Black triangle (badge)

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An inverted black triangle, as used in badges.

The inverted black triangle (German: schwarzes Dreieck) was an identification badge used in Nazi concentration camps to mark prisoners designated asozial ("asocial")[1][2] and arbeitsscheu ("work-shy"). The Roma and Sinti people were considered asocial and tagged with the black triangle.[3][1] The designation also included alcoholics, homeless, beggars, nomads, prostitutes, murderers, thieves, many registered or deemed mentally-ill and intellectually disabled, and violators of laws prohibiting sexual relations between Aryans and Jews.[1][2] Women also deemed to be anti-social included nonconformists and lesbians.[4][2]


The black triangle in the context of the marking system for prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.


The symbol originates from Nazi Germany, where every prisoner had to wear a concentration camp badge on their prison clothes, of which the design and color categorized them according to the reason for their internment. The homeless were included, as were alcoholics, those who habitually avoided labor and employment, draft evaders, pacifists, Roma and Sinti people, and others.[5][6]


Romani first wore the black triangle with a Z notation (for Zigeuner, meaning Gypsy) to the right of the triangle's point.[7] Male Romani were later assigned a brown triangle. Female Romani were still deemed asocials as they were stereotyped as petty criminals (prostitutes, kidnappers and fortune tellers).


"Prior to 1939, lesbians were among those imprisoned as 'asocials', a broad category applied to all people who evaded Nazi rule."[2] The use of the symbol as a sign of lesbian victimization has been challenged on the grounds that lesbian sexual behavior was not criminalized under Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code, which made homosexual relations between males a crime; and no official record has been found regarding the black triangle having been imposed on lesbians because of their homosexuality. The archive at the Ravensbrück memorial site has evidence of four women with an additional remark in their records of being lesbians: two were persecuted for political reasons, and two for being Jewish.[citation needed] One of the Jewish inmates was given a black triangle due to sexual contacts with non-Jews.[8]

It is speculated that the memoir Sursis pour l'orchestre[9] (Playing for Time) by Fania Fénelon is part of the reason for the belief that the black triangle badge was placed on lesbians because of their sexuality, as it makes mention of an evening of entertainment in the asocials' barracks called "Black Triangles' Ball" which included lesbian prisoners.[citation needed]

Disabled people[edit]

Some UK groups concerned with the rights of disabled people have adopted the symbol in their campaigns.[10][11] Such groups cite press coverage and government policies, including changes to incapacity benefits and disability living allowance, as the reasons for their campaigns.[12][13] "The Black Triangle List" was created to keep track of welfare-related deaths due to cuts by the Department for Work and Pensions.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "System of triangles". Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
  2. ^ a b c d Elman, Amy (Winter 1996–97). "Triangles and Tribulations: The Gay Appropriation of Nazi Symbols" (PDF). Trouble & Strife (34): 62–66. Retrieved 10 June 2021. An earlier version of this article appeared in Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 30, issue 3, 1996. (doi:10.1300/J082v30n03_01. PMID 8743114. ISSN 0091-8369.)
  3. ^ "Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) Prisoners". Priddy Library. Universities at Shady Grove.
  4. ^ Heineman, Elizabeth D. (2002). "Sexuality and Nazism: The Doubly Unspeakable?". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 11 (1/2): 22–66. doi:10.1353/sex.2002.0006. ISSN 1043-4070. JSTOR 3704551. S2CID 142085835.
  5. ^ "The unsettled, "asocials"". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. University of Minnesota. 2007. Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  6. ^ "Asocials". Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Glossary". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  8. ^ Schoppmann, Claudia (1991). Nationalsozialistische Sexualpolitik und weibliche Homosexualität (in German). Pfaffenweiler, Germany: Centaurus Verlag & Media. ISBN 3890855385. LCCN 92196060.
  9. ^ Fénelon, Fania (1976). Sursis pour l'orchestre (in French). Stock. ISBN 2234004977.
  10. ^ "About Black Triangle". Black Triangle Campaign. March 2012.
  11. ^ "About". Disabled People Against Cuts. 2010.
  12. ^ Sue Marsh (20 December 2011). "No disability living allowance for me. Nowhere to turn for many more". Black Triangle Campaign.
  13. ^ George Monbiot (12 December 2011). "Britain's press are fighting a class war, defending the elite they belong to". Black Triangle Campaign.
  14. ^ Laws, Vince (30 April 2015). "UK Welfare-Related Deaths: The Black Triangle List". Disability Arts Online. Retrieved 30 July 2018.

Further reading[edit]