The Pink Triangle

emHistory & People 30 Comments

When the Nazi Party seized power in Germany in July 1933, the newly installed dictatorship lost no time to persecute and murder minority groups, including Jews, queer people, the Romani, Socialists, Social Democrats and other political opponents. The Nazis built a network of concentration camps throughout Germany, where these “undesirable” groups were detained.

This persecution continued following the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and, between 1941 and 1945, the Nazi Party systematically murdered six million European Jews—as part of a plan known as “The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem”—in extermination camps and mass shootings. This genocide is referred to as the Holocaust, or the Shoah in Hebrew.

In total, up to 17 million people, including thousands of gay and bisexual men, were systematically killed at the hands of the Nazis.

Holocaust Memorial Day is held on January 27 annually—marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp—and remembers the millions of people killed by the Nazis and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Nazi persecution of queer people

Under Nazi rule, the persecution of queer men intensified, although gay sex between men had already been illegal since 1871. It’s estimated that the Nazis imprisoned more than 50,000 gay men, including an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 men who were sent to concentration camps, according to research by historian Rüdiger Lautmann.

Although sex between women was not officially illegal in Nazi Germany, lesbians were also persecuted. But their persecution is “much harder to trace because they weren’t included in the penal code and there was no specific categorisation of gay women in concentration camps (although some were made to wear a black triangle badge used to denote “asocial” prisoners).

Trans people, too, are known to have been persecuted under the Nazis, including being sent to concentration camps. According to Transgender Day of Remembrance, in 1938 the Institute of Forensic Medicine recommended that the “phenomena of transvestism” be “exterminated from public life.”

The pink triangle in concentration camps

In Nazi concentration camps, a pink triangle was used to identify some gay men. Queer inmates were subjected to starvation and forced labour, as well as facing discrimination from both SS guards and fellow inmates.

The classification system used for the uniforms of inmates—including the pink triangle for homosexuals—in Dachau concentration camp.

Pierre Seel, a gay survivor from the Schirmeck-Vorbrück concentration camp near Strasbourg, who passed away in 2005, recalled one traumatising incident in his memoir. Seel wrote that a group of SS guards stripped his 18-year-old lover naked before releasing a pack of German Shepherd dogs which mauled him to death.

“There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” Seel wrote in his 1995 book I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror. “Other prisoners, even when between themselves, used to target them.”

Gay men were also subjected to torture—including forced sodomy using wood—and human experimentation at the hands of the Nazis. There are records of gay men being forced to sleep with female sex slaves, and lesbians being made to perform sex acts on males, as a form of gay conversion therapy.

Thousands of queer people are believed to have been murdered by the Nazis. However, the Nazis’ poor documentation of LGBT+ people means that historians have been unable to calculate an exact estimate. Lautmann has argued that the death rate for gay men could be as high as 60 percent of those detained in concentration camps.

Queer men after World War II and how the pink triangle was reclaimed as a gay rights symbol

After the end of World War II, the persecution of gay and bisexual men continued. Same-sex sexual activity between men remained illegal in East and West Germany until 1968 and 1969 respectively.

While authorities in East Germany were more lenient towards gay men after Word War II, the persecution of gay men in West Germany was rather intense in the decades afterwards with large waves of arrests in cities like Frankfurt. Same-sex desiring men and women had to make sure that they lived their lives not too publicly and for men there was permanent fear of being sent to prison.

There are also accounts of gay men being re-imprisoned using evidence obtained by the Nazis. For decades after the Second World War, the Nazis’ treatment of queer people went unacknowledged in many countries.

It took until 2002 before the German government apologised to the gay community and annulled the convictions of gay and bisexual men under the Nazi regime. In 2005, the European Parliament passed a resolution including homosexuals as part of those persecuted during the Holocaust.

Pink Triangle Park in San Francisco, where the pink triangle has been used to remember LGBT+ victims of the Holocaust.

Poignantly, as the gay rights movement gained momentum in West Germany in the 1970s, the pink triangle started to be used as as a symbol for marking the history of anti-gay violence. In an act of defiance, the pink triangle was reclaimed—and often inverted, with the tip pointing upwards—as a sign of gay activism.

It became known on an international scale during the 1980s, when a six-person collective, called the Silence=Death Project, used an inverted version of the triangle on posters that the group plastered around New York to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis.

The upwards pointing pink triangle was later used by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in its campaigns during the AIDS epidemic. It was also used in memorials to remember queer victims of the Holocaust in San Francisco, Amsterdam and Sydney.

By PinkNews

Comments 30

  1. This isn’t LGBT*, but I think many of you would like this movie and what this is about:

    The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (2008)

    The primary character is the talented Asa Butterfield [enough said?]

    1. Because the best reason to watch a movie is to sexualize and oogle over an 11 year old? /s

      Asa Butterfield was 10 or 11 when that movie came out. What the fuck man?

      You’re so gross.

      1. A tiny sampling of Asa Butterfield’s accomplishments:

        The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
        Ender’s Game
        A Brilliant Young Mind

        And you don’t think he’s talented? Seriously, just how do you define “talent”?

      2. There are literally 100s of millions of prepubescent boy/girl lovers in the world fascist, get used to it.

        You too mods : )

  2. Socialists behaving badly. So, what else is new?

    BTW, don’t fall for that alternative history book called The Pink Swastika which purports that the Nazi party was riddled with gay men, and that Hitler was once a rent boy. The only prominent gay Nazis were Ernst Rohm and Edmund Heines, both were murdered along with the 18 year old twink Heines was caught in bed with during the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ massacre.

    1. What are you talking about? The socialists were in the concentration camps, man… I don’t think you are trying to justify the Nazis, are you?
      I guess you should wear off you colored glasses and start learning History…

  3. @jhairehmee

    Where did Penboy’s post imply this???

    I think you’re the one with a degenerate mind.

    1. It’s always strange to see people involuntary expressing their repressed feelings…

      Nothing degenerate about it, though. It’s part of the natural sexual spectrum to have all kinds of inconvenient sexual attractions. As long as people can keep them in check and not act on other sentient beings in a harmful way, I see no problem with that. Everyone is entitled to their own fantasies.

      Sex is never the problem; violence is.

      1. penthouse did a legitimate survey of usa men. One question was “would you have sex with a 15 yr age woman who wanted you, if nobody else would know” half of respondents said yes. It is common for older adults to find youth attractive, and visa versa. Doesn’t mean they will act out. In many cultures, acting out is permitted out, particularly as long as the older takes responsibility and care.

        1. “It is common for older adults to find youth attractive, and visa versa.”

          That’s why, in all of humanity, it is the much younger years (11-26 — whether you like the younger reach or not) which are the most attractive to everyone else — witness the “Oh, aren’t you/him/her soooo cute!” by nearly every relative and other adults that comes near of those ages.

          This is not me speaking — it’s the nature of humans (and many animals as well — dogs, cats, koalas, etc).

    2. I think it’s disgusting to call someone degenerate for finding a beautiful 10 year old boy attractive, this is no place for hate.

  4. Are you trying to say blonde macho muscle men dressed in leather marching about in big boots carrying whips barking orders and dominating other men in an all male world weren’t gay? Lol.

  5. Thomas the Naziz were a left wing party as far as I understand and they persecuted many monorities including the disabled, mentally ill, gay and gypsies alongside the vaste jewish extermination.

    I don’t think the idea behind this post was meant to generate a history debate.

    1. Anything can start a debate anytime and the topic of this post should always start people thinking.
      History is extremely important. Society follows patterns and the same mistakes are repeated. In this time of Brexit you can so very clearly see shameful, dishonest manipulation of unhappy people. You can clearly see facism rising again and you can clearly see the potential downfall of established government. Nothing new at all !!! Highly dangerous though.

      Horselips’ understanding that the Nazis were somehow left wing socialists is a bit disconcerting. Huge mistake. In the world of alternative facts I wonder how he came to think that?
      The word ‘socialist’ in the name of any organisation absolutely does not mean the organisation is left wing.

      1. “In the world of alternative facts I wonder how he came to think that?”

        Hmmmmmm, I wonder …… you think maybe, religion — since it’s composed entirely of alternative facts — i.e., LIES.

  6. Eliad, Quite right. Where this left wing Nazi nonsense comes from soon evaporates when you realise the Nazis we’re funded by Industrialists to attract the working class AWAY from Socialism, not towards it. They preferred the poor to join the SA rather than the Marxists. That should put to rest any notion of left wing Nazis. Organised “opposition” that was anything but. It was a sham to get the poor and desperate vote Nazi. Once they got that the game was over. 14th July 1933 Bastille Day in reverse. All political parties except the Nazi were banned, censorship formally established, the red black and gold Reich Banner replaced by the German Imperial Flag alongside the Nazi flag which became more and more important than the Imperial black white and red flag until the Nazi flag was the only flag permitted to represent Germany in September 1935.

  7. Listen up, I hate to burst your bubbles, @horse is correct, the nazis and the fascista party in Italy were socialist. Mussolini designed his parliament to include the corporatists, the trade unions. Without looking it up to refresh, he also included the industrialists. Both like the industrialists because that is where the money is. So much of everything ultimately boils down to power and money. Since then, pretty much all of the fascists groups are right wing. which is where the confusion comes in from thinking fascism is exclusively right wing. Fascism is identified by racism, ultra patriotism, aligning with rich industrialists and some other things. Otherwise it is totalitarianism which is non ideological, such as Soviet Union, Nazis, Chile under Pinochet, Indonesia under Sudharto, etc. Stalin had the ultra John Birch Society founder, Koch the father of the horrible Libertarian David and Charles Koch and from whom they inherited their money, build the refineries in the Soviet Union. Communism in the 20th century is correctly noted as “State Capitalism” and not truly socialistic and not cooperative and not anarchist. Leftist need to do their homework or they will wind up with a dictator such as Fidel Castro, who may have been better than Bautista but still became a dictator. Didn’t Marx talk about the dictatorship of the Proletariat? I sure don’t like dictatorship unless I am the dictator. The Scandinavian countries seem to be democratic socialist with market economies (the market economies part is eroding the democratic socialist aspect and they are losing what they have). Democratic socialism depends on Open, Transparent, Democratic government or it becomes another totalitarian system. Without a Bill of Rights systems will enslave the people.

  8. The political spectrum is a line, not a circle. At one end are the elements of “collectivism” – liberal-progressive socialism, strong, unlimited central government (directing labor, healthcare, education, and police), and controlled, or centrally planned economics. The people serve the interests of the state, and taxes are high. This is the LEFT side. At the other end are the EXACT OPPOSITES – the elements of “individualism” – libertarian self-reliance, weak, limited government (decentralized, with local or private control of labor, education, police, healthcare, etc.) , or even anarchy, and unregulated, free market economics. The state exists to allow the people to serve their own private interests, and taxes are low or non-existent. This is the RIGHT side.

    The USA, like most countries, is positioned somewhere in the middle of the line. That’s not a bad thing, as either extreme end is unsustainable for very long. The USSR was on the far left, and collapsed. Red China was there too, but saw the obvious implications – that socialism consumes wealth, only capitalism generates the wealth needed to sustain the party and the state, and moved slightly from the extreme Left (Marxism) to centrally planned, state controlled, capitalism (classic fascism or Nazism). All the other elements of the LEFT are still intact. There is no “individualism” – none of the usual personal freedoms exist, not even labor unions are allowed. Religion is still persecuted. China now mimics a classic fascist state, it is an oligarchy of the One Party (Communist), the military (PLA), and a carefully watched and controlled corporate elite. Il Duce, Der Fuhrer and El Caudillo are clapping in their graves. Cuba is moving in the same direction. North Korea is not, and is only surviving on the largess of its allies.

    There are no countries on the far right. Anarcho-libertarianism doesn’t officially exist anywhere at this time.

    1. “Religion is still persecuted.”

      What bullshit. “Religion” [actually, Socio-Political Ideology, as there is no such thing as “religion” by its definition of/for “deities”] is almost NEVER persecuted — no, quite the opposite — it is always privileged. Religionists are always claiming “persecution/victimization” when in fact, they are the perpetrators of REAL persecution.

      Where you think a religionist is “persecuted,” it’s just them being even more stupid believing in a minority bullshit compared the the majority bullshit.

      This world actually NEEDS MORE religious “persecution.”

  9. The post is about the NAZI killing of millions and is about survivors of that. The Russian murder of millions of Germans after WWII ends and after peace is not here a ment but is a real slaughter also. Here we can read the ignoring of reality. While going back to look over posts do see this a post, do not see till now. The comments after this post are so weird they make this body cry.
    — Thank you of this web site creators and makers for this post. Changes this brain.

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