Special Report

30 Symbols Used by the Nazis to Mark Their Victims

When former U.S. president Donald Trump used an inverted red triangle in campaign ads on Facebook in 2020, it was immediately recognized as a symbol used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners and removed by the social media giant.

Fanatical about the letter of the law and codification in general, the Nazis classified and documented virtually everything under their control. In fact, many of the detailed records on atrocities committed during the Holocaust were documented by the Nazis themselves. (These are 20 horrifying images of Auschwitz.)

The massive population in concentration camps were sorted and labeled using a complex system of symbols as badges. These badges included numerous iterations of the double triangle, which always indicated Jews: The two triangles were laid over one another with the vertices pointing in opposite directions to form an ironic Star of David. (Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David not just in camps but everywhere throughout most countries under German rule.)

Many other groups were forced to wear symbolic badges, too. They varied in color and combination to classify prisoners by race, nationality, legal status, faith, and sex. 

The symbols they devised helped to reinforce Nazi exceptionalism, while also degrading those forced to wear them. How these insignias looked and what they represented reveals the extent of the psychological abuse the Nazis used to dehumanize their victims. 

The Jews were the target of the worst dehumanization, and of course constituted the majority of those slaughtered during the Holocaust, but a multitude of others were singled out and slain as well. Of the eleven million massacred during the Holocaust by the Nazis, six million were Jews. The rest included Romani (“Gypsies”), Slavs, members of various faiths, communists, homosexuals, the physically and mentally disabled, those with criminal records, and anyone politically opposing the Nazis or choosing to remain neutral.

To list some of the key symbols used by the Nazis to mark their victims, 24/7 Tempo reviewed numerous online historical sources, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia, Britannica, History, Smithsonian, and Imperial War Museums, as well as Wikipedia and The Washington Post

Click here to see 30 symbols used by the Nazis to mark their victims

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