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Mistreatment and Harms

The testimonies reveal a great deal of detail about the harms experienced by Jews and others during the November Pogrom. There are descriptions of administrative restrictions and obstacles, as well as antisemitic insults and the many different types of physical attacks on people, homes, businesses and organisations. There are also some very full accounts of conditions prisoners endured in concentration camps.

Please note: For specific terms related to mistreatment, harms and concentration camps, please see Special Subjects .

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Prisoners' uniforms

Slave labourers.
Slave labourers.

The introduction of the striped uniform for prisoners began in Dachau in before being rolled out across the camps (e.g. summer in Sachsenhausen).

Striped uniforms for prisoners in "normal" prisons had been called for by the Nazi government as early as and introduced across the Länder despite protests from regional government.

They were concerned by the cost of the clothing (dye especially) and the barrier it would create for prisoners both in carrying out duties outside the prison and in rehabilitating.

The official in charge of camps' " Binnenorganisierung " [internal organisation], Eicke insisted on the striped clothes, however, and Schmidt suggests this was precisely because of the dehumanising effect of the clothes and, importantly, the familiarity the public felt towards them from filmic representations of prisoners.

[Source: 'Kleiderordnung zwischen Komplexitätserhöhung und Komplexitätsreduktion am Beispiel der gestreiften KZ-Häftlingskleidung', Komplexe Welt: Kulturelle Ordnungssysteme als Orientierung , Silke Göttsch-Elten and Christel Köhle-Hezinger, eds, Münster, Waxmann, 2003, pp 199-201]

Prisoners' badges

Concentration camp prisoners had to wear coloured markings on their clothes to identify their category (see table below). The triangles were not solely or primarily a means of identification for the guards, although guards did single out certain groups e.g. Arbeitsscheu [work shy] before the arrival of the Jews, Jews after homosexuals throughout.

Overview of badges used in Nazi concentration camps to classify inmates and a drawing of uniform worn by inmates of Buchenwald concentration camp.
Overview of badges used in Nazi concentration camps to classify inmates and a drawing of uniform worn by inmates of Buchenwald concentration camp.

Before (c. 1935 onwards) Jews were definitely already being given special Abzeichen [badges] to mark them out from other prisoners, e.g. a yellow spot or a piece of yellow material.

The scheme in the table below was the official norm for all camps from 1938 onwards. Dachau was the model camp where the system was introduced in its standardised form but the administration of the camps was not consistent and became less so as camps deviated from the norm in certain respects and over time.

The colour which was combined with yellow to make the Jews' Star of David differed: most accounts mention a red/yellow combination (since Jews were inherently political enemies of the state). There are also references to black/yellow and brown/yellow.

Variations may have been due to:

  • the camp leadership's preference
  • the system pre-existing camps already used
  • the entry clerk's method of categorising people, e.g. whether he classed all retired people as Arbeitsscheu and gave them black
  • the availability and quality of the cloth

Red   Political inmate Inverted (apex up) Armed forces
  Red stripe Recidivist political inmate    
  Yellow triangle Political inmate of Jewish origin    
  Letter Foreign political inmate (initial letter of native country)    
  Letter K Political 'K' inmate (war offence)    
  Number on badge Political 'Aktion' inmate    
  Black dot (all groups) Delinquent company    
Green   Preventative police detention inmate (BV criminals) Inverted (apex up) Criminal in secure confinement
  Yellow triangle Preventative police detention inmate of Jewish origin    
  Letter S Security detention inmate (SV) beginning in    
  Letter K Preventative police detention 'K' inmate (war offence)    
Black   'work-shy' (ASR) Inverted (apex up) with yellow triangle overlapping (apex down) German woman guilty of betraying the race ' Rassenschänderin '
  Yellow triangle 'work-shy' of Jewish origin    
  Letter A Labour discipline inmate (beg. )    
Purple   'Bible researcher' (Jehovah's Witness)    
  Purple stripe Recidivist 'Bible researcher'    
  Yellow triangle 'Bible researcher' of Jewish origin    
  Letter Foreign 'Bible researcher' (initial letter of native country)    
Blue   Emigrant    
  Yellow triangle Emigrant of Jewish origin    
Pink   Homosexual    
  Yellow triangle Homosexual of Jewish origin    
Yellow Black triangular contour 'race defiler' or Jewish origin    

Source: Adapted from Buchenwald Concentration Camp 1937-1945: A Guide to the Permanent Historical Exhibition , trans. Judith Rosenthal, Frankfurt, Wallstein, 2004, p 62


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