Pink Triangle Legacies


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Dr. Jake Newsome’s book Pink Triangle Legacies: Coming Out in the Shadow of the Holocaust (Cornell University Press) traces the transformation of the pink triangle from a Nazi concentration camp badge and emblem of discrimination, into a widespread, recognizable symbol of queer activism, pride, and community. W. Jake Newsome provides an overview of the Nazis’ targeted violence against LGBTQ+ people and details queer survivors’ fraught and ongoing fight for the acknowledgement, compensation, and memorialization of LGBTQ+ victims. Within this context, a new generation of queer activists used the pink triangle—a reminder of Germany’s fascist past—as the visual marker of gay liberation, seeking to end the practice of second-class citizenship by asserting they had the right to express their queer identity openly.

The reclamation of the pink triangle occurred first in West Germany, but soon activists in the USA adopted this chapter of German history as their own. As gay activists on opposite sides of the Atlantic grafted pink triangle memories into new contexts, they connected two national communities and helped form the basis of a shared gay history, indeed a new gay identity, that transcended national borders.

Pink Triangle Legacies illustrates the dangerous consequences of historical silencing and how the incorporation of hidden histories into the mainstream understanding of the past can contribute to a more inclusive experience of belonging in the present. But there can be no justice without acknowledging and remembering the injustice. As Newsome demonstrates, if a marginalized community wants a history that liberates them from the confines of silence, they must often write it themselves.

To chart this incredible story that spans continents and decades, Newsome has mined rare archival material in Germany and the United States. He also conducted nearly 30 original interviews to learn how the pink triangle resonated with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences as gay, bi, lesbian, non-binary, cisgender, transgender, white, and persons of color. This range of sources allows Pink Triangle Legacies to showcase queer voices from the archives and in their own words.


The Association of University Presses named Pink Triangle Legacies as one of its “Next Great Reads,” a list showcasing the top books published by a university press that look towards new horizons of scholarship.

“Newsome makes a significant contribution to the fields of Holocaust studies, memory studies, and gender/sexuality studies. Academics, history students, and interested members of the general public alike will find Pink Triangle Legacies thoroughly researched and highly readable…This book will surely become a staple on the shelves of scholars and queer history buffs.”
Susanna Cassisa, review, George L. Mosse Program in History blog (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

From Experts in the Field

“Jake Newsome illuminates how a transnational group of LGBTQ people recovered the history of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals and stood it on its head, transforming the fascists’ symbol of shame into a liberation banner. A fascinating, important study.”
Jonathan Ned Katz, pioneering gay historian and activist

“A compellingly written addition to LGBTQ history. Jake Newsome draws upon as-yet unexplored German archival sources to reveal the story of transnational activism around the persecution of gay men under the Nazis. It makes an important contribution to the historiography, with lessons for the present day.”
Jennifer V. Evans, Ph.D., Professor of History, Carleton University

“Jake Newsome skillfully describes the interdependence of gay movements in Germany and other countries as they developed after World War Two. By expertly evaluating untapped archives and eyewitnesses, Newsome details the important historical trope of the pink triangle as the symbol of bloody persecution and discrimination.”
Geoffrey J. Giles, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida

Online Reviews from Readers

“The power of this book comes from the individual stories that the author has researched in depth and relates with compassion. A must read!” 

“Extraordinarily well-written and thoroughly researched. Newsome discusses the history with nuance and deep respect.” 

“This book expertly and compassionately underscores why history has deep relevance for today.”

“What stood out to me about this book is the emphasis it places on telling stories as a historical practice. Newsome does an excellent job guiding the reader through the political and legal contexts of the 20th century and their impacts on LGBTQ+ people, but he also brilliantly captures the lived experiences of people who have worn the pink triangle.” 

“This is a true eye-opener about the plight of LGBTQ people under the Third Reich and their continued persecution after WWII.” 

Pink Triangle Legacies should be in the canon for every student of history to read.” 

“What struck me was how Dr. Newsome includes the personal stories of queer people of color and how the pink triangle’s history and symbolism have helped shape their lives and activism in contemporary times.”