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Unused red inverted triangle patch with a black letter I for a political prisoner found by US forces at a concentration camp and used as evidence at war crimes trials

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Inverted red triangle badge printed with a black letter I intended for use as a prisoner identification badge in Langenstein-Zwieberge concentration camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald in Germany. The red identified a political prisoner. The letter could indicate nationality; I may be for Italian. The inverted triangle would have been attached on the left breast of the uniform. The camp was liberated on April 11, by troops from the 399th Battalion, 8th Armored Division, and 83rd Infantry, which captured all the camp records intact. This badge was one of many found by Lt. Colonel Charles F. Ottoman, US Army, on April 22, 1945. It was used as evidence for Case No. 117 "Alleged atrocities at Zwieberge Malachit Concentration Camp" at the Subsequent Nuremberg War Crimes Trials held in Dachau in 1947. Zwieberge subcamps were built from April 1944 to bolster the German war effort. Due to Allied bombings, an underground factory complex was designed to relocate armament works. The major subcamp, Halberstadt-Langenstein-Zwieberge [Malachit / B2 / Landhaus), planned for 2000 inmates, held more than 5000. Prisoners who worked in the tunnels died in about 6 weeks, at a rate of 30-40 per day. About 60% of the 8-10,000 prisoners died. Prisoners were sent to the camp from all regions invaded by Germany. Inmates included Jews, political prisoners, prisoners of war, and asocials, such as criminals, homosexuals, Roma, and vagrants. Living conditions were primitive, food scarce, and disease rampant. The SS camp fuhrer Tscheu was notorious for his cruelty, beatings, lengthy torture sessions, and hangings. The murder of prisoners was a common occurrence. Malachit was evacuated on April 9, 1945, as Allied troops neared. 3000 inmates were sent on a death march, which 500 survived. On April 11, US troops entered the camp. They discovered about 1500 ill and dying inmates who were transferred to a military hospital in Halberstadt. Residents from Langenstein were ordered to bury the dead in mass graves. No postwar trials were held for officers or guards at the Malachit camps, but the captured records of the camp were introduced into evidence for War Crimes cases.

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  • Title: Unused red inverted triangle patch with a black letter I for a political prisoner found by US forces at a concentration camp and used as evidence at war crimes trials
  • Provenance: The unused cloth badge was transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991 by the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • Subject Keywords: Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Germany--Langenstein. Concentration camps--Germany--Langenstein. Concentration camp inmates--Italy. Political prisoners--Italy. World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Liberation. World War, 1939-1945-Prisoners and prisons, German.
  • Type: Identifying Artifacts
  • Rights: Permanent Collection
  • External Link: See the full record at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Medium: Lightweight, bright red cloth inverted triangle patch with the letter I applied in black ink near the top front. It has irregularly cut, slightly frayed edges with faint pinholes. The patch appears unused.

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