Sunday, April 11, 2010

Holocaust Remembrance: We All Wear the Triangle

Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen
By William Hart McNichols ©

On Holocaust Remembrance Day we recall the genocide of 6 million Jews in state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany during World War II. The Nazis also murdered millions of people in other groups, including thousands of gay men and lesbians. Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom HaShoah, is April 11 this year.

One of those killed was an anonymous 60-year-old gay priest who died at the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, Germany in 1940. Heinz Heger gives an eyewitness account in his book, “The Men with the Pink Triangle.” The priest was brutally beaten and tortured, and yet there was a moment of grace when a narrow beam of sunlight shone on the priest’s face. For a detailed account, visit:

The gay priest is honored in the icon above, “Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen” by Father William Hart McNichols, a renowned iconographer and Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico.

The icon shows the priest wearing the pink triangle, the badge used by the Nazis to identify prisoners sent to concentration camps for homosexuality. Originally intended as a badge of shame, the pink triangle has become a symbol for the GLBT rights movement.

The pink triangle appears in a variety of monuments that have been built around the world to commemorate LBGT victims of the Nazi regime. Since 1984, more than 20 gay Holocaust memorials have been established cities ranging from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, from Germany to Uruguay. Some are in the actual concentration camp sites, such as the plaque for gay victims in Dachau pictured below.

To see powerful photos of all the memorials and read the stories behind them, visit:

The logo for the Jesus in Love Blog also shows the face of Jesus in a pink triangle. He joins queer people in transforming suffering into power.

Some lesbians claim the black triangle as their symbol. The Nazis imposed the black triangle on people who were sent to concentration camps for being “anti-social.”

We observe Holocaust Remembrance Day here with the prayer “We All Wear the Triangle” by Steve Carson. It appears in the book “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations.” Carson was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served congregations in New York, Boston and San Francisco.
One: We are in many ways a culture without memory. The Holocaust, a series of events that occurred just over a generation ago, changed the world forever. Yet by some the Holocaust is forgotten, or seen as irrelevant, or even viewed as something that never happened.

All: As people of faith, we refuse to forget. We refuse to participate in the erasing of history. As a community of faith, we decide to remember, as we hear the historical record from Europe a generation ago and reflect upon events in our own time. We dare to listen to the voices of the past, even as they echo today.

One: In this moment, we are all Jews wearing the yellow Star of David.

All: We are all homosexuals wearing the pink triangle.

One: We are all political activists wearing the red triangle.

All: We are all criminals wearing the green triangle.

One: We are all antisocials wearing the black triangle.

All: We are all Jehovah’s Witnesses wearing the purple triangle.

One: We are all emigrants wearing the blue triangle.

All: We are all gypsies wearing the brown triangle.

One: We are all undesirable, all extendable by the state.

…Leader: To God of both memory and hope, we pledge ourselves to be a people of resistance to the powers of death wherever they may appear, to honor the living and the dead, and to make with them our promise: Never again!

Plaque for gay victims at Dachau concentration camp by nilexuk


Terence Weldon said...

Indeed, Kitt, we do all wear the pink (or black) triangle, especially in the churches. The physical extermination of sexual minorities is not a new idea, unique to the Nazis or to the prejudices of some modern African and Middle -Eastern countries.

The outright persecution of homosexual men (and rather fewer women) reached fever pitch in the late medieval and early Renaissance periods, when several thousand men were executed, often by burning at the stake, either directly by the Inquisition or at its instigation. In some places, there were more people burned for "sodomy" than for heresy. The Nazis, like modern Ugandans, simply applied the lessons they had learned from the Church.

In recent years, the Catholic Church has apologised for many of the horrors of the past. They have never apologised for this one.

Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Maryrs

KittKatt said...

Terry, you do an excellent job of putting the Holocaust into historical perspective -- 1,000 years of killing gays and lesbians. It’s certainly true that the Nazis were not the first or last to imprison and kill queers.

In fact, when the Allies liberated the concentration camps, they did NOT release the men who wore the pink triangle. They were just transferred to other prisons. And, as you say, there is the contemporary example in Uganda.

Another chilling fact is that other survivors of the concentration camps actively tried to prevent the gay memorials from being placed in the camps back in the 1980s and 1990s. The lesson “We all wear the triangle” is hard to learn.

I recommend your post “Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Maryrs” for Yom HaShoah reading. I hope you noticed that I included a link to your informative post about the gay priest in Sachsenhausen, too.

Trudie said...

An extraordinarily meaningful post. Thanks especially for all the links.

JJones said...

It is an insult to SINGLE OUT for memorialization the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the FIVE MILLION Non-Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view some of those fellow victims (Homosexuals, Gypsies, etc. ) much as did the Nazis. Additionally, of the 5,000,000 Non-Jewish Holocaust victims, Jehovah's Witnesses constituted the LEAST number of all -- less than 1300 persons.

It is ESPECIALLY an insult to memorialize the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the SIX MILLION Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis.

The WatchTower Cult teaches its own version of "replacement theology", which says that GOD rejected the Jews as His "chosen people", and replaced them with today's "Jehovah's Witnesses". In fact, the title "Jehovah's Witnesses" was originally applied to the Jews by the Prophet Isaiah, and is even quoted on the wall at the entrance to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. The WatchTower Society, in calling its own members "Jehovah's Witnesses" is attempting to steal that designation away from the Jews. The WatchTower Cult even teaches that all of the Bible's promises of restoration for the Jewish people now belongs to the followers of the Cult.

There were only approximately 6000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany during the 1930s-40s. While many of those 6000 German JWs were repeatedly arrested during the 1930s and 1940s, only a fraction were jailed or imprisoned for any significant length of time. Only about 200-300 German JWs lost their lives, and the majority of those died from any number of causes other than having been executed. Approximately 1000 JWs from other European countries lost their lives while incarcerated by the Nazis.

During that same time period, there were more Jehovah's Witnesses arrested and jailed in the United States than in Germany. In fact, from 1941 until 1945, approximately 4500 American Jehovah's Witnesses "elected" to go to prison rather than serve in the U.S. Military and go fight against those same Nazis who were committing those atrocities. Approximately 3000 of those 4500 American JWs were even offered "conscientious objector" status, in which they were offered "non-combatant" work as a substitute, but 99% of those JWs refused to even help that much.

KittKatt said...

I expected that some might feel it was an insult to memorialize the GAY victims of the Holocaust when the Jewish losses were so much greater. But no, it’s the part about the Jehovah’s Witnesses that proves controversial. JJones offers some interesting food for thought.

It’s important not to downplay the impact of the Holocaust on Jews. That’s why the first line of this post refers only to the 6 million Jews who were killed.