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Black Triangle (Anti Nazi Brooch for Anti Socials, Lesbians et al)

Black Triangle (Anti Nazi Brooch for Anti Socials, Lesbians et al)

Black triangles for  "the asocial category was not exclusively lesbian; it was a diverse grouping that included prostitutes, vagrants, murderers, thieves, and those who violated laws prohibiting sexual intercourse between Aryans and Jews."

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The fact that the pink triangle is regarded as a symbol of gay and lesbian liberation is disturbing because pink triangles were exclusively worn by those men the Nazis had identified as gay. By contrast, "The average lesbian enjoyed a kind of legal immunity" (Plant, 1986, p. 27). This was not the result of a greater acceptance of lesbianism. Rather, love between women was so intolerable that lesbian existence had been vociferously denied. Later, in 1910, measures to criminalize lesbians were considered but then promptly abandoned. Feminist opposition proved politically effective (Faderman & Eriksson, 1990, p. xv; Steakley, 1975, p. 42). Consequently, paragraph 175 never extended to lesbians. Yet, as we will note below, male-dominated society would find "more suitable ways to suppress any kind of female independence" (Fernbach, 1980, p. 10 [my emphasis]). 

 most effective way to render lesbians powerless was to sever their connection(s) to other women. With the rise of Nazism, lesbian meeting places and private homes were raided and their visibility was concealed (Faderman & Eriksson, 1990, p. xx).  "Lesbians," writes Irene Reti, "were among those women imprisoned as asocials considered a threat to German society before 1939" (1993, p. 95).  All asocials were identified through black down-turned triangles. These detainees "were considered stupid, unable to communicate, lacking the courage to stand up for a brother [sic]" (Plant, 1986, p. 160). The SS "despised" them because "the color of their triangles was an insult to their own black uniforms" (Plant, 1986, p. 160).

It is politically significant that the asocial category was not exclusively lesbian; it was a diverse grouping that included prostitutes, vagrants, murderers, thieves, and those who violated laws prohibiting sexual intercourse between Aryans and Jews. Precisely because the asocial group was so heterogeneous, lesbians were not as readily identifiable as were gay men whose pink marking exclusively signified their homosexuality. Universalizing the pink triangle today renders lesbians almost as invisible as the black triangles did in the past. Failure to appreciate this obscures some vital aspects of fascist history.

 

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