Nazi concentration camp badges

Nazi concentration camp badges
A chart, ca. 1938–42, of prisoner markings used in German concentration camps.

Nazi concentration camp badges, primarily triangles, were part of the system of identification in Nazi camps. They were used in the concentration camps in the Nazi-occupied countries to identify the reason the prisoners had been placed there.[1] The triangles were made of fabric and were sewn on jackets and trousers of the prisoners. These mandatory badges of shame had specific meanings indicated by their colour and shape.


Badge coding system

Dutch Jews wearing a yellow star and the letter "N" for Niederländer at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
14 year old Czesława Kwoka with badge (dark single triangle), Auschwitz 1942/43.
Newly arrived Czech prisoners, still in their civilian clothes, without badges. Buchenwald 1939.

The system of badges varied between the camps, and in the later stages of the war, the use of badges dwindled in some camps, and became increasingly accidental in others. The following description is based on the badge coding system used before and during the early stages of the war in the Dachau concentration camp, which had one of the more elaborate coding systems.

Shape was chosen by analogy with the common triangular road hazard signs in Germany that denote warnings to motorists. Here, a triangle is called inverted because its base is up while one of its angles points down.

Single triangles

People who wore the green and pink triangles were convicted in criminal courts and may have been transferred to the criminal prison systems after the camps were liberated.

Double triangles

Disabled Jews with a black triangle on a yellow – "asocial Jews". Buchenwald, 1938.

Double-triangle badges resembled two superimposed triangles forming a Star of David, a Jewish symbol.

  • Two superimposed yellow triangles, the "Yellow badge"—a Jew
  • Red inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—a Jewish political prisoner
  • Green inverted triangle upon a yellow one—a Jewish "habitual criminal"
  • Purple inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—a Jehovah's Witness of Jewish descent[6]
  • Pink inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—a Jewish "sexual offender"
  • Black inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—"asocial" and "work shy" Jews
  • Voided black inverted triangle superimposed over a yellow triangle—a Jew convicted of miscegenation and labeled as a "race defiler"
  • Yellow inverted triangle superimposed over a black triangle—an Aryan (woman) convicted of miscegenation and labeled as a "race defiler"

Other badges

The badge of prisoner 29659 – Lidia Główczewska. P on a red triangle – Polish political prisoner. KZ Stutthof.

In addition to colour-coding, some groups had to put letter insignia on their triangles to denote country of origin. Red triangle with a letter: "B" (Belgier, Belgians), "F" (Franzosen, French), "H" (Holländer, Dutch), "I" (Italiener, Italians), "J"[7] (Jugoslawen, Yugoslavs), "N" (Norweger, Norwegian), "P" (Polen, Poles), "S" (Republikanische Spanier, Republican Spanish) "T" (Tschechen, Czechs), "U" (Ungarn, Hungarians).[citation needed]

Also, repeated offenders would receive bars over their stars or triangles, a different colour for a different crime.

  • A political prisoner would have a red bar over his/her star or triangle
  • A professional criminal would have a green bar
  • A foreign forced laborer would have a blue bar
  • A Jehovah's Witness would have a purple bar
  • A homosexual or sex offender would have a pink bar
  • An "asocial" would have a black bar
  • A Roma (Gypsy) would have a brown bar

Many various markings and combinations existed. A prisoner would usually have at least two, and possibly more than six.

Some camps assigned Nacht und Nebel prisoners with two large letters, NN, in yellow.

Penal battalion, penal company, etc., are military units consisting of convicted persons for which military service was either the assigned punishment or a voluntary replacement of imprisonment.

Table of camp inmate markings

Political enemies Professional criminals Foreign forced laborers or Emigrants Jehovah's Witnesses (Bible Students) Sex offenders (usually male homosexuals) "Asocials" Roma (Gypsies)
Basic colours Red triangle.svg Green triangle.svg Blue triangle.svg Purple triangle.svg Pink triangle.svg Black triangle.svg Brown triangle svg.jpg
Markings for repeaters Red triangle repeater.svg Green triangle repeater.svg Blue triangle repeater.svg Purple triangle repeater.svg Pink triangle repeater.svg Black triangle repeater.svg Brown triangle repeater svg.jpg
Inmates of penal battalions (German:Strafkompanie) Red triangle penal.svg Green triangle penal.svg Blue triangle penal.svg Purple triangle penal.svg Pink triangle penal.svg Black triangle penal.svg Maroon triangle penal.svg
Markings for Jews Red triangle jew.svg Green triangle jew.svg Blue triangle jew.svg Purple triangle jew.svg Pink triangle jew.svg Black triangle jew.svg Brown triangle jew.jpg
Special markings Male race defiler.svg
Jewish race defiler
Female race defiler2.svg
Female race defiler
Escape suspect.svg
Escape suspect
Inmate number.svg

Inmate number

Special inmate.svg

Special inmates' brown armband

Sleeve badges.svg

Applicable marks were worn in descending order as follows: inmate number, repeater bar, triangle or star, member of penal battalion, escape suspect. In this case, the inmate is a Jewish convict with multiple convictions, serving in a penal battalion, Strafkompanie.

Red triangle Pole.svg
Pole: "P" on a red triangle
Red triangle Czech.svg
Czech: "T" (the German word for Czech is Tscheche) on a red triangle
Armed forces red triangle.svg
Member of the armed forces: red triangle, an enemy POW or a deserter.


  1. ^ Nazis Open Dachau Concentration Camp
  2. ^ Plant, The Pink Triangle.
  3. ^ Claudia Schoppmann: Nationalsozialistische Sexualpolitik und weibliche Homosexualität (Dissertation, FU Berlin, 1990.) Centaurus, Pfaffenweiler 1991 (revisited 2nd edition 1997). ISBN 3-89085-538-5
  4. ^ "Black triangle women". 2001-02-01. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  5. ^ Jewish Virtual Museum: Badges
  6. ^ Note that since "Jew" was defined along "racial" lines, such as by the Nuremberg Laws, Jews could be classified as Jehovah's Witnesses.
  7. ^ Politika: У Аушвицу, на вест о ослобођењу Београда


External links

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