Yellow badge

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16th century drawing of two Jews from Worms in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, each wearing the required yellow ring (Judenring or Judenkreis), and the man holding a moneybag and a garlic bulb, origin of the Foetor Judaicus; Other markers have also been used, such as turbans and Jewish hats (Judenhut), not identical with modern Jewish forms of male headgear.

The yellow badge (or yellow patch), also referred to as a Jewish badge, was a cloth patch that Jews were ordered to sew on their outer garments in order to mark them as Jews in public. In both Christian and Islamic countries, persons not of the dominant religion were intermittently compelled by sumptuary laws to wear badges, hats, bells or other items of clothing that distinguished them from members of the dominant religious group.

The yellow badge that was compulsory in the Middle Ages was revived by the German National Socialists and some allies during World War II. The purposes of such identifying items are not clearly explained in many politically correct sources, giving the impression that they were always applied due to irrational racism. Wikipedia even prominently alleges that they were often a "badge of shame", this based on a personal opinion in the non-scholarly book The City Of Light by Jacob D'Ancona, which is actually an account of a journey to Medieval China.


Murder of Simon of Trento (Prince-Bishopric of Trent, Holy Roman Empire; now Italy) in 1475, the Jews depicted (Jewish ritual murder) all wear the yellow badge.[1]

Muslim countries

While antisemitism was less pronounced in the Muslim countries, Jews were at times treated with contempt, depending on the era and location. This was expressed through sumptuary laws that established what colors, clothing or hats they were permitted or not permitted to wear. The use of distinctive clothing or marks for Jewish and other religious communities has been traced by historians to ancient times.[2]

In the early Islamic period, non-Muslims were required to wear distinctive marks in public, such as metal seals fixed around their necks. Tattooing and branding of slaves and captives were widespread in the ancient world. However, Islam, like Judaism, forbids permanent skin markings.[3] Likewise, they were not allowed to wear colors associated with Islam, particularly green.[4] The practice of physically branding Jews and Christians appears to have been begun in early medieval Baghdad and was considered highly degrading.[5]

According to Bernard Lewis, Christians and Jews were forced to wear special emblems on their clothes. The yellow badge was first introduced by a caliph in Baghdad in the 9th century, and spread to the West in medieval times. Even in public baths, non-Muslims wore medallions suspended from cords around their necks so no one would mistake them for Muslims. Belts, headgear, shoes, armbands and/or cloth patches were also used. Under Shi'a rules, they were not even allowed to use the same baths [6] In 1005 the Jews of Egypt were ordered to wear bells on their garments.[7]

Apart from Jews, Hindus living under Islamic rule in India were often forced to wear yellow badges as well. During the reign of Akbar the Great, his general Husain Khan 'Tukriya' forcibly made Hindus wear discriminatory yellow badges[8] on their shoulders or sleeves.[9]

Christian countries

In Christian countries, dress codes were also imposed on Jewish and other non-Christian residents. In Europe, the Fourth Council of the Lateran of 1215 ruled that Jews and Muslims must be distinguishable by their dress (Latin "habitus")", and the yellow badge in Europe dates from this, unlike the Jewish hat (or "Judenhut"), a cone-shaped hat, which is seen in many illustrations from before this date, and remained the key distinguishing mark of Jewish dress in the Middle Ages.[10] From the 16th century, the use of the Judenhut declined, but the badge tended to outlast it, surviving into the 18th century in places.[11]

The identifying mark varied from one country to another, and from period to period. Apart from the hat, there were also attempts to enforce the wearing of full-length robes, which in late 14th century Rome were supposed to be red. The most common form of badge was the "rota" (Latin for "wheel"), which looked like a ring, of white or yellow.[12]

The shape and color of the patch also varied, although the color was usually white or yellow. Married women were often required to wear two bands of blue on their veil or head-scarf.[13] Edward I of England's Statute of Jewry prescribed "the form of two Tables joined, of yellow felt of the length of six inches and of the breadth of three inches".[7]

This shape — two separate strips or two joined round-topped rectangles — was particular to England.[14] In Portugal a red star of David was used.[15] Louis IX of France ordered French Jews to wear oval rouelle,[7] a version of the "rota". As with all sumptuary laws, enforcement of the rules was very 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.

National Socialist period

After the German invasion of Poland in 1939 there were initially different local decrees forcing Jews to wear a distinctive sign, during the General Government. The sign was a white armband with a blue Star of David on it, in the Warthegau a yellow badge in the form of a Star of David on the left side of the breast and on the back.[16] The requirement to wear the Star of David with the word Jude (German for Jew) inscribed was then extended to all Jews over the age of six in the Reich and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (by a decree issued on 1 September 1941, signed by Reinhard Heydrich[17][18]) and was gradually introduced in other German-occupied areas, where local words were used (e.g. Juif in French, Jood in Dutch).


Possible date of the Pact of Umar which stipulates that Christians (and by implication also Jews) living in Muslim lands are required by Caliph Umar/Omar II to wear distinctive clothing. Although most historians question the historicity of the pact, the use of distinguishing marks is consistent with documentary and archaeological evidence from 7th and 8th century Iraq and Syria. The pact itself is thought to be an invention of later jurists seeking justification for certain cultural practices that had developed over time.[3]
Harun al-Rashid, fifth Abbasid caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate, ordered all Jews to wear a yellow belt and a tall, cone-like hat.[19]
c. 850
A decree of Al-Mutawakkil, tenth Abbasid caliph, reported by the 10th century historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, requires Christian and Jewish subjects to wear honey-coloured hoods and belts of a particular type. Distinguishing marks are also prescribed for their slaves.[20]
Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim, orders Jewish and Christian residents to wear bells on their garments and a "golden calf" (made of wood) around the neck when bathing with Muslims.[21]
Start of less tolerant policy towards Christians and Jews by the Seljuk authorities in the Abbasid empire. Existing laws imposing distinctive dress are enforced. Non-Muslims in Baghdad are forced to wear signs on their dress.[22]
Non-Muslims are required to wear distinctive signs on their turbans.[22]
Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadi decrees that the "non-believers" had to wear yellow headgear and girdles of various colors, and a sign of lead around their necks to show they had to pay the poll-tax. Women had to wear shoes of different colors, such as one red and the other black.[22]
A letter from Baghdad describes decrees regulating Jewish clothes: "two yellow badges, 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." [23]
Fourth Lateran Council headed by Pope Innocent III declares: "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." [24]
Pope Honorius III issues a dispensation to the Jews of Castile.[7] Spanish Jews normally wore turbans in any case, which presumably met the requirement to be distinctive.[25]
Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton orders English Jews to wear a white band two fingers broad and four fingers long.[7]
Synod of Narbonne rules: "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." [24]
James I orders Jews of Aragon to wear the badge.[7]
The Siete Partidas, a legal code enacted in Castile by Alfonso X but not implemented until many years later, includes a requirement for Jews to wear distinguishing marks.[26]
In a special session, the Vienna city council forces Jews to wear Pileum cornutum (a cone-shaped head dress, common in medieval illustrations of Jews); the badge does not seem to have been worn in Austria.
1269, June 19
France. (Saint) Louis IX of France orders all Jews found in public without a badge (French: rouelle or roue, Latin: rota) to be fined ten livres of silver.[27] 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.[7]
The Statute of Jewry in England, enacted by King Edward I, enforces the regulations. "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." [28]
1294, October 16
Erfurt. The earliest mention of the badge in Germany.[7] In Germany, Jews were distinguishable in the latter half of the 1200s when the wearing of a "horned hat" otherwise known as a "Jewish hat" — an article of clothing that Jews had worn freely before the crusades — became mandatory. It wasn't until the fifteenth century when a badge became the distinguishing article in the Holy Roman Empire.
Emir Ismael Abu-I-Walid forces the Jews of Granada to wear the yellow badge.[7]
Henry II of Castile forces the Jews to wear the yellow badge.[7]
1415, May 11
Bull of the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII orders the Jews to wear a yellow and red badge, the men on their breast, the women on their forehead.[7]
Emperor Sigismund reintroduces the badge at Augsburg.[7]
The Council of Ten of Venice allows the newly-arrived famous physician and professor Jacob Mantino ben Samuel to wear the regular black doctors' cap instead of Jewish yellow hat for several months (subsequently made permanent), upon the recommendation of the French and English ambassadors, the papal legate, and other dignitaries numbered among his patients.[29]
Pope Paul IV decrees, in his Cum nimis absurdum, that the Jews should wear yellow hats.
King Sigismund II passes a law that required Lithuanian Jews to wear yellow hats and head coverings. The law was abolished twenty years later.[7]
1671, May 21
Friedrich III., Kurfürst von Brandenburg and Herzog von Preußen lifts the ban on Jews from settling in Brandenburg.
1714, May 20
King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm I. abolished the mandatory Jewish yellow patch or the red Judenhut in return for a payment of 8,000 Thaler (about $75,000 worth of silver at 2007 prices) each.[30]
1938, August 17
The National Socialist regime forced Jewish Germans and the stateless Jews with Austrian citizenship to adopt additional middle names (mostly Israel or Sarah, few other derogatory names considered "Jewish" were alternatively possible) to be used at any occasion such as signatures, visit cards, addresses, firms etc.
1938, October
Jewish Germans had to turn in their passports to get them stamped in a black J, Jewish Austrians had been denied German citizenship and their Austrian passports had turned void.
1939, January
Jewish Germans and Austrians had to adopt special identity cards to be carried on them whenever away from home.
1939, September and October
A number of local German occupational commanders ordered in their areas Jewish Poles to wear an identifying mark under the threat of death. There were no consistent requirements as to its color and shape: it varies from a white armband to a yellow Star of David badge.
1939, 23 November 1939
Hans Frank ordered for all Jewish Poles above the age of 11 years in German-occupied Poland to wear white armbands with a blue Magen David on.
A popular legend portrays king Christian X of Denmark wearing the yellow badge on his daily morning horseback ride through the streets of Copenhagen, followed by non-Jewish Danes responding to their king's example, thus preventing the Germans from identifying Jewish citizens. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has explained that the story was not true, just a post-war myth.[31][32] No order requiring Jews to wear identifying marks was ever introduced in Denmark.[33]
1941, July
Jewish Poles in German-freed Soviet-annexed Poland, Jewish Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians as well as Soviet Jews in German-occupied areas were obliged to wear white armbands or yellow badges.
Two Jewish women in Paris in June 1942 wearing Magen David (Davidstern) badges as required by Vichy French and National Socialist authorities.
1941, August 8
All Romanian Jews have to wear the yellow badge.[34]
1941, August 13
The yellow badge was the only standardised identifying mark in the German-occupied East, other signs were forbidden. More specifically, on 18 August 1941, when Hitler was absorbed with Operation Barbarossa, Goebbels paid him a visit and showed him a copy of the book Germany Must Perish! by a Jewish American businessman, which called for the sterilization of the German people and the distribution of the German lands to other countries. Hitler was angered by it and gave Goebbels approval to immediately begin requiring all Jews to wear identifying armbands, which Goebbels on his own changed to the yellow star of David rather than the intended plain yellow and white armband.[35]
1941, September 1
Also Jewish Germans and Jews with citizenship of accessioned states (Austrians, Czechs, Danzigers) - from the age of six years - were ordered to wear the yellow badge when in public.[36]
1941, September 9
Slovakia ordered its Jews to wear yellow badges.
Romania started to force Jews in newly annexed territories, denied Romanian citizenship, to wear the yellow badge.
1942, March 13
The Gestapo ordered Jewish Germans and Jews with citizenship of accessioned states to mark their apartments or houses at the front door with a white badge.[37]
1942, April 29
Jewish Dutch were obligated to wear the yellow badge
1942, June 3
Jewish Belgians have to wear the yellow badge
1942, June 7
On German command, Jews in France were to wear the yellow badge.
1942, August
With the German accession of Luxembourg the yellow badge was introduced there too.
1942, August
Under German pressure Bulgaria ordered its Jewish citizens to wear small yellow buttons, contravention, however, was not prosecuted.
1942, November
With the occupation of the French Zone libre Jews there were also ordered to wear the yellow badge.
1944, March 31
After the occupation of Hungary (Unternehmen „Panzerfaust“), the Germans ordered Jewish Hungarians and Jews with defunct other citizenships (Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Yugoslavian) in Hungarian-annexed areas to wear the yellow badge.
During the rule of the Islamist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the Hindu minority in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan were forced to wear yellow badges in public to identify themselves as such. This was part of the Taliban's plan to segregate "un-Islamic" and "idolatrous" communities from Islamic ones.[38] The decree was condemned by the Governments of the United States and India as a gross violation of religious freedom. In the United States, the chairman of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman compared the decree to the earlier practices of National Socialist Germany.[39] Widespread protests against the Taliban regime broke out in Bhopal, India. The Government of India condemned this decree as a violation of religious freedom.[40] In the United States, congressmen and several lawmakers wore yellow badges on the floor of the Senate during the debate as a demonstration of their solidarity with the Hindu minority in Afghanistan.[41][42]
In Israel, ethnicity, such as Jewish or Arab, was stated on Israeli ID cards until 2005, causing controversy. Also after 2005, the bearer's ethnicity can often be inferred by other data on the ID-card: the Hebrew calendar's date of birth is often used for Jews, and each community has its own typical first and last names. Israel also used different colors for the casings for ID-cards issued to residents of the by Israel occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, also causing controversy. ID-cards issued by the Palestinian National Authority, issued based on Israeli approval, can still be distinguished from ID-cards issued by Israel directly.

See also

External links

Yellow badges in the Middle Ages

Yellow badges in the National Socialist period 1939-1945

Denmark: The king against the yellow badge


  1. Murder of Simon of Trento
  2. The Yellow Star by Jennifer Rosenberg (
  3. 3.0 3.1 Robinson, Chase F. (2005). "Neck-Sealing in early Islam". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 48 (3): pp. 401–441. doi:10.1163/156852005774342885. Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  4. Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples, London: Faber and Faber, 1991, ISBN 0-571-16663-6, p.117
  5. Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry Into Conflict and Prejudice, 1999, W. W. Norton & Company press, ISBN 0-393-31839-7, p.131
  6. Lewis, Bernard. The Jews of Islam, Princeton University Press, June 1, 1987, pp. 25-26.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 Jewish Encyclopedia: Yellow badge
  8. Harbans, Mukhia (2004). The Mughals of India. Blackwell Publishing, 153. ISBN 9780631185550. 
  9. Nijjar, Bakhshish Singh (1968). Panjāb Under the Great Mughals, 1526-1707. Thacker, 128. 
  10. Schreckenburg, Heinz, The Jews in Christian Art, p. 15, 1996, Continuum, New York, ISBN 0826409369, though the Jewish Encyclopedia cites a reference from 1208 in France. See the Jewish Encyclopedia for the Judenhut being more widespread than the badge.
  11. Schreckenburg: 308–329.
  12. Schreckenburg:15, although Piponnier and Mane, p. 137 say red was commonest for badges of all shapes, followed by yellow or green, or red and white together.
  13. Piponnier and Mane, p. 137.
  14. Schreckenburg: 305.
  15. Françoise Piponnier and Perrine Mane; Dress in the Middle Ages; p. 137, Yale UP, 1997; ISBN 0300069065.
  16. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (at the Museum of Tolerance).
  17. Polizeiverordnung über die Kennzeichnung der Juden (came into force 19 September 1941).
  18. Buildings Integral to the Former Life and/or Persecution of Jews in Hamburg
  19. Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1991) 163
  20. Islam: Decree of Caliph al-Mutawakkil
  21. Roumani, Maurice M. (Summer 2003). "The Silent Refugees: Jews from Arab Countries". Mediterranean Quarterly 14 (3): pp. 41–77. Duke University Press. doi:10.1215/10474552-14-3-41.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Fatimids and Seljuks: 909 CE - 1100s CE. How Spain Became the Intellectual Center of the Jewish World (
  23. Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), p.204
  24. 24.0 24.1 Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 68
  25. Norman Rose in Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia (Routledge)- "Jewish Clothing".
  26. Medieval Sourcebook, Las Siete Partidas: Laws on Jews [1] accessed 18-09-2006
  27. Eli Birnbaum. This day in Jewish History. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  28. A Day in the Life of 13th Century England. BBC. Retrieved on 2006-09-05.
  29. Jacob Mantino ben Samuel, (Jewish Encyclopedia)
  30. Amos Elon: The Pity of It All: A History of the Jews in Germany, 1743-1933 (Metropolitan Books, 2002) p.15. ISBN 0805059644. See talk page for conversion.
  31. Anne Wolden-Ræthinge (1990) Queen in Denmark, Copenhagen: Gyldendal, ISBN 8701086235
  32. Did King Christian X of Denmark wear a yellow star in support of the Danish Jews? (USHMM Research Library). Accessed 2006-08-17.
  33. Gunnar S. Paulsson, "The Bridge over the Øresund", Journal of Contemporary History, June 1995.
  34. Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945, Penguin Books, 2008, p. 231
  35. Germany must perish!
  36. Cf. Polizeiverordnung über die Kennzeichnung der Juden (police ordinance on the marking of Jews).
  37. Die Juden in Deutschland, 1933–1945: Leben unter nationalsozialistischer Herrschaft, Wolfgang Benz (ed.), Munich: Beck, 1988, ISBN 3-406-33324-9, pp. 618seq.
  38. Taliban to mark Afghan Hindus,CNN
  39. Taliban: Hindus Must Wear Identity Labels,People's Daily
  40. India deplores Taleban decree against Hindus,
  41. US Lawmakers Condemn Taliban Treatment Of Hindus,
  42. US lawmakers say: We are Hindus,