Gay prisoners at Sachsenhausen, 1938

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In the above image, nine men dressed in identical striped shirts seem to march or walk in a line. Beside them a man in uniform gives the back to the photographer. The expression on the men’s faces says much about what they might be thinking in this specific situation. They seem sad, scared, cold, and hungry. On their striped shirts, there is a white triangular badge and below it a white rectangular badge with a four digit number. The image is in black and white. The title of the image says, “Gay prisoners at Sachsenhausen, 1938.”

The individual items that draw my attention are the triangular badges. During World War II, gay men from Berlin were sent to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, near Berlin–one of the earliest concentration camp opened by the Nazi Regime. The concentration camp was primarily used for political prisoners and Jews, but it was also used as a labor camp. To identify the reason why prisoners were sent to concentration camps, the Nazi Regime created a badge coding system. Camp badges were primarily triangular pieces of fabric with different colors. Red triangles for political prisoners, green triangles for “professional criminals”, purple triangles for Jehovah‘s Witnesses, and pink triangles for gay prisoners.

This image is so powerful not just because it shows the feelings and destiny of German homosexuals, but because it documents the absolute power of the Nazi regime over German people and its nonsensical cruelty.

The image reveals a few characteristics of the Nazi period during World War II. In the year 1933, when Hitler becomes the leader of the third Reich, the Nazi Regime began to persecute not only Jews, but also all human beings considered racially inferior. German Homosexuals   whose sexual orientation was considered an interference to the expansion of the German population were also persecuted and sent to concentration camps. German homosexuals were considered weak individuals unable to fight and unwilling to create a traditional German family. During the Nazi Regime, Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code prohibited sexual acts between men and considered Homosexuality an immoral act. “In Nazi ideology, homosexuality was not merely immoral, nor was it simply a set of acts defined in the penal code. Rather, it was a sickness, something that had to be cured. Homosexuals were separated from other prisoners in concentration camps to prevent the spread of the “disease.” In Buchenwald, some were experimented upon with male hormones, a system of torture that yielded no medical gains. And, if the affliction couldn’t be cured, it would be erased. Castration became a kind of plea bargain, a humiliating, degrading way of avoiding the concentration camps.” (Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/01/27/remembering_the_gay_victims_of_the_holocaust.html)

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