Badges worn in Nazi concentration camps
The top row of triangles in the photo above shows all the colors of the badges worn by the prisoners in all the Nazi concentration camps. Red was for Communists, Social Democrats, anarchists, and other "enemies of the state"; green was for German criminals; blue was for foreign forced laborers; brown was for Gypsies; pink was for homosexuals; purple was for Jehovah's Witnesses and black was for asocials, a catch-all term for vagrants, bums, prostitutes, hobos, perverts, alcoholics who were living on the streets, or anyone who didn't have a permanent address. The "work-shy," or those who were arrested because they refused to work, wore a black badge.
Before 1942, Gypsy men wore a black triangle; they were arrested and imprisoned for being asocial because they didn't have a permanent address, or for being "work-shy" because they were not employed. Every male citizen in Nazi Germany, who was capable of working, was required to take a job and they were not allowed to quit their job without permission. Gypsy women were arrested under the asocial category if they were prostitutes.
In 1942, Gypsy families were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz where they were kept separately in a "family camp." After the Gypsy camp was closed, some of the prisoners were sent to Buchenwald; others were murdered in the gas chamber.
The second row on the chart shows the same colors with a matching bar over the triangle. The bar denoted a "second-timer" or a prisoner who had been released and was then arrested again for a second offense. These prisoners were isolated from the general camp population and were not allowed privileges. Their work assignments were much more difficult. Many of the prisoners, including some Jews in the early days at Dachau, were released after they had been "rehabilitated."
The black circles under the badges in the third row denote prisoners who were assigned to the penal colony. They were given the most difficult work assignments, usually in a rock quarry or gravel pit. Many of the camp locations were chosen because they were near a quarry which could furnish building materials for the new buildings Hitler was planning for Berlin and Linz, Austria, his former home town. Dachau had a gravel pit which was located where the Carmelite convent now stands.
The fourth row shows yellow triangles with each of the regular triangle colors placed on the top, forming a six-pointed star. These badges were worn by the Jews and showed their classification as political prisoners, criminals, foreign forced laborers, homosexuals or asocials.
A combination of a red triangle over a yellow triangle meant a Jewish political prisoner. The black dot below it meant that the Jewish prisoner had been assigned to the punishment detail.
A red triangle pointing upward designated a non-Jewish German political prisoner. The letter P on a red triangle pointing downward designated a Polish political prisoner.
No Jews were sent to any of the concentration camps just for being Jewish until November 1938 when 30,000 German Jews were arrested and approximately 10,000 were sent to each of the major camps: Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. Most of them were released within a few weeks but only if they agreed to leave Germany within six months. Many of them ended up going to Shanghai because they could not get visas to any country, and during the war, they were interned by the Japanese.
Beginning in February 1942, all the Jews in Germany and the Nazi occupied countries were systematically rounded up and sent to the death camps in what is now Poland.
The next row shows a yellow triangle with another yellow triangle which has a black border on top of it. This badge designated a Jew who was arrested for race defilement, which meant having sex with a non-Jew in violation of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.
All prisoners at Dachau and all the other Nazi camps were assigned a number and at roll call, they had to answer when their number was called. The number was written on a white rectangle which each prisoner had to wear on his uniform.
A prison uniform is shown on the poster in the photo above with the placement of the badge on either the shirt or the pants. Prisoners were not required to wear a striped uniform. Photographs displayed in the Dachau museum, that were taken in 1938, show most of the prisoners wearing a regular shirt and striped pants with their prison number worn on their pant's leg.
This page was last updated on March 21, 2008