On April 30, 1933, the Nazis came to power in Germany. Afterward, they made eugenics, a belief that mixes biology and politics, into law. They started targeting and mistreating LGBTQ+ individuals and people with disabilities. Some LGBTQ+ individuals and many with disabilities were made to undergo sterilization against their will. By 1945, around 400,000 people were forcibly sterilized based on decisions from “hereditary health courts.” Disabled children were registered and sent to “Hospitals for Special Care,” where they were experimented on and killed by injection or starvation.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. The Nazi government began the Aktion T4 program, which led to the mass killing of disabled people in gas chambers a few months later. In 1941, even after Aktion T4 officially ended, the murders continued through gas and other methods. The disabled, along with other groups considered as weakening the Reich, were labeled as “useless eaters” and “unworthy of life.” Elizabeth Sweeney is an artist, researcher, and curator. She is also a neurodivergent queer of Acadian settler descent who grew up in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. Sweeney’s three-part project, starting with the large black triangle outside the museum, is a response to the continued struggles against shaming, segregation, and persecution faced by many people. The black triangle was a symbol used by the Nazis to identify and mistreat a diverse group of people who were seen as nonconforming, inconvenient, undesirable, and unproductive. This project is a tribute to those of us who belong to this group. While many who would have been labeled by this badge in the past now find pride, alliance, and community, some still face unjust treatment, including the risk of violence and discrimination. Today, many of us are unfairly treated, pushed out of changing neighborhoods, or pressured into dangerous situations. Even taking steps to protect our lives from deadly diseases is sometimes seen as inconvenient. By reclaiming this symbol, let us affirm our important place in this community and our continued commitment to supporting each other.