Saturday 27 January 2018

Holocaust Flags

For this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day I thought I’d design a few flags to mark the event. There is already an established Holocaust Memorial flag, designed in 2005. It is shown in the illustration at the bottom of this article at the head of 9 other smaller flags. This flag specifically commemorates the Jews who were victims of the Holocaust. I thought it would be an idea to commemorate other persecuted groups individually with their own flag design.

The pink triangle became a symbol of gay rights in the 1970s (first used in Melbourne, September 1973, as described here) because it was the symbol used in the Nazi concentration and labour camps to indicate which prisoners here homosexual. Just as the Jews were forced to wear yellow triangles on their shirts homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles. Each imprisoned group had their own coloured triangle.

The system of triangles and additional markings used by the Nazis can be confusing, as can be seen in the chart below, an actual chart of symbols from Nazi Germany. For my flags I’ve just used the triangles.

When deciding whether a persecuted group should have a flag I thought about the wider definitions that were used by the Nazis. In the end I decided that all groups had people who deserve to be commemorated. For example, you may wonder why I include a flag with the purple triangle, because that colour represented Jehovah’s Witnesses. This faith is not known for it’s tolerance of homosexuals, but they were persecuted none the less for their faith. The purple triangle group also included people such as Baptists, Adventists and New Apostolics as well as “Bible students”. And so were people of any faith who preached pacifism.

Pacifists on moral grounds were grouped with the asocial/anti-social black triangle prisoners. This group included a large number of people, such as female Roma/Gypsies (male Roma were given their own triangle later in the war), mental health patients, alcoholics, drug users, beggars, prostitutes and conscription avoiders. Lesbians have frequently adopted the black triangle as their symbol because they were considered anti-social for not wanting to marry and have children.

One group I also debated over with myself are the green triangle prisoners. These were the convicted criminals. Those criminals who didn’t receive the death penalty were imprisoned. However serious or trivial their crime might seem to us imprisonment was their sentence. They did not deserve to receive inhumane treatment in the concentration and labour camps any more than the other persecuted groups.

Finally, there is the Prisoners of War, mainly Soviet soldiers, who were sent to the camps. Their triangle was pointed up in the opposite direction to the others.

For my designs I deliberately avoided using the horizontal stripes of the original Holocaust Memorial flag (there’s far too many horizontally striped flags around, there’s little variety or distinction). I hope my suggestions for these other memorial flags will be taken up. At most memorial events the raising of national flags of allied national and countries who liberated the camps takes place. In my humble opinion some reminder of the groups who suffered should be commemorated in the same way.

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