Homosexuality had already been illegal (under paragraph 175 of the German criminal code) before Hitler came to power. The Nazis soon stepped up the persecution. Most arrested men (women did not fall under the law) were sent to regular prisons. But thousands ended up in concentration camps. These men with the pink triangle faced special abuse from SS guards (and from some fellow prisoners, too). Some men were forced to undergo castration. One victim was the Hamburg tailor Otto G., who detailed his experience after the war, in 1955.
I was transferred to Sachsenhausen on 8 December 1938. On my arrival the camp commandant SS-Oberführer Baranowski informed me that my appearance, hair colour and movements were a good advertisement of my status as a 175er [homosexual]. I was threatened that they would pull my balls, but also that they’d pull them off […]. According to an order of the camp administration all prisoners who were there on the basis of article 175 (suspicion was enough) were to be given a special badge. I was given a pink triangle to wear on the right side of my chest. This meant we were exposed to insults and bullying by the SS and prisoners of every category. The political prisoners took a particular pleasure in denouncing those marked out in this particular way to the camp authorities. […]
I was given a pink triangle
On 16 August I was ordered to the parade ground and immediately transferred to the infirmary. It all went very quickly. After I had been bathed and shaved I was straight away placed on the slaughter table. […] At 14.45 I woke up and found myself in bed with a sack under my knees and also on my stomach. A member of the SS was sitting by the bed, but for once a sensible one. Then, after I had woken up properly, I asked him what they’d done to me. He said: castrated. […] After seven days the stitches were removed and five days after that I found myself in the punishment company. Here I was received by the second Block leader with the words: “Well, you nasty little queer, now you’ve lost your balls you won’t be buggering anybody any more”.
Source: A. Pretzel, “Vorfälle im Konzentrationslager Sachsenhausen vor Gericht in Berlin” in A. Pretzel and G. Roßbach (eds), Wegen der zu erwartenden hohen Strafe… (Berlin, 2000), pp. 159–61
Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes