“Symbol that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, so that they
could be identified as Jews. The Germans used the Jewish badge, often in the
form of a yellow Star of David, to harass and isolate the Jews. In that way,
they were able to create a wide rift between the Jews and the rest of the
population. Sometimes, other opponents of the Nazis were also forced to
wear special identification badges. The Nazis' inspiration for the Jewish badge
came from medieval times, when both Muslims and Christians decreed that
Jews must wear articles of clothing that would set them apart and shame
them for being different.
“Reinhard Heydrich first suggested the Jewish badge concept after the
Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938. In September 1939, after the
German invasion of Poland, the Nazis decreed that Jewish stores should be
branded with a distinctive mark. Soon after, the head of the
Generalgouvernement, Hans Frank, ordered that the Jews themselves be
marked: all Jews over the age of 12 were to don white armbands, at least four
inches wide, inscribed with a blue Star of David. From then on the idea spread
to all territory held by the Nazis.
“The Jews were responsible to buy and distribute the badges. If a Jew was
caught without a badge, he was fined, imprisoned, or shot. In some Ghettos,
certain groups were given different badges to identify them as being unique
among the Jews. These included Jewish police, doctors, Judenrat employees,
and factory workers, who no longer had to wear the regular Jewish badge and
thus felt more favored than the rest of the Jews.
Different symbols, all variations on the same theme, were introduced in
different areas of the Generalgouvernement and the Polish territories
occupied by Germany. In 1941 the SS ordered the Jews to wear a yellow sixpointedstar, four inches high, on the left side of the breast and on the back.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Jews there were also forced to
wear Jewish badges. By September 1941 Jews within the Reich were ordered
to wear the "Jewish star."
“The Jewish badge also became the norm in other areas controlled by or
allied with the Nazis, such as Slovakia, part of Romania, and in Hungary after
the Nazi occupation. The Germans had a harder time, however, convincing
their satellite countries in Western Europe to force Jews to wear Jewish
badges. The French Vichy government refused to implement the order in the
unoccupied zone, saying that the anti-Jewish measures they had already
taken were enough, and that a distinguishing mark would "shock" the French
people. The decree was carried out, though, in occupied France, Belgium and
“The Nazis did not even try to make the Jewish badge obligatory in Denmark,
due to the Danes' strong opposition to anti-Jewish measures. A story is told
that King Christian X himself donned the Jewish badge in solidarity with the
Jews of Denmark. The story is fictional (as Danish Jewry was never forced to
wear badges), but it powerfully demonstrates the Danish king's courage and
commitment to his country's Jews.
“Both Jews and non-Jews reacted strongly to the Jewish badge decree.
Almost all Polish Jews cooperated with the law, in fear of severe punishment;
however, diaries from the time speak with unabashed bitterness about having
to wear the badge. In Germany, the introduction of the badge was followed by
a wave of suicides. Many French Jews refused to wear the badge, and some
French non-Jews expressed their empathy for the Jewish plight by wearing
stars themselves. Even the French police did not enforce the decree. In
Holland, an underground newspaper expressed its solidarity with the Jews by
printing 300,000 stars, inscribed with the words, "Jews and non-Jews are one
and the same."
Accessed on 6/12/11.
A group of young people pose for a group portrait wearing yellow stars shortly before they were sent to a ghetto. [Photograph #64302]
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo Archives. http://digitalassets.ushmm.org/photoarchives/detail.aspx?id=1152701&search=yellow+star&index=1Accessed on 6/12/11.
Sandor and Berta Guttman with their nine children in a safe house in Budapest. [Photograph #26720]
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo Archives. http://digitalassets.ushmm.org/photoarchives/detail.aspx?id=1105561&search=yellow+star&index=6cessed on 6/12/11.
Maylech Blobstein (right) poses with his cousin Hershi in Budapest wearing the yellow star. [Photograph #99605]
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo Archives. http://digitalassets.ushmm.org/photoarchives/detail.aspx?id=1121036&search=yellow+star&index=16ssed on 6/12/11.
Poland, Jews wearing the yellow star on their clothes.
Yad Vashem. Photo Archives.
Accessed on 6/12/11.