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Jews in Paris are forced to sew a yellow star on their coats

Jews in Paris are forced to sew a yellow star on their coats

On May 29, 1942, on the advice of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler orders all Jews in occupied Paris to wear an identifying yellow star on the left side of their coats.

Joseph Goebbels had made the persecution, and ultimately the extermination, of Jews a personal priority from the earliest days of the war, often recording in his diary such statements as: “They are no longer people but beasts,” and “[T]he Jews… are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is pretty barbaric and is not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews.”

But Goebbels was not the first to suggest this particular form of isolation. “The yellow star may make some Catholics shudder,” wrote a French newspaper at the time. “It renews the most strictly Catholic tradition.” Intermittently, throughout the history of the papal states, that territory in central Italy controlled by the pope, Jews were often confined to ghettoes and forced to wear either yellow hats or yellow stars.

Jewish Identification: Jewish Badge

The introduction of a mark to distinguish persons not belonging to the religious faith of the majority did not originate in Christendom, where it was later radically imposed, but in Islam. It seems that Caliph Omar II (717&ndash20), not Omar I, as is sometimes stated, was the first ruler to order that every non-Muslim, the dhimmī, should wear vestimentary distinctions (called giyār, i.e., distinguishing marks) of a different color for each minority group. The ordinance was unequally observed, but it was reissued and reinforced by Caliph al-Mutawakkil (847&ndash61). Subsequently it remained in force over the centuries, with a few variations. Thus, in Sicily the Saracen governor in 887/8 compelled the Christians to wear on their garments and put on their doors a piece of cloth in the form of a swine, and the Jews to affix a similar sign in the form of a donkey. In addition, the Jews were compelled to wear yellow belts and special hats.


Although written documentary testimony concerning distinctive signs worn by Jews from the 12th century is still lacking, pictorial representations of this period, especially in the Germanic countries, introduce the pointed hat. This is subsequently referred to as the "Jewish hat," worn by Jews or depicted in allegorical representations of Judaism ("Synagoga"). It would seem, however, that this distinction was instituted by the Jews themselves. There are some ambiguous references to the compulsory imposition of distinctive Jewish clothing in documents from the beginning of the 13th century (Charter of Alais, 1200: Synodal rules of Odo, bishop of Paris, c. 1200). The consistent record, however, can be traced back only to canon 68 of the Fourth *Lateran Council (1215): "In several provinces, a difference in vestment distinguishes the Jews or the Saracens from the Christians but in others, the confusion has reached such proportions that a difference can no longer be perceived. Hence, at times it has occurred that Christians have had sexual intercourse in error with Jewish or Saracen women and Jews or Saracens with Christian women. That the crime of such a sinful mixture shall no longer find evasion or cover under the pretext of error, we order that they [Jews and Saracens] of both sexes, in all Christian lands and at all times, shall be publicly differentiated from the rest of the population by the quality of their garment, especially since that this is ordained by Moses&hellip." Both the allusion to biblical law (Lev. 19), and the inclusion of the canon among a series of others regulating the Jewish position indicate that the decree was directed especially against the Jews.

Implementation of the council's decision varied in the countries of the West in both the form of the distinctive sign and the date of its application.


In England, papal influence was at this time particularly strong. The recommendations of the Lateran Council were repeated in an order of March 30, 1218. However, before long the wealthier Jews, and later on entire communities, paid to be exempted, notwithstanding the reiteration of the order by the diocesan council of Oxford in 1222. In 1253, however, the obligation to wear the badge was renewed in the period of general reaction, by Henry III, who ordered the tabula to be worn in a prominent position. In thestatutum de Judeismo of 1275, Edward I stipulated the color of the badge and increased the size. A piece of yellow taffeta, six fingers long and three broad, was to be worn above the heart by every Jew over the age of seven years. In England the badge took the form of the Tablets of the Law, considered to symbolize the Old Testament, in which form it is to be seen in various caricatures and portraits of medieval English Jews.


In 1217, the papal legate in southern France ordered that the Jews should wear a rota ("wheel") on their outer garment but shortly afterward the order was rescinded. However, in 1219 King Philip Augustus ordered the Jews to wear the badge, apparently in the same form. Discussions regarding the permissibility of wearing the badge on the Sabbath when not attached to the garment are reported by *Isaac b. Moses of Vienna, author of the Or Zaru'a, who was in France about 1217&ndash18. Numerous church councils (Narbonne 1227, Rouen 1231, Arles 1234, Béziers 1246, Albi 1254, etc.) reiterated the instructions for wearing the badge, and a general edict for the whole of France was issued by LouisIX (Saint Louis) on June 19, 1269. This edict was endorsed by Philip the Bold, Philip the Fair, Louis X, Philip V, and others, and by the councils of Pont-Audemer (1279), Nîmes (1284), etc. The circular badge was normally to be worn on the breast some regulations also required that a second sign should be worn on the back. At times it was placed on the bonnet or at the level of the belt. The badge was yellow in color, or of two shades, white and red. Wearing it was compulsory from the age of either seven or thirteen years. Any Jew found without the badge forfeited his garment to his denunciator. In cases of a second offense a severe fine was imposed. When traveling, the Jew was exempted from wearing the badge. Philip the Fair extracted fiscal benefits from the compulsory wearing of the badge, by annual distribution of the badges by the royal tax collectors at a fixed price.


The obligation to wear the Badge of Shame was reenacted by the secular authorities in Spain shortly after the promulgation of the decrees of the Lateran Council, and in 1218 Pope Honorius III instructed the archbishop of Toledo to see that it was rigorously enforced. The Spanish Jews did not submit to this passively, and some of them threatened to leave the country for the area under Muslim rule. In consequence, the pope authorized the enforcement of the regulation to be suspended. The obligation was indeed reenacted sporadically (e.g., in Aragon 1228, Navarre 1234, Portugal 1325). However, it was not consistently enforced, and Jews who had influence at court would often secure special exemption. Alfonso X the Wise of Castile in his Siete Partidas (1263) imposed a fine or lashing as the penalty for a Jew who neglected the order. In 1268 James I of Aragon exempted the Jews from wearing the badge, requiring them on the other hand to wear a round cape (capa rotunda). In Castile, Henry III (1390&ndash1406) yielded in 1405 to the demand of the Cortes and required even his Jewish courtiers to wear the badge. As a result of Vicente *Ferrer's agitation, the Jews were ordered in 1412 to wear distinctive clothing and a red badge, and they were further required to let their hair and beards grow long. The successors of Henry III renewed the decrees concerning the badge. In Aragon, John I, in 1393, prescribed special clothing for the Jews. In 1397 Queen Maria (the consort of King Martin) ordered all the Jews in Barcelona, both residents and visitors, to wear on their chests a circular patch of yellow cloth, a span in diameter, with a red "bull's eye" in the center. They were to dress only in clothing of pale green color &ndash as a sign of mourning for the ruin of their Temple, which they suffered because they had turned their backs upon Jesus &ndash and their hats were to be high and wide with a short, wide cuculla. Violators were to be fined ten libras and stripped of their clothes wherever caught. When in 1400 King Martin granted the Jews of Lérida a charter of privileges, he required them, nevertheless, to wear the customary badge. In 1474 the burghers of Cervera sought to impose upon the local Jews a round badge of other than the customary form. In the period before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the wearing of the Jewish badge was almost universally enforced, and some persons demanded that it should be extended also to Conversos.


Presumably the order of the Lateran Council was reenacted in Rome very soon after its promulgation in 1215, but it was certainly not consistently enforced. In 1221&ndash22 the "enlightened" emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen ordered all the Jews of the Kingdom of Sicily to wear a distinguishing badge of bluish color in the shape of the Greek letter &tau and also to grow beards in order to be more easily distinguishable from non-Jews. In the same year the badge was imposed in Pisa and probably elsewhere. In the Papal States the obligation was first specifically imposed so far as is known by Alexander IV in 1257: there is extant a moving penitential poem written on this occasion by Benjamin b. Abraham *Anav expressing the passionate indignation of the Roman Jews on this occasion. The badge here took the form of a circular yellow patch a handspan in diameter to be worn by men on a prominent place on the outer garment, while women had to wear two blue stripes on their veil. In 1360 an ordinance of the city of Rome required all male Jews, with the exception of physicians, to wear a coarse red cape, and all women to wear a red apron. Inspectors were appointed to enforce the regulation. Noncompliance was punished by a fine of 11 scudi informers who pointed out offenders were entitled to half the fine. The ordinance was revised in 1402, eliminating the reward for informing and exempting the Jews from wearing the special garb inside the ghetto. In Sicily there was from an early period a custos rotulae whose function it was to ensure that the obligation was not neglected. Elsewhere in Italy, however, the enforcement was sporadic, although it was constantly being demanded by fanatical preachers and sometimes temporarily enacted. The turning point came with the bull Cum nimis absurdum of Pope Paul *IV in 1555, which inaugurated the ghetto system. This enforced the wearing of the badge (called by the Italian Jews scimanno, from Heb. siman) for the Papal States, later to be imitated throughout Italy (except in Leghorn), and enforced until the period of the French Revolution. In Rome, as well as in the Papal States in the south of France, it took the form of a yellow hat for men, a yellow kerchief for women. In the Venetian dominions the color was red. In Candia (Crete), then under Venetian rule, Jewish shops had to be distinguished by the badge. David d'Ascoli, who published in 1559 a Latin protest against the degrading regulation, was severely punished and his work was destroyed.


In Germany and the other lands of the Holy Roman Empire, the pointed hat was first in use as a distinctive sign. It was not officially imposed until the second half of the 13thcentury (Schwabenspiegel, art. 214, c. 1275 Weichbild-Vulgata, art. 139, second half of 13th century cf. Council of Breslau, 1267 Vienna, 1267 Olmuetz, 1342 Prague, 1355, etc.). The church councils of Breslau and Vienna, both held in 1267, required the Jews of Silesia, Poland, and Austria to wear not a badge but the pointed hat characteristic of Jewish garb (the pileum cornutum). A church council held in Ofen (Budapest) in 1279 decreed that the Jews were to wear on the chest a round patch in the form of a wheel. The badge was imposed for the first time in Augsburg in 1434, and its general enforcement was demanded by Nicolaus of *Cusa and John of *Capistrano. In 1530 the ordinance was applied to the whole of Germany (Reichspolizeiordnung, art. 22). In the course of the 15th century, a Jewish badge, in addition to the Jewish hat, was introduced in various forms into Germany. A church council which met in Salzburg in 1418 ordered Jewish women to attach bells to their dresses so that their approach might be heard from a distance. In Augsburg in 1434 the Jewish men were ordered to attach yellow circles to their clothes, in front, and the women were ordered to wear yellow pointed veils. Jews on a visit to Nuremberg were required to wear a type of long, wide hood falling over the back, by which they would be distinguished from the local Jews. The obligation to wear the yellow badge was imposed upon all the Jews in Germany in 1530 and in Austria in 1551. As late as in the reign of Maria Theresa (1740&ndash80) the Jews of Prague were required to wear yellow collars over their coats.


In the new communities which became established in Western Europe (and later America) from the close of the 16th century under somewhat freer conditions the wearing of the Jewish badge was never imposed, though sometimes suggested by fanatics. In Poland, partly probably because the Jews constituted a distinct ethnic element, it was likewise virtually unknown except in some major cities under German influence. Similarly the Court Jews of Germany were unable to perform their function unless dressed like other people. In the course of the 18th century, although there was no official modification of the established policy, the wearing of the Jewish badge came to be neglected in a good part of Europe. In Venice the red hat continued to be worn by elderly persons and rabbis through sheer conservatism.

From the 17th century, there were some regional suspensions of the distinctive sign in Germany, as also for the Jews of Vienna in 1624, and for those of Mannheim in 1691. It was abrogated at the end of the 18th century with Jewish emancipation. Thus, on Sept. 7, 1781, the yellow "wheel" was abolished by Emperor Joseph II in all the territories of the Austrian crown. In the Papal States in France the yellow hat was abolished in 1791 after the French Revolution reached the area, although some persons retained it until forbidden to do so by official proclamation. In the Papal States in Italy, on the other hand, the obligation was reimposed as late as 1793. When in 1796&ndash97 the armies of the French Revolution entered Italy and the ghettos were abolished, the obligation to wear the Jewish badge disappeared. Its reimposition was threatened but not carried out during the reactionary period after the fall of Napoleon, and it then seemed that the Badge of Shame was only an evil memory of the past.

It was to commemorate the yellow badge or hat that Theodor Herzl chose this color for the cover of the first Zionist periodical Die Welt. It was in the same spirit that theJuedische Rundschau, the organ of the Zionist Organization in Germany, wrote on the morrow of the Nazi rise to power: "Wear it with pride, this yellow badge" (no. 27, April 4, 1933).

Yellow Badge in the Nazi Period

In 1938, the Nazis compelled Jewish shopkeepers to display the words "Jewish business" in their windows but did not introduce distinctive signs to be worn by Jews until after the occupation of Poland. The first to issue an order on his own initiative, without awaiting instructions from the central authority, was the town Kommandant of Wloclawek, S.S.Oberfuehrer Cramer, who, on Oct. 24, 1939, ordered that every Jew in Wloclawek was to wear a distinctive sign on the back in the form of a yellow triangle at least 15 cm. in size. The order was published in the Leslauer Bote (Oct. 25, 1939). The order applied to all Jews, without distinction of age or sex. This device was rapidly adopted by other commanders in the occupied regions in the East and received official approval, in consideration of the antisemitic sentiments prevailing among the local Polish public, which received the new German measure with enthusiasm. The dates of application of the measure varied. There were regions where the instructions were applied even before they were issued in the General-Government, such as in krakow, where the Jews were compelled to wear the sign from Nov. 18, 1939, whereas the date throughout the General-Gouvernment was Dec. 1, 1939. In Lvov the order was applied as from July 15, 1941, and in eastern Galicia from Sept. 15, 1941. On the other hand, in certain places the instruction is known to have been applied only after publication of the general order, as for example in Warsaw on Dec. 12, 1939, and not on Dec. 1, 1939, even though Warsaw was included in the General-Government. In the smaller communities, the official German instructions were replaced by an announcement of the *Judenrat.

In the West, the situation was totally different. In the Reichsgebiet (the territory of the Reich proper, as opposed to the occupied territories), the order was issued on Sept. 1, 1941. It was published in the Reichsgesetzblatt and was applied as from Sept. 19, 1941. This date was also valid for the Jews of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. The age from which the wearing of the sign was compulsory was six years for Germany and Western Europe and ten years for Eastern Europe. In certain places the age differed. In Holland the order was applied as from May 1942, while in Belgium and France the Jews were compelled to wear the distinctive sign from June 1942. A meeting had been held in Paris in March 1942 to coordinate the application of the order in these three countries. In Bulgaria the order was applied from September 1942, in Greece from February 1943, and in Hungary from April 1944. The type of distinctive sign varied, the following being the principal forms: a yellow Shield (Star) of David inscribed with J or Jude, etc. a white armband with a blue Shield of David on it a Shield of David, with or without inscription and in various colors a yellow armband with or without inscription a yellow button in the form of a Shield of David a metal tag inscribed with the letter J a yellow triangle a yellow circle. This general use of the Shield of David as the Jewish badge was unknown in the Middle Ages. The inscriptions appearing on the badges were specially chosen to resemble Hebrew characters. After the Jews were compelled to reside in ghettos, they were also forced to wear the distinctive sign in conformity with the order applying to the region in which the ghetto was located. In the concentration camps they wore the sign which designated political prisoners on which was sewn a triangle or a yellow stripe to distinguish them from non-Jewish prisoners. In the Reichsgebiet, as well as in several of the occupied countries, the Germans introduced distinctive signs on Jewish business premises, passports, and ration cards, where the letter J was overprinted in a most conspicuous manner.


Jews reacted with dignity to the order and wore the sign as if it were a decoration. However, they did not realize the danger which lay in wearing a distinctive sign. Non-Jews, especially in Eastern Europe, generally accepted this anti-Jewish measure with enthusiasm and saw in it an opportunity to remove the Jews from commercial, economic, and public life. In the West, reactions varied. The Jews could often rely on the hatred of the Germans by the public, and this even brought active support to the Jews. The Dutch wore the badge out of solidarity with the Jewish citizens. Three-hundred thousand replicas of the badge were produced and distributed throughout Holland bearing the inscription: "Jews and non-Jews stand united in their struggle!" In Denmark the badge was never introduced as a result of the courageous resistance of King Christian X, who was said to have threatened to wear it himself.


The principal objective in introducing distinctive signs for the Jews was to erect a barrier between them and non-Jews and to restrict their movements. The Germans achieved this objective to a large extent, despite the various reactions which rendered application of the order difficult. The Jews increasingly concentrated in closed districts, even before the establishment of the ghettos by the Nazis, for fear of being arrested and deported to concentration camps. A Jew had the choice of concealing the sign and thus becoming an offender liable to a deportation sentence to the concentration camps, or of wearing the sign and becoming an easy prey to his enemies. The distinctive signs were thus an effective means in the hands of the Germans to facilitate their plan to exterminate the Jews.

For special articles of clothing worn compulsorily or voluntarily by Jews, see *Dress.


G. Rezasco, Segno degli ebrei (1889) U. Robert, Signes d'Infamie&hellip (1891) F. Singermann, Kennzeichnung der Judea im Mittelalter (1915) Kisch, in: HJ, 19 (1957), 89ff. Lichtenstadter, ibid., 5 (1943), 35ff. Strauss, in: JSOS, 4 (1942), 59 A. Cohen, Anglo-Jewish Scrapbook (1943), 249&ndash59 Aronstein, in: Zion, 13&ndash14 (1948&ndash49) 33ff. B. Blumenkranz, Le Juif médiéval au miroir de l'art chrétien (1966) S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century (1966), index Baron, Social2, II (1967), 96&ndash106 A. Rubens, History of Jewish Costume (1967), index. NAZI PERIOD: L. Poliakov, L'Etoile jaune (1949) G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution (1953), index S.V. Judenstern.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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The Jewish Badge during the Nazi Era

During the Nazi era, German authorities reintroduced the Jewish badge as a key element in their plan to persecute and eventually to destroy the Jewish population of Europe. They used the badge not only to stigmatize and humiliate Jews but also to segregate them and to watch and control their movements. The badge also facilitated deportation.

Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels was the first to suggest a "general distinguishing mark" for German Jews in a memorandum in May 1938. Security Police chief Reinhard Heydrich reiterated the idea at a November 12, 1938, meeting convened by Herman Göring following Kristallnacht. In both cases no immediate action was taken.

Jews in Paris are forced to sew a yellow star on their coats - May 29, 1942 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

On this day in 1942, on the advice of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler orders all Jews in occupied Paris to wear an identifying yellow star on the left side of their coats.

Joseph Goebbels had made the persecution, and ultimately the extermination, of Jews a personal priority from the earliest days of the war, often recording in his diary such statements as: “They are no longer people but beasts,” and “[T]he Jews… are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is pretty barbaric and is not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews.”

But Goebbels was not the first to suggest this particular form of isolation. “The yellow star may make some Catholics shudder,” wrote a French newspaper at the time. “It renews the most strictly Catholic tradition.” Intermittently, throughout the history of the papal states, that territory in central Italy controlled by the pope, Jews were often confined to ghettoes and forced to wear either yellow hats or yellow stars.

Origins of the Badge

Muslim rulers in the 8th C CE were the first to introduce the badge to identify Jews and Christians within the Muslim population.

Jews and Christians living under Sharia Law were considered “People of the Book,” whose belief in the God of Abraham predated the founding of Islam. As such they were accorded the right to freely practice their faith in private and to receive state protection. In turn, they paid a special tax called jizya ("tribute") and were often compelled to wear an identifying mark to indicate their status.

The design and style of badges for Jews varied. Under Caliph Haroun al-Rashid (807 CE), Jews in Baghdad had to wear yellow belts or fringes. Under Caliph al-Mutawakkil, (847-61) Jews wore a patch in the shape of a donkey, while Christians wore a figure in the shape of swine. In 1005, Jews in Egypt were ordered to wear bells on their clothes.

It should be noted that under the caliphate these marks of identification were not necessarily intended to be punitive. They were meant to both reinforce the dhimmi (protected religion) status of Jews and Christians which gave them certain rights and protections, while at the same time publicly branding them as socially inferior to Muslims.

A Man Can’t Live On His Own

Welcome to Sports Stories, a publication at the intersection of sports and history: written by Eric Nusbaum, illustrated by Adam Villacin, and delivered to your inbox every Tuesday. If you’re not already a subscriber, please sign up here.

“Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live.”

Those are the words of Primo Levi, a writer I admire a great deal. Primo Levi survived Auschwitz and wrote about it in a number of books. These particular words are from his book The Periodic Table.

On its face, the thought seems almost too obvious to be profound. Levi was writing about his desire to look into the eyes of one of his tormentors, and about the insufficiency of general “we’re sorry” type repentance he heard a lot of from Germans after the war.

But Levi’s words also get at something true about all historical writing, all nonfiction. As the narrators of ostensibly true stories, we can invent a sort of perfection: arcs and tension and drama. We can make beginnings and middles and endings feel inevitable. But in the present tense of a life, we are denied that logic. It’s always messy.

There is a perfect version of Victor “Young” Perez’s life. There is version that fits neatly into the archetypes of sports writing. The rise of a champion from obscure origins and the tragic, inevitable fall.

But then there is Auschwitz.

Victor Perez was born in Tunis in 1911. By the time of his birth, Tunisia had been a French colony for thirty years, which of course was but a blip in the long history of the land that had once been the site of Carthage. Empires come and empires go.

Situated on the edge of a wide Mediterranean bay, Tunis was a bustling, diverse, international city. Among other groups, Tunis was home to a sizable and fairly well-assimilated Jewish population to which the Perez family belonged. The Perez family would have spoken French at home, in addition to a dialect known as Judeo-Tunisian Arabic.

The family was poor. Victor and his siblings scrounged to get by. Victor would get into street fights and steal oranges from the marketplace and tag along with his older brother Benjamin, who had become obsessed with boxing. There was a light heavyweight champ at the time named Louis Mbarick Fall, better known to his admirers as The Battling Siki. Siki was from Senegal, which was also under French rule, and he captured the imagination of the Perez boys. It was possible, they saw, to make it from the streets of an African city to international renown.

Unlike the Battling Siki, who fought against famed bruisers like Georges Carpentier, the Perez boys were small and fast. They were flyweights through and through. Benjamin Perez picked up the nickname “Kid.” And Victor, a few years later, became known as “Young.” They both turned pro: first Benjamin in 1925, then Victor in 1928.

Benjamin was a fine talent, but Victor—Victor was something special. He was only 5-foot-1 but he was a powerful puncher and had the kind of looks that boxing promoters dream of. He debuted as a pro at just 16. Less than a year later, he was recruited by a French manager to come to Paris and try his hand there.

The rise of Young Perez had a mythical quality. He was one of those people who took naturally to stardom. He won fight after fight, wearing a star of David on his trunks in the ring, and elegant tailored suits outside of it. He became an instant idol amongst Tunisians, amongst Jews, amongst the French, and ultimately across all Europe. In 1931, Perez knocked out the great American flyweight Frank Genaro to become the world’s undisputed champion. He was only 20 years old.

His face was on candy wrappers. He returned to Tunis a hero, his ship greeted by thousands of wellwishers at the port. He dated a French movie star named Mireille Balin. She would pick him up at the gym in his car, an American-made convertible. They were all over each other, the statuesque French actress, and the tiny Tunisian Jewish boxer.

But none of it was meant to last. Perez spent his money as quickly as he made it. The rest he gave away to friends and mooches and whoever else. He lost a couple of big fights in a row: First he dropped his title to American flyweight Jackie Brown. Then, after moving up a weight class, he was knocked out by the legendary bantamweight Panama Al Brown. He was still Young Perez—still beloved by his fans, still proud, still deceptively powerful. But that wasn’t enough to make him a champion again.

Instead, Perez became something of a journeyman. He trained young fighters at a gym in Paris called the Alhambra. He fought across Europe and Africa: in Barcelona, in Manchester, in Cairo. Sometimes winning, sometimes losing. He tried to ignore the news reports about Germany. He even fought there in 1938, falling on points to an Austrian boxer named Ernst Weiss.

As the Nazis neared Paris, Perez’s older brother Benjamin tried to convince him to return with him to Tunisia. But he rejected the idea. He wasn’t built to see the worst-case scenario. Benjamin went back alone and Victor remained in Paris. He fought twice in Occupied France in the summer of 1941. The following year, Hitler ordered Jews in Paris to sew a yellow star on the left side of their coats. Young Perez, who had once proudly worn the star on his boxing trunks, refused to do so.

In 1943, Perez was denounced by some mysterious acquaintance. He had been a world champion. He had been famous. It could have been anybody. Perez was sent first to an internment camp in Drancy, France, then on a convoy to Auschwitz.

A few years ago, an Israeli-French actor named Tomer Sisley made a documentary about Perez called Searching for Victor “Young” Perez. One of the people he spoke to was a survivor named Charles Palant. Palant had been on the same convoy from Drancy as Perez. He had recognized him instantly.

Illustration by Adam Villacin

Palant described the cold morning when their train arrived at Auschwitz. He described the sorting process: the prisoners walking forward and the SS officer deciding their fates, declaring seemingly at random whether they should go left, right, left, right. There were exactly 1,000 people on the convoy, records show. 240 were sent to a subcamp called Auschwitz III, also known as Monowitz. The other 760 were never seen again.

Perez and Palant were both sent to Monowitz. Their numbers were tattooed on their arms. They were stripped naked and shaved and humiliated. Did the heights that Perez had once reached make this exercise somehow even more painful for him? Did it rob him of something that even his fellow prisoners didn’t have? They were all human beings. They were all losing something.

Palant said that Perez’s mere presence in the camp gave his fellow prisoners something meaningful to hold onto. “Everybody who was famous linked us to our lives before.”

Perez’s celebrity was not lost on the Germans either. Monowitz was essentially a slave labor camp. Prisoners toiled in factories making rubber products for the I.G. Farben company. Many died from the cold or disease or overwork. The camp was commanded by an SS officer named Heinrich Schwarz.

One of Schwarz’s quirks, or diversions, was that he was an obsessive fan of boxing. On Sundays, he would hold outdoor matches between inmates in the camp’s main square. The boxers of Auschwitz were given more manageable jobs, an extra portion of soup, and a half-day off each week to train in a boxing gym that Schwarz had outfitted in one of the barracks. Perez was one of these boxers.

“Knowing they had a toy called a world champion gave them ideas,” said Palant. “They didn’t rush him to his death. They thought, ‘What can we do with him in a concentration camp?’”

Perez worked in the kitchen. Just as he did when he was a boy stealing oranges from the marketplace, he snuck food out for his friends. One of the other boxers at Monowitz was a teenager named Noah Klieger. Klieger had never boxed before, but lied to an SS officer about it, hoping it might help him survive. Perez trained him and helped him pass as a real fighter.

The other boxers were from Central and Eastern Europe. Perez and Klieger were the only ones in the group who spoke French. They became close. Klieger remembered Perez sneaking pots of soup out from the kitchen every night and serving his friends through a side door. He remembered asking Perez why he did it, when getting caught would have meant being hanged in front of the entire camp.

“A man can’t live on his own,” Perez told him. “He lives to help others.”

This was how Young Perez survived in Monowitz. He boxed. He stole. His job in the kitchen ensured that he had enough to eat. In January of 1945, the Auschwitz camps were evacuated overnight by the SS. More than a million people had been murdered there during the war. Less than 60,000 remained. The prisoners, malnourished and underdressed, were forced to walk for days and days through the snow as Soviet troops approached from the east. The war would soon be over.

At some point, early in what became known as the Auschwitz Death March, Perez came into the possession of a bag of bread. This was a precious thing. Starved, frozen Jews were laying down and dying in the snow by the thousands. As Klieger remembered it, Perez was trying to bring the bread to some of his friends when an SS guard spotted him, armed his machine gun, and shot him in the back.

“He wasn’t just a world champion,” said Klieger in the film. “He was a really great man.” Then he paused, and shrugged.

In Tunis, Benjamin Perez and the rest of the family waited for word from Young. They knew, deep down, what had likely happened. Then in 1947, a survivor knocked on their door. He had come all the way from Canada to thank them, to tell them that Young Perez had saved his life in Auschwitz. This was when they knew for sure that he was dead.

Soon afterward, Benjamin Perez traveled to Germany to look for his brother’s body. His brother who had refused to come back to Tunisia. His brother who had become world champion. Perhaps Young’s body had been discovered after the snow melted away. Perhaps he had been buried in some small town after the war. Benjamin searched for months, but he never found his little brother. Once again, he returned to Tunis alone.



The practice of wearing special clothing or markings to distinguish Jews and other non-Muslims (dhimmis) in Muslim-dominated countries seems to have been introduced in the Umayyad Caliphate by Caliph Umar II in the early 8th century. The practice was revived and reinforced by the Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil (847–861), subsequently remaining in force for centuries. [2] [3] A genizah document from 1121 gives the following description of decrees issued in Baghdad:

Two yellow badges [are to be displayed], one on the headgear and one on the neck. Furthermore, each Jew must hang round his neck a piece of lead with the word Dhimmi on it. He also has to wear a belt round his waist. The women have to wear one red and one black shoe and have a small bell on their necks or shoes. [4]

Medieval and early modern Europe

In largely Catholic Medieval Europe, Jews and Muslims were required to wear distinguishable clothing in some periods. These measures were not seen as being inconsistent with Sicut Judaeis. Although not the first ecclesiastic requirement for non-Christians to wear distinguishable clothing, the Fourth Council of the Lateran headed by Pope Innocent III ruled in 1215 that Jews and Muslims must wear distinguishable dress (Latin habitus). Canon 68 reads, in part:

In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of Moses [Numbers 15:37–41], that this very law has been enjoined upon them. [5]

Innocent III had in 1199 confirmed Sicut Judaeis, which was also confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1216. In 1219, Honorius III issued a dispensation to the Jews of Castile, [6] the largest Jewish population in Europe. Spanish Jews normally wore turbans, which presumably met the requirement to be distinctive. [7] Elsewhere, local laws were introduced to bring the canon into effect. [8] The identifying mark varied from one country to another, and from period to period.

In 1227, the Synod of Narbonne, in canon 3, ruled:

That Jews may be distinguished from others, we decree and emphatically command that in the center of the breast (of their garments) they shall wear an oval badge, the measure of one finger in width and one half a palm in height . [5]

However, these ecclesiastic pronouncements required legal sanctions of a temporal authority. In 1228, James I of Aragon ordered Jews of Aragon to wear the badge [6] and in 1265, the Siete Partidas, a legal code enacted in Castile by Alfonso X but not implemented until many years later, included a requirement for Jews to wear distinguishing marks. [9] On 19 June 1269, Louis IX of France imposed a fine of ten livres (one livre was equivalent to a pound of silver) on Jews found in public without a badge (Latin: rota, "wheel", French: rouelle or roue). [6] [10] The enforcement of wearing the badge is repeated by local councils, with varying degrees of fines, at Arles 1234 and 1260, Béziers 1246, Albi 1254, Nîmes 1284 and 1365, Avignon 1326 and 1337, Rodez 1336, and Vanves 1368. [6] The "rota" looked like a ring of white or yellow. [11] The shape and colour of the patch also varied, although the colour was usually white or yellow. Married women were often required to wear two bands of blue on their veil or head-scarf. [12]

In 1274, Edward I of England enacted the Statute of Jewry, which also included a requirement:

Each Jew, after he is seven years old, shall wear a distinguishing mark on his outer garment, that is to say, in the form of two Tables joined, of yellow felt of the length of six inches and of the breadth of three inches. [13] [14]

In German-speaking Europe, a requirement for a badge was less common than the Judenhut or Pileum cornutum (a cone-shaped head dress, common in medieval illustrations of Jews). In 1267, in a special session, the Vienna city council required Jews to wear a Judenhut the badge does not seem to have been worn in Austria. [15] There is a reference to a dispensation from the badge in Erfurt on 16 October 1294, the earliest reference to the badge in Germany. [6]

There were also attempts to enforce the wearing of full-length robes, which in late 14th century Rome were supposed to be red. In Portugal a red star of David was used. [16]

Enforcement of the rules was variable in Marseilles the magistrates ignored accusations of breaches, and in some places individuals or communities could buy exemption. Cathars who were considered "first time offenders" by the Catholic Church and the Inquisition were also forced to wear yellow badges, albeit in the form of crosses, about their person.


Goorin Bros also wrote on Intagram that the company 'is horrified by the display and selling of the Jewish badge by HatWRKS, a store in Nashville, Tennessee, that sells some of our hats.'

'The Jewish badge was a key element used by Nazis beginning in 1939 who planned to persecute and eventually murder millions of Jews,' the company wrote. 'They used the badge to humiliate, segregate and control the movement of all Jews over 7 years old.'

'To make a mockery of the Holocaust in any form is unacceptable and completely insensitive.'

And Kangol Headwear wrote on its Instagram page that it was done working with the Nashville store, saying, 'While we respect freedom of speech, respect for humanity must hold a higher place.'

A protestor outside the store holding a sign depicting Gigi Gaskins with the yellow star badge she made. Stetson have since pulled their business from her shop

The badges are modelled on the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe during the 1930s and 40s. Those yellow stars were used to identify, isolate and humiliate Jewish people

Hat maker Stetson announced Saturday that it would stop doing business with the store

Despite her apology, Gaskins later complained that she had become a 'target of the mob.'

In another Instagram post one day after issuing her apology, she wrote: 'For the past 15 months, I have been pushing back on the government overreach, standing up to group-think, trying to find reason in a sea of irrational.

'It has 100 percent been fighting the totalitarian march and power grab we are seeing play out across the globe,' she continued. 'The power grab is coming in many forms on many fronts. I was willing to put my business on the line to stand up for the freedoms that we still have in our country.'

'What I didn't expect is being accused of the very things I was fighting against,' Gaskins wrote. 'Was the use of the yellow star an insensitivity? Obviously, so to many, but does that make me an anti-Semite Nazi? No, No it doesn't.'

She continued: 'I don't know what's going to happen to me — or this world, but they will be looking for the next target. Every time demands are met, it just emboldens.'

Despite her apology, Gaskins posted on Sunday that she was a target and was not anti-Semitic

Gaskins' decision to sell the stars had drawn major condemnation from public figures on Twitter.

'I am ashamed to know that I've given these people business in the past I've sent people there. This is vile and repulsive. They trumpet that they're proud to 'Stand Up Against Tyranny' Well, I am proud to say GO F**K YOURSELF. I'll purchase my chapeaus elsewhere,' actor W. Earl Brown wrote.

Republican commentator Ana Navarro concurred, writing: 'I could not believe this could be for real. I like to think such stupidity, insensitivity and ignorance in America cannot be commonplace. It’s real.'

Elsewhere, former Senior Advisor to Donald Trump, AJ Delgado, said that the products were 'beyond disgusting'.

Ivo Daalder, the former US Ambassador to NATO, wrote: 'As a young school girl in Holland, my mother was forced to wear a yellow star by the Nazis to identify her as a Jew. It’s beyond grotesque to sell this evil symbol to proclaim one’s not vaccinated. Where does this end?'

People quickly took to Twitter to condemn the store for selling the Jewish star badges

The controversy comes after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was roundly condemned for comparing the discrimination unvaccinated people face to the discrimination Jews experienced in Nazi-controlled Europe.

Earlier this week, she tweeted: 'Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi's forced Jewish people to wear a gold star. Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.'

Attached to the tweet was a news article about Food City supermarkets dropping mask requirements for vaccinated workers.

Greene said it was a slippery slope to require some sort of identification on whether a person is vaccinated against coronavirus or not.

The Georgia representative also tweeted: 'Pretty soon it will be.. 'We only hire vaccinated people, show your vax papers.' 'We only admit vaccinated students, show your vax papers.' 'These bathrooms are only for vaccinated people, show your vax papers.'

'Then. scan your bar code or swipe your chip on your arm,' she predicted.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was roundly condemned for comparing the discrimination unvaccinated people face to the discrimination Jews experienced in Nazi-controlled Europe

During Senate floor remarks on Tuesday, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also lashed out against Greene.

'This morning, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican congresswoman from Georgia, once again, compared preparations taken against COVID to the Holocaust,' Schumer, who is Jewish, said.

'These are sickening, reprehensible comments,' he added, 'and she should stop this vile language immediately.'

Greene defended her comparison of Covid restrictions to Nazi Germany by claiming 'any ration Jewish person' doesn't like either.

'I think any rational Jewish person didn't like what happened in Nazi Germany and any rational Jewish person doesn't like what's happening with overbearing mask mandates and overbearing vaccine policies,' Greene told Arizona TV outlet 12 News.

Collaboration & Resistance: Life in Paris During WWII

When the war broke out in Europe, Paris was a busy cosmopolitan city and the center of business, finance, arts, and culture.

When it fell under German occupation, life became very different for Parisians, especially for the city’s Jewish community. Paris had been home to a Jewish community for centuries, many living in the traditional Jewish Quarter in the Marais District in the 4th Arrondissement.

Paris was also a city where artists and intellectuals had traditionally congregated, both before and during the war. It was home to many prominent artists, writers, and philosophers.

A Paris policeman salutes a German officer. Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-053-30 / Jäger, Sepp / CC-BY-SA 3.0 de

Everything changed on May 10, 1940, when Germany attacked France. Soon afterward, the French government moved its headquarters to Vichy. From there, a nominal French authority led by Marshall Philippe Pétain ruled under the scrutiny and control of the Germans.

Chief of collaborationist French State Marshal Pétain shaking hands with German Nazi leader Hitler at Montoire on October 24, 1940.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H25217 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Everyday life

Everyday life became both difficult and dangerous for many Parisians. Movement was restricted, and a 9.00pm curfew was imposed in many areas. As the needs of the German war effort took priority, much of the food being produced was sent out of the country leading to severe food shortages.

Many Parisians left the city. During 1940 it is estimated that more than one million Parisians headed out to the provinces. Others were forced to leave the country. Under a forced work program known as the Service du Travail Obligatoire, many French workers were deported and sent to provide labor for Germany.

A Jewish-owned shop in the Marais, wrecked in May 1941. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2008-0710-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 de

For those who remained, essential supplies were rationed and luxury items became almost non-existent. Bread, fat, and flour were among the first items to be rationed. Milk, butter, cheese, and meat soon followed.

People would often make a trip out to the countryside in the hope of being able to buy fresh produce, and vans carrying food out of the country to Germany were sometimes ambushed by the French.

Potatoes and leeks on sale in a Paris market. There was little else to buy.

Despite the shortages, some restaurants managed to stay open, but their menu was dictated by the authorities as well as by what was available. They were only allowed to serve meat on certain days, and items previously taken for granted like cream and coffee were now considered a great luxury and were rarely available.

As a result, a black market grew up doing business in the bars around the Champs Elysee out of sight of the officials.

German Luftwaffe soldiers at a Paris café, 1941. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-247-0775-38 / Langhaus / CC-BY-SA 3.0 de

There was also a shortage of fuel as that was being diverted to help the German War effort. Coal for heating was scarce, as was gas for cars. Many people were no longer able to drive, and the number of cars on the roads dropped dramatically.

Public transport including the Metro still ran but was much less reliable, and the number of buses dropped from 3,500 to just 500. To compensate, there was a return of horses and carts, and the number of bicycles increased with some people even offering a bicycle taxi service.

Bicycle taxi in Paris.

Life was hard for everybody, but it was especially hard for the city’s Jewish population. Jews in Paris were forced to wear a yellow star of David to distinguish them from other citizens. They suffered many forms of discrimination. They were banned from many occupations and professions as well as being barred from certain public places.

The Synagogue of Montmartre and several others were attacked and vandalized in 1941. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69265 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 de

It was only a matter of time before French Jews met the same fate as German and Polish Jews. In July 1942, they were rounded up and taken to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Jewish women were required to wear a yellow Star of David. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0619-506 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Arts and Culture

Before the war, Paris had been a major center of arts and culture. Some artists stayed throughout the war, while others fled. The painter Georges Braque left but returned in autumn 1940.

Pablo Picasso had left for Bordeaux, but he also returned to Paris. He continued to work in his studio where he handed postcards to visitors. The postcards showed his famous painting Guernica which he had painted as an anti-fascist statement during the Spanish Civil War.

The Paris Opera decorated with swastikas for a festival of German music, 1941. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1985-1216-509 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Matisse was another artist who continued to work, but as he was officially denounced by the Nazis, he kept a low profile.

The Great Art Robbery

Early on, the government moved many of the city’s art treasures out of Paris to safer parts of the country. However, many great works of art remained in Paris, and the Germans were able to take their pick.

Paris also had many smaller privately-owned galleries, and those owned by Jewish proprietors had their contents removed to Germany. Any artwork left behind when people had fled or been deported could also be taken.

Joseph Goebbels at the Degenerate Art Exhibition. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H02648 / CC BY-SA 3.0 de

In addition, the German authorities gained access to private bank vaults containing works of art and helped themselves to whatever they wanted.

As the occupation progressed, Germany acquired so much art that they set up a special task force – the Rosenberg Task Force — to catalog it all. As well as paintings by masters like Rembrandt and Van Dyck, they also took jewels, statues, and stained glass windows.

German loot stored at Schlosskirche Ellingen, Bavaria, April 1945.

Collaboration and resistance

Although many Parisians fled, those who remained did not sit back and accept the German authority as it was administered through the Vichy Government.

Many were encouraged to resist the German Occupation when they heard a radio broadcast on June 18, 1940, by Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle was then an army general. He made the broadcast from Britain, urging people to resist the occupation.

Charles de Gaulle (pictured) made several broadcasts on Radio Londres during the war

At first, these protests were largely symbolic and achieved little except for a tightening up of controls and a ban on weapons and short-wave radio transmitters. But in time it grew into the organized underground Resistance Movement.

Resistance fighters in Paris, August 1944 (La Libération de Paris 1944)

The Resistance gained access to a printing press in the Museum of Ethnography (Le Musee d’Homme) and was able to produce and distribute an underground newspaper.

First issue of the underground newspaper ‘Résistance’, December 15, 1940. Photo: SiefkinDR / CC BY-SA 4.0

Members of the Resistance faced many risks including execution. They formed into small cells and worked in secret. They moved away from public demonstrations and focused on providing intelligence and information as well as helping Jews to escape from the country.

Meanwhile, the Vichy Government continued to carry out the Nazi agenda in France. There were, of course, many who accepted the Vichy government’s authority and even sympathized with it. Anti-Semitism was a problem in Europe beyond Germany.

Meeting at the Vel d’Hiv in Paris of the Front révolutionnaire national, a French fascist paramilitary organization created on 28 February 1943 to fight the French Resistance.

For some, the occupying Germans provided lucrative business opportunities, so there were those who collaborated with the occupying forces in different ways.


Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944, following the Battle of Paris. This began as an uprising on August 19, led by the French Forces of the Interior which was the military division of the French Resistance Movement.

General Charles de Gaulle leads the parade celebrating the liberation of Paris the previous day. Marcel Flouret is second from the right.

They were assisted by Allied airmen and other troops who had been in hiding in the outer suburbs of Paris. With the help of these troops, the French Resistance forces managed to take control of the German garrison.

Liberation of Paris

The military governor in Paris, Von Choltilz, surrendered and was taken prisoner by the Allies. Charles de Gaulle who had led the resistance movement took control and the city of Paris was finally liberated after four years of German occupation.