The lambda tattoo is one of the most popular Nazi tattoos, but it’s also used by many non-political people. The symbol dates back to ancient Greece and was used as a mark of identification on pots made in that time. The lambda denotes resistance against oppression (people wearing the symbol would stick their middle finger up at the enemy). It also means “the loners’ clan” and was used as a gang sign by the Nazis.
The lambda is also known as the International Socialists’ Symbol or “the revolutionary socialist symbol for comrades.” The first three letters of the ancient Greek alphabet, the letter stood for liberty, equality and fraternity – ideals that were adopted by revolutionaries around the world. The Nazis used a three-dimensional, straight-armed version of the original Hellenic lambda to express their defiance against Jews and liberals.
Some history around the Lambda symbol
In Nazi Germany, homosexuals were required by law to wear a pink triangle tattooed on the left breast as identification. In concentration camps, homosexual prisoners wore upside-down pink triangles sewn on the striped uniforms to identify them as targets for abuse and persecution. When gay activists resurrected the pink triangle in the 1970s, they turned it upside down: One corner was pointed upwards to express pride and power instead of shame and subjugation, and two corners were brought together at a point to form a new triangle overlapping the other.
Lambda symbol meaning nowadays
The lambda tattoo meaning also includes “Liver! Lice! Liberty!” – a battle cry of the gay liberation movement. It’s also used as a symbol for strength and solidarity within gay culture.
As with most Nazi symbols, today the lambda is most likely to be spotted on white supremacist band members, metalheads, punks or bikers.
The lambda is still used as a symbol of solidarity by political parties and fraternal organizations like the Freemasons. And it’s also been adopted by many companies such as Lambda Legal (an American non-profit organization that seeks full recognition of civil liberties for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV), Linux (for the support of gay people in open source software) and Lambaré (a French jeans company).
If you’re looking for a powerful tattoo design, consider the lambda with no negative connotations. It has an undeniable historical significance that can’t be ignored, so think twice before getting this one permanently inked on your body. Besides, can you imagine how tattoo removal would feel?