The History of the Gay Male and Lesbian Experience during World War II



It is widely known that the Nazis forced Jewish people under their jurisdiction to wear yellow stars of David, whether they were in the community, in the ghettos or in the camps. The Nazis extended this classification scheme to other prisoners interned in the camps. In one common scheme, prisoners were classified according to crime and identified with colored triangular cloth. Pink triangles, often larger than triangles for other crimes, were used to identify men convicted of homosexuality (paragraph 175 of the Reich Penal Code), incest or pedophilia (paragraphs 174 and 176).

Yellow(Star of David) Jewish. This symbol was used prior to the camps in the ghettos and when Jews were in the general population
PinkGay men convicted under Paragraphs 174, 175 and 176 of the Reich Penal Code
PurpleJehovah's Witnesses
RedPolitical prisoners

Alfred Balachowsky describes how the system deteriorated in the last days of Buchenwald.

PHOTOUnited States Holocaust Memorial Museum On-line photo archives -- photo 29013 A chart of prisoner markings used in German concentration camps.

The horizontal categories list markings for the following types of prisoners: political, professional criminal, emigrant, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexual, Germans shy of work, and other nationalities shy of work. The vertical categories begin with the basic colors, and then show those for repeat offenders, prisoners in punishment kommandos, Jews, Jews who have violated racial laws by having sexual relations with Aryans, and Aryans who violated racial laws by having sexual relations with Jews.

The remaining symbols give examples of marking patterns.
Credit line: KZ Gedenkstatte Dachau, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
Date: Circa 1938 - 1942
Locale: Dachau, Germany
Sources: KZ Gedenkstatte Dachau , Dachau Ost, Germany Dokumentationsarchiv des Osterreichischen Widerstandes , Vienna, Austria Landauer Collection Nationale Mahn- und Gedenkstatte Buchenwald , Weimar-Buchenwald, Germany