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Yellow Star

Unusual Objects from Our Core Exhibition Tell Stories of Jewish Life

Patch of a yellow, six-pointed star with the inscription

Yellow star of the Lehmann family, Berlin, 1941–1945; Jewish Museum Berlin, accession 2000/265/5, gift of Roselotte Winterfeldt, née Lehmann, photo: Roman März

Starting in September 1941, Jews in Germany were stigmatized by having to wear the Yellow Star. It had been introduced earlier in the territories occupied by Nazi Germany.

The star had to be visible on the upper left chest side of the clothing. The Gestapo forced the Jewish communities to sell the Yellow Stars—they cost 10 pfennigs each. Many of the extant stars show signs of wear.

“Distinguishing signs must always be handled with care and attention and worn in a clean condition.”

The Nazis called the yellow star a “distinguishing sign.” It had the word “Jude,” or Jew, written on it in imitation of Hebrew letters.

From then on, walking down the street was like running a gauntlet. You felt trapped and observed. The result was increasing isolation from the rest of the population.

Further information about this object can be found in our online collections (in German).

Christoph Kreutzmüller, one of the curators of this exhibition, explains the laborious daily use of the yellow fabric star; audio track from our JMB app, photo: Andrea Fröhner

Christoph Kreutzmüller, one of the curators of this exhibition, explains the laborious daily use of the yellow fabric star:

“The yellow stars were sold on behalf of the Gestapo by the Reich Association of Jews in Germany for the price of 10 Pfennigs. Those who were over six years old and had to wear this star could buy three stars – for 30 pfennigs – and then get another star on the clothing ration the year after. This means that they only had three or four stars altogether. As many people remember, and as we can see today, the stars are made of cheap, fragile, fibrous cloth. They were very often reinforced in order to give them some stiffness, and this stiffness also made it possible to sew these stars on then take them off again, because of course, if you only have three stars, but always had to wear one, you continuously have to take the star off and sew it on again.”

Core Exhibition: 13 Objects – 13 Stories (13)

13 Objects – 13 Stories

A Torah shield, a sculpture, a cushion: 13 unusual objects tell 13 stories of Jewish life. One of the tours of the JMB app leads right through the exhibition to eye-catchers of all kinds, some small, some big. What would a museum be without its many objects, each rich in meaning? You can get a sneak peek of the objects here on our website.

L’amitié au coeur (Friendship of the Heart)

by Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–1791), Paris, 1765, marble

Finds from the Memmels­dorf Genizah

Memmelsdorf (find site), ca. 1725–1830, paper, ink, fabric, leather, porcelain

Torah Shield

donated by Isaak Jakob Gans (1723–1798), Hamburg, 1760–1765, silver

Shevirat ha-Kelim (Breaking of the Vessels)

Anselm Kiefer, 1990–2019, lead, iron, glass, copper wire, charcoal, Aquatec

Manheimer Family Portrait

by Julius Moser (1805–1879), Berlin, 1850, oil on canvas

Puppet Show

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Käte Baer-Freyer (1885–1988), Berlin, ca. 1924, plywood, metals

Decorated Cushion

“ISRAELI, JEW, and now SEVERELY DISABLED ...,” Daniel Josefsohn (1961–2016), Berlin, 2014/15, textile

Silver Formerly Owned by Jews

Provenance: up to 1939 unknown Jewish owners, 1939 Hamburg Tax Authority

Going-away Present

Bruno Heidenheim, Album to bid farewell to Margot (1913–2010) and Ernst (1898–1971) Rosenthal, Chemnitz, 1936

Hand Washbasin

Manufacturer: S. & D. Loewenthal, Frankfurt am Main, 1895/96, silver

No Longer in the Country

Unclaimed membership cards for the Jewish community Frankfurt am Main, 1949

Composition

by Otto Freundlich (1878–1943), 1938, tempera on cardboard

Yellow Star

of the Lehmann family, Berlin, 1941–1945