Citizens of the Third Reich – Everyday Betrayals and the Pink Triangle Prisoners of Sachsenhausen

Dr Max Biddulph, Associate Professor in the School of Education, launches LGBT History Month 2017 with a public lecture.

Friday 27 January 2017 will mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. Join us for an exploration of the experiences of pink-triangle prisoners at Sachsenhausen and how social context impacts on our concept of citizenship. How does living in a totalitarian regime influence the behaviour of its citizens, and what are the implications for contemporary societies?

The strategy employed by the Nazi regime of the Third Reich of ‘concentrating’ individuals in one place who did not conform to the concept of Aryanism can be traced back to the mid-1930s. The camp at Sachsenhausen near Oranienburg on the north flank of Berlin was constructed in 1936 and accommodated a range of political prisoners and ‘anti-socials’, a catch-all category which included prisoners convicted under paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which criminalised homosexuality.

In line with the policy of providing visual identification of all camp prisoners, ‘175ers’ were required to have a large pink triangle sewn on to their prisoner clothing, a symbol that singled them out for particularly harsh treatment. Although Sachsenhausen, unlike Auschwitz, was not officially an extermination camp, to all intents and purposes the same outcome was achieved following Heinrich Himmler’s decree that homosexuals should be ‘corrected’ via hard work. This led to the now notorious events in the summer of 1942 in the Klinkerwerk (brickworks) adjacent to the main camp, where approximately 200 gay men were murdered.

Given that the rear gardens of houses in Oranienburg back up to the camp perimeter, the question of the extent to which citizens of the town were complicit in and knowledgeable of events on the other side of the fence remains. Indeed, the lecture will argue that the social and emotional effects of living under the Nazi regime led to many ‘everyday betrayals’ in which information about the sexual orientation of other citizens was passed on to the SS, producing an extraordinary scenario in which concepts of citizenship and community were redefined.

Please note that the lecture contains explicit references to violence and sexual behaviour and for that reason it is suggested that it is unsuitable for persons under the age of 16.

Free, all welcome. Please book online.

This event is part of LGBT History Month and the People and Culture Events Calendar at The University of Nottingham. For more information on the events or the People and Culture Team and the work we do, please email

For LGBT History Month events, news and more, visit the People and Culture blog throughout February. You can also follow them on Twitter @UoNPandC.

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