Black triangle (badge)

Black triangle (badge)

This article is about the Black Triangle as a badge or symbol: for other uses see the disambiguation page Black triangle.

The black triangle has sometimes appeared as a lesbian or feminist symbol of pride and solidarity.

Nazi usage

The symbol originates from Nazi concentration camps, where every prisoner had to wear one of the Nazi concentration camp badges on their jacket, the colour of which categorised them according to "their kind." Individuals deemed "anti-social" had to wear the black triangle. The majority of black-triangle prisoners were mentally retarded or homeless. But smaller groups of prisoners were also given this badge, including alcoholics, the habitually "work-shy," prostitutes, members of the aristocratic upper class and others.

Roma or Gypsies were usually classed with black-triangle prisoners, but at some camps were given a separate badge - the brown triangle - instead.

Use by lesbians

Lesbians have over time claimed the black triangle as a symbol of defiance against repression and discrimination, and it is considered a counterpart to the gay pink triangle. Today, it is as a lesbian symbol that the black triangle is most widely recognized, though some anarchists use a black triangle as their symbol.

Controversy over the symbol's use

In the Nazis' meticulous records there is no word of the black triangle having been imposed on lesbians, or of lesbians as a group being confined to concentration camps. However, some have reasoned that since the Nazis believed strongly in a traditional social role for women, lesbians and other sexually unconventional women might logically have been considered "asocial" from the Nazis' point of view.

The archive of the memorial site of Ravensbrück has evidence of four women with an additional remark of being lesbians: two of them been persecuted for political reasons, two for being Jewish. One of the Jewish inmates was given a black triangle due to sexual contacts with non-Jewish persons.

It is possible that Playing for Time, a holocaust memoir by Frenchwoman Fania Fénelon, helped create the belief that the black triangle was worn by lesbians. Fénelon's memoir includes lesbian themes, and describes an evening of entertainment in the asocials' barracks as the "Black Triangles' Ball.

Further reading

  • Elman, R. Amy. "Triangles and Tribulations: The Politics of Nazi Symbols," Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 30, no. 3 (1996): 3-11.
  • Marshall, Stuart. "The Contemporary Use of Gay History: The Third Reich," in Bad-Object Choices (ed.), How Do I Look? Queer Film and Video, Seattle, Wash.: Bay Press, 1991.
  • Zoe, Lucinda. "The Black Triangle," Lesbian Herstory Archives Newsletter, Brooklyn, N.Y., No. 12 (June 1991): p. 7. (A critical discussion of the notion that black triangles were used to mark lesbians in the concentration camps in a manner equivalent to the pink triangle for homosexual men, along with remarks on when the black triangle came to be used as a contemporary lesbian symbol).

See also


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