Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reich Main Security Office, first recommended that Jews be compelled to 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 ghettoization, ultimately leading to the deportation and murder of 6 million people. 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. Below, find examples of badges worn in different European countries under Nazi rule.
| France - Yellow Star of David outlined in black. The French word for "Jew" is written in Hebraic style.|
|Belgium - Yellow Star of David outlined in black. The Hebraic letter is an abbreviation of the word "Jew." |
|Holland - Yellow Star of David outlined in black. The Dutch word for "Jew" is written in Hebraic style. |
| Germany, Alsace, Bohemia-Moravia - Yellow Star of David outlined in black. The German word for "Jew" is written in Hebraic style.|
|Areas of Slovakia - Gold Star of David outlined in blue with an abbreviation of the Slovak word for "Jew." |
|Areas of Slovakia - Gold Star of David outlined in blue. |
|Areas of Poland, East and Upper Silesia - Blue Star of David on a white armband.|
| Areas of Bulgaria and Poland, Hungary, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia - Yellow Star of David.|
|Areas of Greece, Serbia; Belgrade and Sofia, Bulgaria - Yellow armband. |
| Areas of Bulgaria - Gold Star of David outlined in black with a black and a yellow button.|
|Romania - Yellow Star of David on a black background.|