between the various groups in the camps, the Nazis devised a simple
system of easy identification. Besides the individual numbering system
of tattooing each prisoner on entry, various cloth symbols and letters
were sewn onto uniforms and worn at all times to aid instant recognition.
Initially homosexuals were identified by the letter 'A', which
was sewn on to their left breast or trouser leg. The 'A' stood for
Arschficker, which is the German word for 'Ass-Fucker'. Later replaced
by a triangle system as shown in this chart recovered
from the Dachau camp in Germany.
Nazis soon developed a system of several different coloured triangles:
yellow for Jews; red for politicals; green for criminals; purple for
Jehovah's Witnesses; black for asocials; brown for gypsies; blue for
emigrants and pink for homosexuals. Jewish homosexuals were made to
wear both the yellow triangle and the pink triangle, which undoubtably
left them 'the lowest of the low'. These identification marks can
clearly be seen on the identity photos shown throughout the site.
these images were taken on entry to Auschwitz. Each image clearly
shows a large pink triangle.
In some of the early concentration and 'security camps' a blue bar
worn on the breast and sleeve identified homosexual inmates. It also
identified catholic and asocial prisoners.
dot and number:
Some homosexuals were also identified with a large black dot on the
jacket sleeve or left chest area. On the back of the jacket was also
marked a large '175', which would have been instantly
recognisable by both guards and other inmates.
pink triangle, or Rosa Winkel, was the most associated symbol for
men held under § 175. Inmates were made to wear a large piece
of pink cloth on the breast side of their clothes (as shown in the
identity picture below) and a larger one across their backs. The pink
triangle was made 2cm larger than any of the other identification
triangle so that guards and other prisoners could clearly see when
a homosexual prisoner was approaching.
gay liberation movement of the 1970's chose the pink triangle as the
popular symbol for gay rights, identity and pride. Worn as a simple
badge, the symbol is both easily recognisable and also stands in the
face of oppression and persecution. In the 1980's the US lead ACT-UP
(AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) chose to use the triangle as its
sign and inverted it to signify an active fight back against intolerance.
with the pink triangle made little contact with other prisoners for
fear of further persecution. By associating with the pink triangles,
other detainees would have almost certainly drawn unwanted attention
on to themselves and the best way of avoiding further abuse was clearly
to remain as invisible as possible.