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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.