Under the Nazi regime, Jewish people were forced to wear identifiers such as armbands, or badges in the shape of the Star of David. The intention was to further embed the Nazi ideology that Jewish people were different from everyone else, by marking them out from the rest of the population. By singling out Jewish people, the identifiers were also used to isolate, harass, and humiliate people.


The Magen David, meaning the Shield of David in Hebrew, also commonly known as the Star of David, has six points stemming from a hexagonal centre. Although there are multiple interpretations of the meaning of the Star, it has great significance and has since the late Middle Ages become one of the most defining symbols of Judaism.

After the rise of Nazism

From 1938 all Jewish people held prisoner in the Nazi camp system were compelled to sew onto their prison uniforms, a misinterpretation of the Jewish Star of David. These identifiers were designed to make the category of prisoner clear, distinguishing Jewish people from other categories such as political prisoners. The identifiers would have to be yellow, and had to be worn prominently. Other prisoner categories in the camps were denoted by coloured triangles also worn on the clothing. As the Star of David can be made up of two equilateral triangles, if a person fitted two categories for example being both Jewish and homosexual, then the bottom triangle would remain yellow while the top one would be pink to denote both categories.

Across Nazi-Occupied Territories

The Nazi regime gradually made it compulsory for Jewish populations across Nazi-occupied Europe to wear identifiers.

Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939, marking Jewish shops out from others became compulsory. Shortly after, Hans Frank, Governor General of Nazi occupied Poland, decreed on November 23, 1939, that from December all Jewish people over the age of 12 had to wear a 4 inch wide white armband with a blue Star of David on their arm.

Following the Nazi occupation of Bulgaria in 1941, Jewish people were ordered to wear an identifier in the form of a Yellow Star button, which had to be stitched on with yellow thread. The Bulgarian identifiers were the smallest in Europe, there was strong opposition to the Nazi imposed anti-Jewish legislation and consequently buttons were used rather than material. The responsibility for enforcing this order was with the Bulgarian ‘Commissariat for Jewish Affairs’ (Komisarstvo za Evreiskite Vaprosi [KEV]). Manufacturing the buttons was a very slow process, by November 1942, only a small number of the required Jewish identifiers had been produced at the factories. Privileged and converted Jewish people were exempted from wearing the button, additionally some people disobeyed the order by making identifiers which contained a likeness of Bulgaria’s Royal family. Bulgaria’s king supported the Jewish people, and demanded that the restrictions against them be relaxed.

In April 1941 Nazi Germany and its Allies invaded Yugoslavia and facilitated the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia. Forced wearing of Jewish identifiers was implemented in the Independent State of Croatia from June 4, 1941, the badges had to be marked ž taken from židov (the Croatian word for Jew).

Hinrich Lohse, the Reichskommissar for Ostland (Nazi occupied Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania [the Baltic States]) issued instructions in Kovno on July 27, 1941 which included forcing Jewish people to wear the Yellow Star on the left side of the chest and the middle of the back.

In July 1941 Romania introduced the wearing of Yellow Stars to the occupied territory of Bukovina and later enforced the order in other areas. Nazi occupied Luxembourg introduced the wearing of yellow stars in September 1941, as did Slovakia.

The wearing of Jewish identifiers becomes compulsory in the Netherlands at the beginning of May 1942; the decree that made the wearing of 'Jewish Stars' compulsory was printed in every Dutch newspaper on April 29, 1942 to come into force 3 days later. It states that Jewish people must wear a Jewish Star in public, defines who is considered Jewish, notes that children under 6 years of age are exempt, and describes the size and location of the Jewish Star which must contain the word ‘Jew’, which would be written in Dutch.

In Belgium the decree forcing Jewish people to wear identifiers was issued on May 27, 1942 to come into force on June 3, 1942. The decree was issued on June 7, 1942 in Nazi occupied France, French badges were to contain the word 'Juif' (Jew) or 'Juive' (Jewess). Pressure was applied to the Hungarian government to introduce the wearing of Yellow Stars in December 1942 but it was not enacted until March 29, 1944, after the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Due to the large Jewish population and immediate effect, Jewish people were compelled to make stars from any yellow material available to them.

On February 6, 1943 orders were issued that the Jewish community of Salonika, Greece was to wear the Yellow Star.

Enforcement and Production

The 'Police Regulation on the Labelling of Jews' was decreed by the Nazis on September 1st 1941. Section 1 states Jewish people of 6 years of age and over are 'forbidden to show themselves in public without a Jewish star'. It goes on to state the size, shape and colour required, that the star must contain the word 'Jew' and where it must be worn. The word ‘Jew’ would be written in applicable local language. Section 4 states violations are punishable by a 150 Reichsmark fine, however it does not limit punishment to fines and greater penalties such as imprisonment, beatings and death were used. Sections 5 notes that the statute also applies in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and Western Poland (Warthegau). The statute carries the name Heydrich. Reinhard Heydrich had initially suggested that the Jewish population should be marked out by badges after the 1938 November Pogrom (Kristallnacht).

Jewish people were themselves made accountable for purchasing and distributing the badges and armbands. If any person refused to wear an identifier, he or she would be punished. Punishments included fines, imprisonment, beatings, and could include death.

Resistance and Solidarity

Resistance prevented the introduction of Jewish Badges to most of the Regat (pre First World War Romanian territories) except Moldavia where the Jewish population were subjected to identifiers in 1944.

Although officially all Jewish people under Nazi rule had to wear an identifier, Danish Jewish people were never subjected to the wearing of Jewish badges. There was strong resistance to all anti-Semitic legislation the Nazis tried to impose on Denmark both from the people and from the Danish King Christian X. A story tells that King Christian X declared if Jewish Stars were to be forced upon the Danish people, he would be the first to wear one. Although this is hearsay, the King’s resistance to anti-Jewish legislation is unquestionable, along with strong public opinion against Nazi anti-Semitism. The Third Reich never attempted to make wearing Yellow Stars mandatory in Denmark.

There were multiple incidents of solidarity with the Jewish population, some people among the Jewish population in Nazi occupied France refused to wear the identifiers, whilst some non-Jewish people wore them as a show of solidarity. Yellow also became widely fashionable in France after their introduction. In the Netherlands an underground newspaper printed 300,000 Yellow Stars with the statement 'Jews and non-Jews are one and the same' on May 1, 1942.

Despite this the effects on the Jewish population of forced wearing of identifiers was powerful, due to the severe punishments for disobedience in countries such as Poland, compliance was almost universal. Diary entries from the time from multiple countries express extreme sorrow, shame and anger at having to wear the badges and the implementation in Germany coincided with increased suicide rates.


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