Jewish Badge

A crucial step in the Nazi genocide was the identification and separation of Jews through distinguishing badges and ghettoization.

Unknown Manufacturer

Ground Level Arts Lab - Currently On View

During World War II, ghettos were often enclosed city districts in which the Germans concentrated the municipal and sometimes regional Jewish population and forced them to live under miserable, cramped, and unsanitary conditions. Ghetto residents suffered food shortages, inadequate housing and municipal services, and frequent outbreaks of disease. Many of the able-bodied were required to perform forced labor for the Reich. Daily life in the ghetto was administered by Nazi-appointed Jewish councils (Judenraete) and a ghetto police force. 

The Germans established at least 1,000 ghettos in German-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. They regarded the establishment of ghettos as a provisional measure to control and segregate Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated upon options to remove the Jewish population. Some ghettos existed for only a few days, others for months or years. The Germans ordered Jews residing in ghettos to wear identifying badges or armbands.

With the implementation of the "Final Solution" (the plan to murder all European Jews) beginning in late 1941, the Germans systematically destroyed the ghettos. The Germans and their auxiliaries either shot ghetto residents, leaving them in mass graves located nearby or deporting them—usually by train—to killing centers.

  • Yellow Star

    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Klaber

    4 7/8 x 4 3/8 in.
    The Netherlands, 1940’s, Black ink on yellow cloth

  • Yellow Star

    Gift of Mrs. Jacques Leval

    4 x 3 7/16 in.
    France, early 1940’s, Textile, ink

  • Star of David Button

    Gift of Georgette Grosz Spertus from the Maurice Spertus Collection

    Bulgaria, ca. 1940,
    1 ¼ x 1 ¼ in.

Helen Fagin

Helen Fagin

Helen Fagin decribes the 'cultural resistance' through education in the Radomsko ghetto in Poland. She explains how reading a Polish translation of Gone With the Wind allowed her and her students to at least temporarily dream of a different world outside the reality of the ghetto.

From USC Shoah Foundation, Ghetto series

Ground Level Arts Lab
Name: Jewish Badge
Artist: Unknown Manufacturer
Location: Ground Level Arts Lab
Origin: Germany, 1941
Medium: Ink on Cloth
Dimensions: 3 5/8 x 3 1/8 in.
Credit: Gift of Gedenkstätte, Haus Der Wansee-Konferenz
Catalog Number: 75.96
Asher Library"Badges, Jewish"

Encyclopaedia Judaica, ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), pg. 45-48

Asher LibraryWords to Outlive Us: Voices from the Warsaw Ghetto

Michal Grynberg, ed. (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2002)

Asher LibraryThe Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt

Yisrael Gutman (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982)