From Concentration Camp to Vampire Epidemic. The Journey of the Pink Triangle as a Symbol in Times of HIV/AIDS

Schappach, Beate (14 November 2019). From Concentration Camp to Vampire Epidemic. The Journey of the Pink Triangle as a Symbol in Times of HIV/AIDS (Unpublished). In: HIV/AIDS: Then and Now A World Conference on HIV/AIDS, Culture and Memory. Dublin City University, Irland. 14. und 15. November 2019.

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A pink triangle on black ground, on the bottom the formula “Silence = Death” – designed as a poster by the HIV/AIDS activist artist collective Gran Fury in 1986, the logo of the New York based HIV/AIDS activist group ACT UP has become iconic.
Thirty years later it echoed back in popular culture by appearing on the vampire TV show “True Blood” – with fangs added to the triangle and the formula “Silence = True Death”.
The pink triangle travelled not only through time, but also through space, as it was transferred back and forth between Germany and the United States. On each stop of its journey the symbol accumulated new aspects of cultural memory. Originating from German National Socialism, the pink triangle was first used to mark prisoners in concentration camps as homosexual. In the 1970s the gay movement gave it a new empowering meaning.
The paper reconstructs the journey of the pink triangle from the 1930s until today and shows how collective memory is stored, arranged and rearranged in symbols. The paper argues that every re-use of the pink triangle referred to older meanings of the symbol whilst at the same time striving to overwrite them with new meaning. The analysis also discusses how cultural memory can contribute to form and perform empowering collective identities.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Theater Studies
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Recent History

UniBE Contributor:

Schappach, Beate


700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Beate Schappach

Date Deposited:

12 Dec 2019 12:53

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:33

Uncontrolled Keywords:

HIV, AIDS, Pink Triangle, Rosa Winkel, National Socialism, Nationalsozialismus, Homosexuellenverfolgung, Concentrartion Camp, Konzentrationslager, Gay Movement, Schwulenbewegung, Aids Aktivismus, AIDS Activism, Drag Show, Symbol, Performativity, Performativität, Rhetorics, Rhetorik, Iconography, Ikonografie


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