Glenn Beck devoted his address at the Values Voter Summit this weekend to the Obama administration’s supposed war on the religious freedom of Christians, a concept he illustrated with a collection of Nazi concentration camp badges. Beck suggested that those attending the summit would have been forced to wear a purple triangle patch.
Conference attendees erupted in laughter after an audience member incorrectly claimed that the purple triangle, rather than the pink triangle, was used by the Nazis to mark gay people:
Seeing that Beck was making his remarks at an event sponsored by an organization — the American Family Association — that believes that gay people were behind the Holocaust, it is curious that summit participants found it so funny that the Nazis tried to exterminate gay people.
Beck’s main contention that the Nazis went after people who “knew anything about the Bible” is also incorrect.
The purple triangle Beck held up was actually used to mark Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jehovah’s Witnesses at the time were known as Bible Students or Bibelforscher, a reference to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible Student movement. Detlef Garbe writes in Between Resistance and Martyrdom: Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Third Reich:
Just a few months after the National Socialist rise to power, Jehovah’s Witnesses—as this Christian denomination has called itself since 1931—were banned. The older designations, Bibelforscher (Bible Students) and Ernste Bibelforscher (Earnest Bible Students), which were abbreviated forms of their official name, Internationale Bibelforscher-Vereinigung (IBV) [International Bible Students Association (IBSA]), remained in use.
Garbe also points out that the purple patch was an “exclusive designation” of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “This exclusive designation denotes, in many ways, the special place Jehovah’s Witnesses occupied within the concentration camps.”
But Beck’s false claim played right into the Religious Right’s persecution narrative, as Sharona Coutts writes:
By allowing U.S. fundamentalist Christians to believe that the Nazis exterminated ‘Bible scholars,’ Beck played into the narrative of victimization and persecution, and allowed them to appropriate the Holocaust as their own tragedy…. It is false to say that Nazis targeted ‘Bible scholars’ in the way that Beck’s audience was led to understand that term.
Even more unbelievably, Beck said that the Religious Right would never try to impose their own religious views on others because if “you truly know the Scriptures, you know the Scriptures are not to dominate someone, that’s unrighteous dominion.”