NAZI Auschwitz Concentration Camp: Prisoner Classification System

Figure 1.--This heart-breaking mug shot shows a boy interned at Auschwitz. The source says he was interned in 1944, but we cannot confirm that. The prisoner number probably can be used to date the image. The inverted triangle here was probably red, marking him as apolitical prisoner. He may have been seized a part of anti-partisan roiundups.

A system of marking prisoners was adopted at Auschwitz that was developed at Dachau, the first NAZI concentration camp. There were some differences, but the basic system was the same. The badges were primarily inverted triangles. The system relied heavily on color which unfortunately compkicated the evaluation of black and white photoigraphs. The main classifications were: Political - Red, Criminal - Green, Antisocial - Black, Homosexual - Pink, Emigrant - Blue, Gypsies - Brown, and Jehovah's Witness, Purple, Jews had these badges, but with upward facing yellow triangle underlaying the doward facing triangle forming a Star of David. There were a variety of other badges and some had letters. The Red triangles marked “political prisoners (Schutzhäftlinge – Sch.). They were individuals arrested on the basis of a “protective custody order” (Schutzhaftbefehl) issued by the police. The great majority of the political prisoners in Auschwitz were Poles. Green triangles identified “criminal” prisoners (Berufsverbrecher - BV). They were arrested for various criminal acts. Some were individuals were arrested after release from prison when the police concluded that the sentence he received was too lenient. These prisoners were almost entirely Germans. Black triangles identified “asocial” prisoners (Asoziale - Aso), mostly meaning vagrancy or prostitution. The police could use any infraction or preceived infraction to justify arrest for anti-social behavior. The Gypseys in the Birkenau “Gypsy camp” were classified as asocials. Purple triangles identified prisoners imprisoned as Jehovah’s Witnesses (Internationale Bibelforscher-Vereinigung - IBV). The NAZIs hated the Jehovah’s Witnesses because of their pacifist stance. Pink triangles identified homosexuals. They were also almost exclusively Germans. Article §175 of the German criminal code crimalized homosexuality. Not all prisoners were given these badges or even uniforms. Soviet POWs were allowed to wear their uniforms. Some prisoners continued to wear their civilian clothes. Many of the Jews tranported to Birkenau were murdered upon arrival.


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Created: 7:52 PM 8/19/2009
Last updated: 7:52 PM 8/19/2009