The History of the “Yellow Star”

November 2, 2022

This year is the eightieth year since the Nazi introduction of the yellow star for European Jews. Being called yellow even today is a derogatory and demeaning term. However, this practice of identifying and dehumanising Jews was nothing new and went back a long way. This article does not have the space to chronicle all the occasions this practice was carried out, as there were dozens in multiple countries over the last two millennia, but I will start by outlining just a few.

Jewish children being forced to wear the yellow star

In the year 887 of the CE, Aghlabid Governor of the Emirate of Sicily ordered Jews to wear on their garments and put on their doors a piece of cloth in the form of a donkey and to wear yellow belts and special hats. 

1274 The Statute of Jewry in England, enacted by King Edward I, enforced the regulations. “Each Jew, after he is seven years old, shall wear a distinguishing mark on his outer garment of yellow felt in the form of a rectangle, the length of 150ml and breadth of 75ml.” 

1321 Henry II of Castile forced the Jews to wear the yellow badge.

1415 The Papal Bull of the Antipope Benedict XIII ordered the Jews to wear a yellow and red badge, the men on their breast, the women on their forehead.

1555 Pope Paul IV decrees, in his Cum nimis absurdum, that the Jews should wear yellow hats.

1710 Frederick William 1 abolished the mandatory Jewish yellow patch in Prussia in return for a payment of 8,000 thaler (about $75,000 worth of silver at today’s prices).

If the above directions were not carried out, hefty penalties were involved, incarceration or worse.

forcing Jews to wear identifying badges was but one of many psychological tactics aimed at isolating and dehumanizing…

The Nazis resurrected this practice as part of their persecutions 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, in 1938. Shortly after the invasion of Poland in September 1939, local German authorities began introducing mandatory wearing of badges. Bit by bit the yellow star got introduced to newly conquered territories. By 1942, Germany, its satellite states and occupied territories adopted standard, brutally enforced regulations stipulating that Jews must wear identifying yellow star badges. Non wearing of the star would most likely involve the offender being shot.

One brave King makes a stand

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. 

The stars varied from country to country but all followed the basic pattern. In a few countries yellow armbands were used instead, or as well.

Antisemitism is still alive and well, and this ancient hatred of the people of God fuelled by the Evil One, is gathering pace in these days. Especially from the “intelligentsia” despite their claim of acceptance and tolerance. 

May we have the courage of King Christian X of Belgium to stand against the enemy and say not on our watch will this or anything like it happen again.



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