Thursday, August 27, 2009

Concentration Camp Emblems of WW2

The principal distinctive emblems worn by deportees during WW2
(Worn by prisoners in the Nazi Concentration Camps during WW2)
The emblem worn by a prisoner indicated to which category they had been assigned
(Courtesy of the Deportation Museum & Archives, Tarbes, France)
[Photo: J. Ritson]

For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Use of the Emblems

During WW2 many of the Occupied countries of Western Europe had significant numbers of people deported to the Concentration Camps such as Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, Ravensbruck etc. Each prisoner was given a striped uniform to wear, with a distinctive emblem to indicate how they had been ‘classified’ by the camp authorities.

The emblem people would be most likely to immediately recognise would be the yellow 6-poited ‘Star of David’. This would have to have been worn by the majority of Jewish prisoners at the camps. However, as can be seen from the above photograph, men women and children belonging to other groups were also deported to the camps.

The emblems seen in the above photograph were worn by prisoners belonging to the following groups. Broadly speaking, they indicated someone was the following category of prisoner:

(Top row, Left to Right):

Red inverted equilateral triangle (without a letter) – German political prisoner

Red inverted equilateral triangle (with a letter) – Political prisoner from other than Germany (F – France, B – Belgium, S- Spain etc)

Star of David (red inverted equilateral triangle with a yellow equilateral triangle on top) – Jewish political prisoner

Black inverted equilateral triangle – ‘anti-social’ prisoner (e.g. conscientious objector)

Light brown inverted equilateral triangle – Romany prisoner (i.e. Gypsy)

(Bottom row, Left to Right):

Dark brown inverted equilateral triangle – ‘Bibelforscher’ / ‘Bible Student’ (i.e. mainly Jehovah’s Witness) prisoner

Blue inverted equilateral triangle – ‘stateless person’

Green inverted equilateral triangle – ‘Common rights’ prisoner

Yellow 6-pointed ‘Star of David’ – Jewish prisoner

Red ‘Target’ (two red circles) – painted on the back of certain prisoners to indicate they should get ‘special treatment’ by the S.S.


(2) A few personal comments

Not all prisoners in the Concentration Camps were treated alike. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses could be released if they renounced their faith and complied with requirements enforced upon them by the Occupying Powers (Nazis). In some instances Camp Commandants used Jehovah’s Witnesses to look after their children or do the housekeeping for their family.

Also among those deported were people belonging to other religious groups who were sent to the Concentration Camps because they objected to the Occupying Power or what was going on in the country where they lived. For example, the Polish Catholic priest, Father Maximilian Kolbe (apparently categorised as a ‘political prisoner’) was one of those deported to a Concentration Camp. Father Kolbe was later killed by lethal injection having sacrificed himself by volunteering to take the place of another man (father of eight children).

On the other hand, a deportee who was categorised as a ‘Jewish prisoner’ would not have the option of being released just by renouncing the Hebrew faith. Hence, in some instances people were deported as Jewish prisoners even if they had previously converted to Christianity, for example.

These are events that happened in Europe - and still in the living memory of many people alive today. In many respects it is not all that long ago. In Tarbes (in the High Pyrenees department of southern France) there is a Deportation Museum and Archive. It strives to remember those many men, women and children who were deported to the Concentration Camps during WW2 and to educate present and future generations about what happened. The Museum has a good collection of original documents, artefacts and photographs from WW2 and afterwards, particularly from the area of the High Pyrenees (Hautes-Pyrénées). Part One key phrase is evident both in the Museum and on the Deportees Memorial - "Ni haine, ni oublie" ("Neither hate nor forget").


Thanks to the Deportation Museum & Archives, Tarbes, High Pyrenees Department, France

Thursday, 27 August, 2009  
Blogger Peter G said...


Thank you for tracking this down. I have a fuller table of these dreadful badges which I shall post as additional information. Unfortunately, as you know, images cannot be added in Comments, hence the need for a separate post, but all credit to you Joseph for starting this off.

On a separate point, you say that "in some instances people were deported as Jewish prisoners even if they had previously converted to Christianity", so far as I am aware this was the case in all instances.

Thursday, 03 September, 2009  
Anonymous Peter Fibush said...

As a mixed breed with lots of Jewish blood in my veins I think that both political parties have forgot the lessons of WW2. The right wing Republicans attacks on Middle Eastern immigrants. Also by Left Wing Democrats support of terrorist who want to destroy Israel. Instead of being decent human beings members of both Political Parties use racial and religious bias to gain Political Power.

Wednesday, 25 November, 2015  

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