The pink triangle (German: Rosa Winkel) was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used by the Nazis to identify male prisoners in concentration camps who were sent there because of their homosexuality. Prior to World War II, pink was historically a male colour as an offshoot of red, and pink was chosen not because it meant the wearer was feminine, but because they liked other men. Every prisoner had to wear a triangle on his or her jacket, the color of which was to categorize him or her according "to his kind." Jews had to wear the yellow badge (in addition to any other badge representing other reasons for incarceration), and "anti-social individuals" (which included vagrants and "work shy" individuals) the black triangle. There hasn't been any evidence for the persecution of lesbians under the "black triangle". Only one lesbian (Mary Pünjer) was mentioned in the Ravensbruck archive as being stigmatised with a black triangle, but the reason for her persecution was her Jewish heritage.
The inverted pink triangle, originally intended as a badge of shame, has become an international symbol of gay pride and the gay rights movement, and is second in popularity only to the rainbow flag.
History[edit | edit source]
The prisoners with a pink triangle identified themselves as gay Template:Dubious (sometimes they were married to women, and engaged in very few, if any, homosexual acts). Not everyone convicted under Paragraph 175 was sent to a concentration camp; in fact, most were sent to ordinary jails. Most gay men who suffered and died in Nazi concentration camps actually wore the yellow star (because they were both gay and Jewish).
While the number of homosexuals in concentration camps is hard to estimate, Richard Plant gives a rough estimate of the number of men convicted for homosexuality "between 1933 to 1944 at between 50,000 and 63,000." 
After the camps were liberated at the end of the Second World War, many of the pink triangle prisoners were often simply re-imprisoned by the Allied-established Federal Republic of Germany. An openly gay man named Heinz Dörmer, for instance, served 20 years in total both in a Nazi concentration camp and then in the jails of the new Republic. In fact, the Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, which turned homosexuality from a minor offence into a felony, remained intact after the war for a further 24 years. While suits seeking monetary compensation have failed, in 2002 the German government issued an official apology to the gay community.
Today, fewer than ten of those imprisoned for homosexuality are known to be still living. In 2000, the documentary film Paragraph 175 recorded some of their testimonies.
By the end of the 1970s, the pink triangle was adopted as a symbol for gay rights protest.
Reference in popular culture[edit | edit source]
- The group Weezer has a song called "Pink Triangle"; however, the titular badge is worn by a lesbian, not a homosexual male.
- In an example of reclaiming a previously offensive term, the gay areas of both Newcastle upon Tyne, England and Edinburgh, Scotland are colloquially known as the Pink Triangles on account of their approximate shapes.
- In San Francisco, since about 1999, a large pink triangle has been placed on the slope of Twin Peaks above Market Street (the street on which the Gay Pride Parade takes place) each year the week before Gay Pride weekend.
- In Mel Brooks' To Be or Not to Be, the character of Sasha is forced to wear a pink triangle by the Nazis, but later makes light of it, proclaiming "Don't wait up. I've got a late date, with another triangle".
- In South Park, following the disappearance of his hand puppet Mr. Hat, the closeted gay teacher Mr. Garrison gets a new puppet (which is actually just a twig wearing a shirt) whom he calls Mr. Twig and who wears the upside down pink triangle on his shirt.
- On the July 28, 2008 episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart pointed out the irony of the President of the Center for Military Readiness, Elaine Donnelly, wearing an outfit that formed a clear pink triangle during a Congressional hearing on gays in the military during her anti-homosexual testimony.
See also[edit | edit source]
- History of gays in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust
- LGBT symbols
- Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures
- "Bent" (play)
- Nazi concentration camp badges
References[edit | edit source]
- The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (1986) by Richard Plant (New Republic Books). ISBN 0-8050-0600-1.
- Template:Cite newspaper
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin (1999) by Gad Beck (University of Wisconsin Press). ISBN 0-299-16500-0.
- Liberation Was for Others: Memoirs of a Gay Survivor of the Nazi Holocaust (1997) by Pierre Seel (Perseus Book Group). ISBN 0-306-80756-4.
- I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror (1995) by Pierre Seel. ISBN 0-465-04500-6.
- Men With the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-And-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps, Heinz Heger, 1994 paperback.
[edit | edit source]
- Auschwitz Concentration Camp: The Pink-Triangle prisoners
- Pink Triangle Trust, UK charity for humanists and gays
- Pink Triangle, official weblog of the above Pink Triangle Trust
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