The pink triangle


Homosexuals were considered enemies of the state by Adolf Hitler and his National-socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei / NSDAP). Since 1871, the German Penal Code had introduced section 175, which punished homosexual contact between men with up to five years in prison. Nevertheless, during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) a thriving gay culture existed in cities such as Berlin. In 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, that relative freedom was over.


Anti-Gay Nazis

The Nazis took numerous measures to ban homosexuals from society. For example, in 1934 the Gestapo was expanded with a special department for the investigation and prosecution of homosexuals, including men who did not put their desire into practice. In 1935, the penalty for homosexual contact was doubled to ten years in paragraph 175. Men who received a second conviction were deported to concentration camps. There they received a pink triangle as a mark of homosexuality.


The Netherlands

In May 1940, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. The headquarters of the National Socialist Movement came to Utrecht, on 35 Maliebaan. NSDAP member Arthur Seyss Inquart was appointed Reich Commissionar (Reichskommissar) over the occupied Dutch territories. In the summer of 1940 he introduced regulation 81/40 ‘to combat unnatural inconveniences’ (zur Bekämpfung der widernatürlichen Ungelegen).

Since 1911, the Dutch Penal Code already had article 248bis, which prohibited sexual contacts between adult men and women with minors of the same sex. The 1940 ordinance expanded the possibilities for prosecution. Via 81/40, the German occupier now also punished homosexual contacts between adult men. Underage partners in homosexual contact now also ran the risk of a prison sentence.

After the liberation in May 1945, Regulation 81/40 disappeared, but Article 248bis became valid again – until its abolition in 1971.



In Nazi Germany, some 100,000 men were arrested on the grounds of homosexuality. About half were convicted, about 15,000 homosexuals died in concentration camps. Nothing is known about the consequences of regulation 81/40 for homosexuals in Utrecht. Throughout the Netherlands, however, the number of convictions seems to have stagnated between 1940 and 1945. Before and immediately after the war, more homosexuals were convicted on the basis of 248bis than during the occupation.

In the early 1980s, the Amsterdam historian Pieter Koenders calculated in his thesis that at least 138 gay men were convicted through regulation 81/40 throughout the Netherlands. In his dissertation (1996) in Gay Studies at Utrecht University (Homostudies Utrecht), Koenders estimated the total number of prosecuted gay men at several hundred, because not all cases can be found in judicial sources. This concerns, for example, cases that have been dropped, that have been settled by a court in Germany, or cases of gay men who have been convicted on other grounds – such as ‘anti-social’.

A third of the 138 convictions during the occupation came before judges in The Hague. In 2009, Anna Tijsseling conducted doctoral research into homosexual sex offenses in this city. She also concluded that homosexuals were sentenced more often after the war than during the occupation. In 1949, the number of prosecutions in homosexual sex offenses reached a historic peak with almost 250 cases.


No gay holocaust

These conclusions are at odds with the image of a ‘gay holocaust’, which was propagated by the gay movement, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. The pink triangle then became the symbol of resistance against discrimination against gays and lesbians in past and present. Interest groups such as COC demanded recognition of homosexuality as a ground for compensation for war suffering through the Prosecution Victims Benefits Act, introduced in 1973. The time had come in 1986, but only one homosexual victim of persecution has been recognized: Tiemon Hofman (1925-1997) from Groningen. The Utrecht gay studies scientist Judith Schuyf published his biography.

Marijke Huisman



‘De roze driehoek’, With Pride (IHLIA),

Marian van der Klein & Theo van der Meer, ‘Gevangen in slachtofferschap. Homoseksualiteit en de Tweede Wereldoorlog’, De Gids 170 (2007) 74-83.

Pieter Koenders, Homoseksualiteit in bezet Nederland. Verzwegen hoofdstuk (Amsterdam: SUA, 1983)

Pieter Koenders, Tussen christelijk réveil en seksuele revolutie. Bestrijding van zedeloosheid in Nederland, met nadruk op de repressie van homoseksualiteit (Amsterdam: Stichting Beheer IISG, 1996)

Judith Schuyf, Levenslang. Tiemon Hofman, vervolgd homoseksueel en avonturier (Amsterdam: Schorer Boeken, 2003)

Anna Tijsseling, Schuldige seks. Homoseksuele zedendelicten rondom de Duitse bezettingstijd (Dissertation Utrecht University, 2009)


Headquarters NSB at Maliebaan 35. Network War Sources / Wikimedia Commons,

Kennzeichen für Schutzhäftlinge in den Konz.-Lagern (Badge for prisoners in German concentration camps). The pink triangle was for homosexuals and other sex offenders, such as pedophiles and rapists. Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1993-051-07 / CC-BY-SA 3.0,,_Tafel_mit_KZ-Kennzeichen_(Winkel)_retouched.jpg

Cartoon from ReinArt, COC Deventer, 2017,

Round photo above: gay prisoners in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. This image was used during in the 80s and 90s as symbol for the assumed gay holocaust during WOII. Source: