Holocaust Badges

Jewish Stars and Other Holocaust Badges

The Jews of Europe were legally compelled to wear badges or distinguishing garments (e.g., pointed hats) at least as far back as the 13th century. This practice continued throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance but was largely phased out during the 17th and 18th centuries. With the French Revolution and the emancipation of Western European Jews throughout the 19th century, the wearing of Jewish badges was abolished in Western Europe.

A Nazi propaganda leaflet that reads: “Whoever bears this sign is an enemy of our people."

The Nazis resurrected this practice as part of their persecution during the Holocaust. Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reich Main Security Office, first recommended that Jews should wear identifying badges following the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9 and 10, 1938. Shortly after the invasion of Poland in September 1939, local German authorities began introducing mandatory wearing of badges.

By the end of 1939, all Jews in the newly acquired Polish territories were required to wear badges. Upon invading the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Germans again applied this requirement to newly conquered lands. Throughout the rest of 1941 and 1942, Germany, its satellite states and western occupied territories adopted regulations stipulating that Jews wear identifying badges. Only in Denmark, where King Christian X is said to have threatened to wear the badge himself if it were imposed on his country’s Jewish population, were the Germans unable to impose such a regulation.

The German government’s policy of forcing Jews to wear identifying badges was but one of many psychological tactics aimed at isolating and dehumanizing the Jews of Europe, directly marking them as being different (i.e., inferior) to everyone else. It allowed for the easier facilitation of their separation from society and subsequent ghettoization, which ultimately led to the deportation and murder of 6 million Jews. Those who failed or refused to wear the badge risked severe punishment, including death. For example, the Jewish Council (Judenrat) of the ghetto in Bialystok, Poland announced that “… the authorities have warned that severe punishment – up to and including death by shooting – is in store for Jews who do not wear the yellow badge on back and front.”

The design of the badge varied from region to region. View examples of some of the badges worn in different European countries under Nazi rule below.

JudeGermany E1529953031184

Alsace, Bohemia, Germany, and Moravia

Yellow Star of David outlined in black with the German word for "Jew" written in Hebraic style

JBelgium E1529953096354


Yellow Star of David outlined in black with a Hebraic styled "J", and abbreviation for "Jew"

BulgariaDots E1529953426265


Gold Star of David outlined on a black and yellow button

Bulgaria E1529953310865

Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland

Yellow Star of David

Poland E1529953267193

East Silesia, Upper Silesia, and Poland

Light blue Star of David embroidered on a white armband

FranceJuif E1529953106766


Yellow Star of David outlined in black with the French word for "Jew" written in Hebraic style

Greece Band E1529953386479

Greece and Serbia

Yellow armband, specifically used in the cities of Belgrade and Sofia

JoodNetherlands E1529953083787

The Netherlands

Yellow Star of David outlined in black with the Dutch words for "Jew" written in Hebraic style

Romania E1529953464833


Yellow Star of David on a circular black background

HZSlovakia E1529953194976


Gold Star of David outlined in blue with an abbreviation of the Slovakian word for "Jew"

RedSlovakia E1529953224179


Gold Star of David outlined in blue

Yugoslavia E1528312346979


Yellow armband with black "Z", an abbreviation for the Serbo-Croatian word for "Jew"

Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd Edition. Edited by Fred Skolnik and Michael Berenbaum. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2009.
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Edited by Israel Gutman. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1990.

Photo Credits:
Jewish Virtual Library
Jewish Badges and Armbands 1939-1945

Edited for The Zekelman Holocaust Center by Joshua Arsenault