The Nazi Triangle

Chart of concentration camp badges worn in Dachau, c. 1936.

From Design Observer:

If the canard that Adolf Hitler was a superb art director is meant to glorify the art directorial profession, think again. Although historians say he was the “art dictator” of Germany because he spent an inordinate amount of time overseeing the art and design of the Third Reich, he nonetheless had thousands of willing “executioners,” like Hugo Boss, designer and manufacturer of Wehrmacht and SS uniforms, doing the everyday work. Yet like art directors today, as Führer (leader) he received credit for everything under his domain, even those things he knew nothing about and had no hand in creating.

One such was the identification system implemented throughout the concentration camp network. No documentation has surfaced that proves Hitler had any direct input in developing the inverted triangle (known as the “Winkel”) made of variously colored fabrics to distinguish homosexuals from habitual criminals from political enemies from Jehovah’s Witnesses from Gypsies from, of course, Jews. But this color and symbol code (concentric circles distinguished failed escapees and were worn on prisoners’ sleeves like boy scout merit badges) was initiated shortly after the Nazis opened the infamous Dachau in 1933, in a former munitions factory in Upper Bavaria. Although the camp was originally designed for the “protective custody” of political offenders, it soon swelled up with the regime’s undesirables, most of who had to be segregated and then earmarked for “special treatment.” It is probable that camp commandant Theodor Eicke was responsible for — or even the designer of — the classification scheme which, like the camp layout itself, became the model for all other camps in occupied Europe. (In fact, prospective camp commandants were required to complete a special “school of violence” at Dachau).

(via Bifurcated Rivets)