Gay prisoners during the Holocaust were identified in concentration camps by wearing a pink triangle. / Photo via The Legacy Project

The Pink Triangle

Much has been written about the Pink Triangles, but the sufferings inflicted upon them only make sense if we think like a National Socialist (Nazi). Accordingly, here are a few facts.


First, the actual winner of the March 1932 German election for President was not Hitler, but the revered WWI figure, former field marshal Paul von Hindenburg.


However, Nazis had been furiously burrowing in and forcibly tossing out, and by the time the old and enfeebled von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor on January 30, 1933, the Nazi grasp on power was already formidable.


When the German Reichstag building conveniently burned just weeks later, a gay Dutch communist was charged. The fire strategically paved the way to the Enabling Act, a March 23, 1933 decree that overturned all guarantees of personal and press freedom, essentially granting Hitler absolute power.


Unsurprisingly, the first thing Adolf did was enact revenge on all political opponents, who were sent to a new kind of massive prison, where the inmates were concentrated, terrorized, and overworked —often, to death.


Dachau was the template, but Nazis needed a way to readily tell the nature of an individual’s undesirability. A triangle sewn onto clothing became that way.


Red triangles marked political prisoners, leftists of all stripes: Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Anarchists. You could be arrested, interrogated, maybe given a trial, serve your term, and upon release, taken into Schutzhaftbefehl (“protective custody”). Not protected, actually; this Nazi doubletalk means your release is a mirage. The red triangle also applied to Freemasons and gentiles who assisted Jews.


Green triangle = criminal. You’ve been found guilty of a serious crime and sentenced. But if local police think the courts were too lenient? When your term’s up, you could be taken into Schutzhaftbefehl.


Blue triangle = Émigrés. You actually left the Fatherland? This group also included Spaniards who fought against Germany’s good friend Franco and, eventually, foreigners forced to labor in German-controlled territory.


Purple triangle = Jehovah’s Witnesses. You are a pacifist and recognize no temporal authority? Then you had no place in a state at war that owed all allegiance to a single deified man.


Black triangle = “Asocial.” You’re the misfit, the prostitute, the “work evader,” the lesbian. And, too, the Defectives: mentally ill or deficient and those with physical disabilities, alcoholics, etc.


Nazi eugenics, known as Rassenhygiene (racial hygiene), was a foundational tenet. It was devoted to propagating the idea of the Übermenschen, or the Supermen, the race of noble world conquerors, superior in every way to all Untermensch, or subhumans.


The Nazis naturally chose the “Defectives” as the first group marked for extermination. No mental or physical deformity could be permitted to pollute the “Master Race,” which accounted for their intense obsession with the pink triangle: gay men. How was it possible for a physically and presumably mentally fit Aryan to suffer from the race-defiling sickness of homosexuality?


Before 1933, gay arrests were for Beischlafsähnlich, “intercourse-like acts.” But as Reichsführer Himmler’s “Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion” geared up, even “seductive glances” could cause arrest.


Could medical experiments help? Would castration change things? What about sewing goat gonads into the body or sending them to camp brothels and observing their performance? Himmler ordered: “Exterminate them, root and branch!”


If a military man get caught acting “queer,” he earned an instant bullet to the head. This included the Reichsführer’s own nephew.


How many men were killed in all? We can’t know. Estimates from various authoritative sources range from 5,000 (Rüdiger Lautmann) to 500,000 (Frank Rector).


Never again!