‘Wear the Yellow Badge with Pride’

 

"Diaries from the period contain bitter and sarcastic references to the Jewish badge, such as one that compares the ghetto to Hollywood, because both are full of stars."

(Gutman 142)

On February 25, 1920 the Nazi Party was formed; their purpose was to eliminate all unworthy people, particularly Jews (Gilbert 23). The Holocaust began in 1933, under the control of Adolf Hitler, and ended in 1945. During these twelve years, members of the Jewish race, not just religion, had to endure the many restrictions placed on them by the Nazi Party. These restrictions prohibited them from riding public transportation, from being out at certain times during the day, from shopping at non-Jewish-owned stores, and from going to schools where non-Jewish children attended. However, one of the most crucial restriction placed on Jews was the obligation for them to wear a yellow Star of David on their breast and back. This identified them as a member of the Jewish race; they were classified as Jewish if one or more of their grandparents were Jewish, even if they didn’t practice Judaism (Gutman 138). The yellow stars were used to group them as one people, not individuals, and to humiliate them in the eyes of non-Jews. In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank resists this form of limitation, the wearing of the yellow star, by defining herself as a member of a unique family, a member of the Dutch culture, and as two distinct internal identities.

Jews had been imposed with a distinctive sign in ancient times, in the form of the color or shape of the clothes, shoes, hats, or scarves they were obliged to wear in order to differentiate them and the rest of the population, and to humiliate them in the eyes of others. In the eighteenth century, the Muslims were the first to introduce defining symbols. They ordered Christians, Jews, and Samaritans to wear marks to distinguish them from the Muslims. In 1215, Pope Innocent III laid down that Jews "of both sexes, in all Christian lands, shall be differentiated from the rest of the population in the quality of their garment" (138). The purpose of this decree was to prevent sexual intercourse between Jews and Christians. In most countries these restrictions disappeared by the nineteenth century, until the Nazi Party resurrected them.

At ten o’clock, on the morning of April 1, 1933, Nazi Stormtroops stood outside Jewish-owned shops, carrying placards urging "Germans" not to enter. The Star of David, which had long signified a protective shield and symbol of aspirations for Jews, was painted in yellow on black across the doors and windows of thousands of shops, and, in crude lettering, the single word Jude, ‘Jew,’ was written. The Nazi symbol, the swastika, and slogans such as ‘Perish Judah!’ ‘Jews, Out!’ and ‘Go to Jerusalem!’ were also painted on the Jewish stores (Gilbert 33-34). This was merely the start of Jews being identified by the yellow star. However, they were not officially required to wear them until December 12, 1939, when SS-Brigadührer Friedrich Übelhör issued an order, that all Jews must wear a uniform distinctive sign. It was to consist of a yellow badge in the form of a Star of David, ten centimeters in height, to be worn of the right side of the breast and on the back. Hinrich Lohse made a provision to this order in 1941,, so that the badge was worn on the left side of the breast and the back. Hinrich determined that the star would be more visible to non-Jews if it was placed on the left instead of the right. The badge was also to be inscribed with the word Jude or Jood (Gutman 139-141).

Jews, themselves, were required to obtain and distribute the yellow stars. If a Jew left their badge at home when they went out or whose badge did not meet the regulations were subject to fines and/or prison sentences. Therefore, in Warsaw, warnings were posted in the hallways of apartment buildings reminding Jews not to forget the badge when they want out (142).

Forcing the Jews to wear a distinctive sign was one of the tactics of harassment that enabled Germans to recognize Jews as such on sight, and was designed to create a gulf between the Jews and the rest of the population. However, Jewish citizens, including Anne Frank, resisted this form of restriction by identifying themselves as unique individuals, with distinct characteristics. In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank defines herself as having four identities. She is a member of the Frank family, a Dutch citizen, a superficial being, and a pure character.

Anne defines her family by its members, not just as merely Jewish, as the Nazi Party is trying to do through the imposition of the yellow star. The Frank family consisted of Otto, the father, Edith, the mother, Margot, the sister, and Anne, the young girl. The Frank family is an individual entity of the Jewish culture. Anne displays this aspect when she refers to her ancestors. Her father "tells [her] something about each person" as they work on their "family tree" (Frank 35). This knowledge of her heritage gave Anne a sense that each member of her family, including herself, is a unique individual. They have many different characteristics that define them, not just their race or religion. Her family also resists the restriction, of being merely a part of the Jewish population, in the structure of the Secret Annex. The Annex is divided in two parts; the floor for the Frank family and the van Daan’s section. The third floor has "a room that serves as the Frank family’s living room and bedroom;" while the fourth floor has the "bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. van Daan," and "a tiny side room [that] is to be Peter van Daan’s bedroom" (24). This separation from the van Daan family allowed the Franks to keep their own identity as a family instead of a group of Jews hiding from the Nazi Party. The Frank family ensures that they are identified as a matchless body of the Jewish community, by constructing their family tree and separating themselves from the van Daan family in the organization of the Secret Annex.

Just as the Frank family wishes to be seen as a unique part of the Jewish community, Anne also desires to be known as a Dutch citizen. She tells Kitty that her "first wish after the war is to become a Dutch citizen" (257). The Nazi Party took away all national identities of Jews, they were not citizens, merely Jews. Anne "won’t give up until [she’s] reached [her] goal!" (257). She has hope that some day the war will end and she will be recognized as something other than just a Jew, a Dutch citizen. Anne is defying the Nazi Party by choosing to define herself as a national citizen, when the Nazis grouped all Jews into their own separate category.

Another way in which Anne resisted Nazi control of her identity was by identifying herself as being, internally, "split in two" (329). One side of Anne contains her "exuberant cheerfulness," her "flippancy," her "joy in life and, above all," her "ability to appreciate the lighter side of things" (329). However, she also defines herself as having a pure, "deeper" (330), character. These two forces work against each other to be exposed to the world, but the "’deeper’ Anne is too weak" (330). Therefore, the superficial Anne is what the world sees. The way in which she describes her two entities is resistance against the Jewish star because she is saying that she is not merely Jewish, but also an individual; an individual composed of two different identities that make up her character.

The fact that Anne not only describes herself as a Frank or as a Dutch citizen, but also as two distinct entities, strengthens the argument that she is resisting the Nazi control of making her wear a yellow Star of David. The star was imposed to take away the individual identities of the Jews, yet Anne resists this control by choosing to classify herself as an individual in many different aspects. The yellow badge was a major component of the Nazi restrictions over the Jewish race. Jews were forced to wear this symbol and were not identified as people, merely as Jews. The Dutch citizens knew the star was meant to create a barrier between them and the Jews, however, they were inspired by their Queen Wilhelmina to resist the Nazis. "For many, this meant nothing more than pinning strips of yellow cloth or paper to their breasts as a protest against the imposition of the yellow star for Jews in Holland" (Friedman, Saul S. 364). It is also known that 45% of all the people who helped Jews during the Holocaust were Dutch citizens (364). This gave hope to the Jewish community as they struggled to survive, and keep their individual identities, during times when Nazis restricted almost every aspect of their daily lives.

 

 

Works Cited and Consulted

 

Dwork, Deborah. Children With A Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. Trans. Susan Massotty. Ed. Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler. New York: Bantam, 1991.

Friedman, Philip. Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust. New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980.

Firedman, Saul S. Holocaust Literature: A Handbook of Critical, Historical, and Literary Writings. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War. New York: Holt, 1985.

Gutman, Israel. "Jewish Badge." Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Ed. Israel Gutman. 4 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Presser, Dr. J. Ashes in the Wind. Trans. Arnold Pomerans. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1968.

Unsdorfer, S. B. The Yellow Star. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1961.