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The pink triangle, now a gay pride and gay rights symbol, was originally used to denote homosexual men as a Nazi concentration camp badge.

File:German concentration camp chart of prisoner markings.jpg

A chart, circa 1938 - 1942, of prisoner markings used in German concentration camps. The 5th column from the left was for homosexuals.

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.[citation needed]


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[citation needed]. Most gay men who suffered and died in Nazi concentration camps actually wore the yellow star (because they were both gay and Jewish)[citation needed].

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." [1]

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.[2]

The pink triangle is the basis of the design of the Homomonument in Amsterdam and the Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial in Sydney.

Reference in popular culture


  • 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


  1. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (1986) by Richard Plant (New Republic Books). ISBN 0-8050-0600-1.
  2. Template:Cite newspaper

Further reading

  • 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.

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