Identification Badges at Dachau

Dachau ID badges

Dachau ID badges

When Dachau was established in March 1933 the vast majority of the prisoners were German political opponents of the Nazi Party. All political parties, with the exception of the Nazi party, were banned within a year. After crushing the political opposition the Nazis spread the net of oppression by targeting other “undesirable” groups. These new groups of prisoners had to wear not only numbers but also a coloured identification badge.

A red triangle signified a person classified as a “political” prisoner.

Green meant “Professional Criminal”.

Blue meant “Emigrant”.

Purple had to be worn by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Pink was worn by men persecuted under the anti-homosexual laws.

Black meant “Asocial” which was vague enough to include Roma and Sinti people, sex workers, homeless people, and a whole range of other people who did not fit into what the Nazis would consider normal or correct.

A system of control and dehumanisation.

A system of control and dehumanisation.

Jewish prisoners were required to wear two triangles: for example a red triangle pointing down in front of a yellow triangle pointing upward - hence this prisoner is labelled as “Jewish political”. For Jews this amounted to what was in effect double persecution: for example persecuted as a Jew and as a political opponent.

Not only was the badge system a way to dehumanise and objectify the prisoners at Dachau, it was also a way to try to split the increasing numbers of prisoners into smaller factions which could be potentially turned against each other. This was one of the many tactics used by the SS to control prisoners in the concentration camps.

Names, not Numbers.

dachau tour dutch uniform.png

Upon arrival at Dachau men, women and children were given a number which had to be displayed on their uniform at all times.  This number was their camp identity, their camp name.  It was part of a system of control used by the SS guards to dehumanise and humiliate those they incarcerated at Dachau.

A temporary exhibition at the Dachau Memorial Site focuses on the over two thousand Dutch prisoners who were imprisoned at Dachau between 1941 and 1945.  The exhibition was researched and created by school pupils starting in 2010 with guidance from the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam.


The exhibition is quite interactive with a large projection and touchscreen which can be used to search through individual stories and find out what may have happened to each prisoner.  Different stations focus on certain prisoners and display incredible items from camp life.  It is a powerful exhibition which goes a long way in the effort to remind visitors that behind every number was an individual human being.  It is of course doubly impressive when you consider the young age of the researchers!