Pink Triangles

By Teresa Lew
San Francisco, California 


The Holocaust usually reminds people of the sorrowful period of death camps and of the annihilation of the Jewish people. However, of the eleven million killed during this tragic time, only six million of them were of Jewish decent. A question uncommonly asked is, "Who were the other five million cruelly exterminated?" One possible answer is 'homosexuals.' Accompanied by others who were also "defective elements," (Friedman 63) homosexuals were also persecuted. Approximately five thousand to fifteen thousand homosexuals died in the concentration camps of the Holocaust.

Adolf Hitler's reign of terror began in January of 1933 when he was appointed Chancellor of Germany. After suffering from the humiliation and devastation of loosing the first World War, Germany was plagued with economic problems. Many were unemployed. Consequently, Hitler and his followers, the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis, were provided with the opportunity to govern Germany with their promises of better lives and a better Germany.

With Hitler in power, Germany was now a dictatorship where freedoms were stripped away from its citizens. No longer was there freedom of speech, press, or assembly. By inflicting terror and fear into the hearts of the Germans, Hitler was able to do as he pleased. Baited with the wages, a feeling of belonging, and with the uniform consisting of brown shirts and high leather boots, unemployed men became Nazi Storm Troopers, or SA, and members of the Protective Squad, or SS. The SA patrolled the streets, beating and murdering those who opposed the Nazis. The SS guarded Hitler and other important figures, and later served as concentration camp guards. With these two groups, Hitler had the ability to enforce his power.

Hitler believed in the theory of the one master race. Consisting of blond, blue-eyed whites, the master race, the Aryan people, were superior to all other living beings. Hitler felt the need to eliminate all who did not fit his description of the master race. Hitler sustained that those who were different from him were to be rid of. This also included people who were considered physically and mentally unfit, homosexuals.

In 1871, Paragraph 175 of the Prussian Penal Code was passed stating that homosexuality was indeed a crime punishable by imprisonment. During the reign of the Nazis, the law still existed and was strictly enforced. During the end of the year 1934, the Nazis began gathering all the homosexuals they could retrieve. There were approximately one point two million homosexual men living in Germany during 1928. These men were found in any way possible. Their meeting places were invaded by police, lists of know homosexuals were submitted by police, and even address books of those suspected were stolen in hopes to find more. By simply going to a gay bar could have had one put in jail for six months.

Accusations of homosexuality against people who posed a threat to the Nazis were commonly made in attempt to benefit the Nazis. In one instance, General Werner von Fritsch, one who opposed Hitler's war plans, was charged with the degrading crime of being a homosexual. As a result, von Fritsch was humiliated and became the lowest ranking officer although it was later confessed that the accusation was a lie.

Once arrested and proven guilty, the prisoners were sterilized or put in prison. Then they were either taken to the concentration camps or castrated. At the camps, all prisoners were categorized with patches of various colors and shapes. Homosexuals were required to wear a serial number and a pink triangle which were sewn to both the left shirt breast pocket and the right pant leg. The triangles pointed downward.

Wearing a pink triangle meant total humiliation and discrimination against. Those seen wearing this symbol were beaten and poorly treated by not only prison guards, but by other prisoners as well. Homosexuals were to speak only to others with a pink triangle. They were only permitted to sleep in their night-shirts with the lights on and their hands above their blankets. If caught not abiding these rules, a person would be drenched with water and left in the cold for an hour. Most did not survive this harsh treatment. Those who did would have at the minimum bronchitis. Others taken for medical help rarely lived.

At the death camps, homosexuals were also not to go within five meters of the blocks of differently categorized inmates. If found doing so, the person would be whipped fifteen to twenty time. Experimental procedures were also conducted on homosexuals, often leading to death. One such experiment was to convert the homosexuals into heterosexuals by surgically inserting a capsule releasing testosterone.

Many died in the hands of the Nazis. The homosexuals and others were murdered without heart and without just or fair cause. Unfortunately, even to this very day, some people still discriminate against homosexuals and people of different colored skin. The Holocaust should serve as a reminder to everyone in the world of the mistakes of the past and how we should avoid this sort of catastrophe in the future.




Bachrach, Susan D., Tell Them We Remember. Little, Brown and Company: New York, 1994.

Friedman, Ina R., The Other Victims. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, 1990.

Meltzer, Milton, Never to Forget. Harper Trophy: New York, 1976.

Rossel, Seymour, The Holocaust. Franklin Watts: New York, 1981.



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