coincidence, the badge used by the Nazis for the collection
made in March 1938 happened to be the very forget-me-not pin chosen by the
Freemasons in 1926 and it was made by the same factory in Selb. No doubt,
comments Geppert, Freemasons who attended the Bremen meeting of 1926 were glad
to wear it again twelve years later. However it is out of question that such a
pin could have been worn after the March 1938 collection : wearing a mark
or a badge which did not originate in the Party was a criminal offence under the
When Grand Master Vogel installed a new Lodge at Selb in 1948, he remembered the
story of the pin. Since the factory and the mould still existed, he let a large
quantity be made anew and distributed them as a token of friendship whenever he
made official visits abroad, especially in the U.S.A., where Geppert accompanied
him in 1961.
This explains why the blue forget-me-not turned out to be regarded as an
official German Masonic emblem after the war. Geppert heard Grand Master Vogel
tell the 1938 story while in America, and admits he told it himself. However,
writes Geppert, the point made was outwitting the Nazis and their Winterhilfe badge.
This also explains why, when American Masons later founded military Lodges in
Germany, some of them chose that flower as a Lodge’s name. Such is the case of
Lodge N° 896, ‘Forget me not’, in Heilbronn, warranted by the American
Canadian Grand Lodge in 1965.
PAPER BY KLAUS MÜLLER AND THE ‘ENGLISH’ DOCUMENT
volume II. (1995)
of TAU, the biannual publication of
the German Quatuor Coronati Lodge of
Research, I discovered a short paper written by the Master of the Lodge, Bro.
Klaus Müller, stating that each newly-admitted Mason within the Grand Lodge of
British Freemasons in Germany received a forget-me-not pin together with a
printed story of the emblem, whereas the American Canadian Grand Lodge gave such
a pin to Master Masons when they were raised. The paper included the facsimile
of a text entitled ‘The True Story Behind This Beloved Emblem of the Craft in
Germany’ which ended thus : ‘In most Lodges, the Forget-Me-Not is
presented to new Master Masons, at which time its history is briefly
explained’. Klaus Müller did not specify which Masonic body issued that text,
though he introduced it as ‘the English text’.
HAROLD DAVIDSON’S DOCUMENTS
asked Harold Davidson, Librarian of The Philalethes Society, to send me any
paper or document he might be aware of related to the forget-me-not story. He
did so at once, and I wish to express my gratitude for his brotherly help.
document Harold sent me was the Xerox copy of an undated ‘Presentation card
issued by the American Canadian Grand Lodge, AF&AM, within the United Grand
Lodges of Germany’ entitled ‘The Forget-Me-Not. The Story Behind This
Beloved Emblem Of The Craft In Germany’. It mentions that a forget-me-not pin
is presented to newly-made Masons in most Lodges of that Jurisdiction (accordingly,
one of Klaus Müller’s statements appears likely wrong).
also sent me a paper written by David G. Boyd, MPS, ‘Das Vergissmeinnicht’,
which appeared in The Philalethes in
The author relied on Ellic Howe’s paper for general information about
German Freemasonry and the Nazis. For the Masonic origin of the blue
forget-me-not, Bro. Boyd’s authority was a speech made by a Bro. Gunter Gall [xi] at the Royal Arch Grand
Chapter Meeting of April 1973, quoted in the pamphlet Allen Roberts sent to me :
‘Throughout the entire Nazi era, a little blue flower in a lapel marked a
brother. In the concentration camps and in the cities, a little blue
forget-me-not distinguished the lapels of those who refused to allow the Light
of Masonry to be extinguished. When in 1947, the Grand Lodge of the Sun was
reopened in Bayreuth, a little blue pin, the shape of a forget me not was
proposed and adopted as the official emblem of the first Annual Convention of
those who had survived the bitter years of semi-darkness, bringing the Light of
Masonry once again into the Temples. A year later, at the first Annual
Convention of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, A.F. and A.M., the pin was
adopted as an official Masonic emblem honouring those valiant brethren who
carried on their work under adverse conditions. Thus did a simple little flower
blossom forth into a meaningful emblem of the Fraternity, becoming perhaps the
most widely worn pin among Freemasons in Germany.’
Boyd’s comment to the above : ‘it is unlikely that it was often worn
even in the dark days of the Third Reich... it is unlikely such a symbol would
have long remained unknown, unless it was employed most sparingly’.
ALLEN E. ROBERTS’ WRITINGS
his famous Seekers of Truth (1988),
Allen E. Roberts wrote ‘But not all German Freemasons submitted the wiles of
Adolf Hitler and his regime. Some of the more dedicated Master Masons went
underground. For identification they wore a little flower called a “blue
forget-me-not.” This later became a national Masonic symbol in Germany.’ [xii]
years later in The Northern Light, he
sounded a bit more cautious : ‘Myth :
Persecuted German Freemasons wore a blue forget-me-not for identification after
1934. Fact : This has been
accepted as fact by most scholars but still questioned by a few. Cyril Batham of
England, for instance, disputes the date. He claims it was adopted in the 1920s
as a badge of friendship. His report and previous accounts agree that it was the
Grossloge zur sonne (Grand Lodge of
the Sun) that developed the symbol. Earlier reports say this Grand Lodge
designed it as a means of evading the Gestapo ; Batham claims it was simply
an emblem selected because the Square and Compasses wasn’t worn by Freemasons.
Most important, though, the early accounts and Batham do agree the blue
forget-me-not was worn throughout the Nazi terror. This emblem was also chosen
to honor Masonic writers and educators through The Masonic Brotherhood of the
Blue Forget-Me-Not. This group was organized in 1972.’[xiii]
ever said seriously ‘I have just invented
a tradition’. A clever person would
like his friends to believe that the legend which had just come to his mind was
an old one which, for some unknown reason, became forgotten, extinct, or both.
He would rather say: ‘I have rediscovered
a very old tradition’. In October 1987 Bro. Boyd wrote : ‘The more you dig
into any facet of Freemasonry, the more you inevitably find. Unfortunately, it
often happens that what you find may be difficult to prove or downright untrue.
The story of the forget-me-not is just one such case’.
How right he was !
I was able to find 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.
My estimation, based on the membership of all the then existing German Lodges,
is that they amounted to 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
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 2000 than in the 1950s.
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 maneuver. 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
keep it at that and let us admit to the Masonic Brotherhood of the blue
Forget-Me-Not those who, as Allen E. Roberts put it once, ‘continue the
See ‘La Franc-Maçonnerie allemande au 20e siècle’, an address
I gave at the Free University of Brussels, 8 May 1998, published in Ars
Macionica (Brussels) 8 (1998):
17-40. See also the recent thesis of a young German historian, Ralf Melzer,
who is not a Mason: Konflikt und Anpassung.
in der Weimarer Republik und im “Dritten Reich”
(1999, Braumüller, Wien).
Names and dates from declassified documents filed in Bundesarchiv,
Abt. III Aussenstelle Berlin Zehlendorf (former ‘Berlin Documentation
Conference of Grand Masters of
Masons in North America, Washington 1953 : 86.
After recognizing the United Grand Lodge of Germany in December 1956, the
United Grand Lodge of England invited German and Scandinavian delegates to a
Conference in London in June 1957. Under considerable pressure, the National
Grand Lodge finally agreed to become a party to the present United Grand Lodges
(plural) of Germany, founded in April 1958.
In April 1933, the three Prussian Grand Lodges had changed their original
names into those of National Christian Orders. See
Bernheim, 'German Freemasonry and its Attitudes toward the Nazi Regime', The
Philalethes, February 1997: 20-21.
AQC 95 (1982) : 32. Italics
added by the present writer.
Alphabetical list of 298 Members of the Brotherhood on January 1, 1993.
Facing each name was a number. The four members numbered ‘000’ were likely
the Founders : Walter M. Callaway Jr., Conrad Hahn, Allen E. Roberts and
John Black Vrooman. No. 001 was John M. Sherman.
Die Freimaurer-Logen Deutschlands und deren Grosslogen 1737-1972 (Quatuor
Coronati Bayreuth, Hamburg 1974). Second revised edition, Karl Heinz Francke and
Dr. Ernst-Günther Geppert, Die
Freimaurer-Logen Deutschlands und deren Grosslogen 1737-1985 (Hamburg 1988).
Summary of information provided in a note by Geppert, printed in
TAU I. 1996: 110, and in a letter
he sent me on 15 February 1999.
David G. Boyd is described by Allen E. Roberts as ‘a lieutenant colonel
stationed at Heidelberg, Germany, and Master of Alt Heidelberg Lodge No. 821 in
1987’ (Seekers of Truth, p. 22). He
is listed as such in the Jahrbuch der VGLvD
for 1988. That Lodge which belonged to the American Canadian Grand Lodge in
Germany isn’t active any more.
Gunter Gall, described as Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of
Germany in the pamphlet, was Grand Master of the American Canadian Grand Lodge
in Germany 1975-76. This Grand Lodge adhered to the Magna
Carta and became one of the five United Grand Lodges of Germany, 23 October
1970. It was under its authority that Lodge N° 896, Forget-me-not, mentioned by
Bro. Geppert, was warranted 1965 in Heilbronn. Heilbronn is about fifty miles
away from Heidelberg.
Seekers of Truth (1988) : 11. Pages 204-5, Roberts quotes at
length the Boyd paper from April 1987 and a further one from October 1987, both
published in The Philalethes.
Allen E. Roberts, ‘Masonic Myths’, The
Northern Light (February 1990).
The Philalethes, October 1987. That second paper was entitled ‘Das
Vergissmeinnicht’, under-title ‘The Myths’.