• The Watchtower (2006)
  • “What Does the Purple Triangle Mean?”

“What Does the Purple Triangle Mean?”

“A FEW days ago, I received a copy of The Watchtower from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” wrote a civil servant working at the ministry of justice in Seoul, Republic of Korea. He continued: “Reading it, I learned some facts about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses under Nazi and Communist regimes. But I have a question. The cover photo shows Jehovah’s Witnesses with an inverted purple triangle on the left side of their coats. What does the purple triangle mean?”

In Germany under the Nazi regime, Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to heil Hitler, and they maintained neutrality on political and military issues. So the Nazis cruelly persecuted them, incarcerating some 12,000 Witnesses for varying lengths of time in prisons and concentration camps. About 2,000 of them died, hundreds being executed.

What did the purple triangle on their prison garb signify? “The various categories of prisoners in the [Nazi] camps carried special distinguishing marks,” explains the book Anatomy of the SS State. “The uniform system of marking introduced before the war consisted in sewing a triangular piece of material on to each prisoner’s uniform, the colour depending on his category: for political prisoners, red; for Jehovah’s Witnesses, purple; for anti-socials, black; for criminals, green; for homosexuals, pink; for emigrants, blue. In addition to the coloured triangle Jewish prisoners were made to wear a yellow triangle sewn on to the coloured triangle in such a way as to form the hexagonal Star of David.”

“If its moral significance is widely remembered in time,” wrote Professor John K. Roth in his book Holocaust Politics, “the purple triangle can yet be a shield against disaster, a shield whose triangular points direct our attention and commitment toward the good that most deserves human respect.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have produced the award-winning documentary Jehovah’s Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault. Why not ask one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to make it possible for you to view this video?