Yellow star 1941

A cloth star that nine-year-old Klaus Zwilsky in Berlin was forced to wear on his clothing from September 1941. The word ‘Jew’ appears in German in the centre. Photo credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels first proposed introducing a distinguishing mark for German Jews in May 1938, although the idea was not immediately pursued. While identifying badges for Jews were implemented by German authorities in some towns in Poland after the German invasion in September 1939 and in the Soviet Union after the German invasion in June 1941, a decree stipulating that all Jews in the Reich and the Protectorate aged six years or older had to wear a yellow star was issued by Security Police chief Reinhard Heydrich only on 1 September 1941.

The yellow star served several Nazi objectives: to further stigmatize Jews, to segregate them from society, to control their movements, and ultimately to facilitate their deportation. The PMJ documents presented here shed light on the badge from multiple angles, including the wording of the actual police regulation, logistical concerns of some Nazi officials, responses of people forced to wear the yellow star, and words of solidarity from the Czechoslovak government in exile for Jews in the Protectorate.

Sample documents
Volume 3  –  document 212
Police regulation, dated 1 September 1941, making it compulsory for Jews to wear an identifying badge
‘The Jewish badge consists of a palm-sized, six-pointed star made of yellow cloth and outlined in black, bearing the inscription ‘Jew’ in black.’
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Volume 3  –  document 221
On 14 September 1941 Daniel Lotter from Fürth criticizes the introduction of the requirement for Jews to wear the yellow star
‘What they seek to achieve with such pointless and sadistic torments is a mystery to me.’
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Volume 3  –  document 229
In a letter to Shanghai, dated 24 September 1941, Max Schönenberg from Cologne describes the impact of the new anti-Jewish measures
‘The yellow Jewish symbol has not made people’s blood boil. It is unlikely that events such as those of November 1938 will occur as spontaneous outbursts.’
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Volume 3  –  document 314
On 14 August 1941 the Reich Minister of the Interior informs the Head of the Reich Chancellery that there are no further objections to the visible identification of Jews in the Protectorate
‘I have no objections to the visible identification of Jews in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, but I think we need to find out first whether this is likely to result in an increased drain of Jewish manpower from enterprises in the Protectorate which cannot be compensated for by other workers.’
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Volume 3  –  document 315
On 20 August 1941 State Secretary Frank asks Reich Protector von Neurath to confirm by telephone that he approves the introduction of identifying armbands for the Jewish population
‘I request your approval to have Jews in the Protectorate to be visibly identified with armbands.’
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Volume 3  –  document 316
On 14 September 1941 Jiří Münzer writes about the impending introduction of the yellow star for Jews and the ban on them leaving their places of residence
‘I’d welcome the badges – why shouldn’t I show everyone that I’m a Jew and proud of it – if we could only stay in Hradec.’
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Volume 3  –  document 317
On 18 September 1941 State Secretary Hubert Ripka of the Czechoslovak government in exile in London sides with the Jews in the Protectorate
‘To-day they wish to designate you publicly by a mark of shame. But the yellow star of David is a sign of honour which all decent people will respect.’
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Volume 3  –  document 318
In her diary entry for 19 September 1941, Eva Roubíčková records the reactions to her wearing the yellow star
‘Went to work at half-past seven wearing the star. People either ignored it or smiled, but in any event they behaved better than I would have expected.’
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Volume 5  –  document 130
On 29 April 1942 the head of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration describes the Jewish Council’s dismay at the introduction of the yellow star
‘You will understand our feelings, Herr Hauptsturmfuhrer; this is a terrible day in the history of the Jews in Holland!’
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