Special Report

30 Symbols Used by the Nazis to Mark Their Victims

Letter “F”

France was invaded by the Germans in 1940. Defeated militarily, the country signed an armistice and established a collaborationist government in the city of Vichy in central France. A storied resistance movement grew up, inflicting serious damage on the occupying forces. The “F” tag was for resistors who were captured and other French who were interned.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Black triangle

The vast majority of those given the black triangle badge were women convicted of resisting childbirth, engaging in sex work, or lesbianism. This group also included anyone deemed “genetically diseased,” such as addicts, the mentally ill, or physically disabled.

Source: FPG / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Solid bar

To maintain order in concentration camps, the Nazis created a demerit system. By adding a solid bar to badges for every crime committed while interned, Nazi guards were able to track the offenses of their prisoners. The color of the bar matched the assigned badge. The greater the number of bars, the more severe the punishment.

Source: Getty Images / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Circle

If reprimand and torture were not enough to curb rule-breaking, the Nazis assigned inmates to the “punitive unit.” It was a penal work division which often resulted in death. The symbol for members of these forced-work crews was a black and white circle, resembling a bulls-eye.

Band

Bands were often added to insignia to identify repeat rule-breakers who, even after receiving severe punishment, continued to rebel. They were forced to work in a prisoner functionary or Funktionshäftlinge. This included the hardest labor without breaks, shelter, food or water, and inmates were forcibly recruited to police others interned.

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