80 years ago, the “marking” of the Jews with a yellow star in the occupied zone

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On May 29, 1942, a German ordinance mandated the wearing of the yellow star for all Jews over six years of age living in the occupied zone. This discrimination measure, put in place on June 7, contributed to the implementation of mass deportations. It remains a symbol of persecution of Jews in France.

“I made a scandal to my mother for not putting this star. I told her: ‘I don’t want you to sew’ this! ‘ It’s horrible. ” Rachel Jedinak has horrible memories of the yellow star. He was only eight years old in June 1942, when the wearing of this piece of cloth became compulsory for Jews in the occupied zone, French or foreign, at the age of six. “It hurts so much for me to be different from my little ones. Some of our friends want to continue playing with us and others don’t. It’s so hard for a child”, added this Holocaust survivor who lived to 20e district of Paris.

A few days earlier, on May 29, 1942, this measure was put in place by an order signed by the Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich or MbF, the German military command in France. It was also introduced at the same time in the Netherlands and Belgium. “Adolf Eichmann, head of the Jewish affairs department at the Reich Central Security Office and as organizer of the deportations, summoned Theodor Dannecker, Judenreferent in Paris, along with his colleagues from The Hague and Brussels. He explained to them. the results of the Wannsee meeting, which took place on January 20, 1942, and encouraged them to introduce, in a coordinated manner in each of their administrative territories, the obligation to wear a yellow star “, explains historian Claire Zalc , director of research at CNRS.

A photo showing the front page of the newspaper “Le Matin” announcing that Jews were required to wear a yellow star from June 7, 1942. Remy de la Mauviniere, AP

“This discriminatory measure constitutes anti-Semitism”

The idea is not new. This discriminatory measure was already implemented in 1939 in Poland and in 1941 in the Reich, Alsace, Bohemia-Moravia and the adjoining territories of western Poland. It revives a certain tradition of marking that has been imposed on Jews over the centuries in various territories. “This discriminatory measure constitutes anti-Semitism. It is inherently associated with one of its characteristics: the need to identify, designate, to show by a sign or an insignia a minority in order to belittle or degrade it” , summarizes the historian.

A young Jewish wearing a star armband in Radom, Poland.
A young Jewish wearing a star armband in Radom, Poland. Wikimedia / Bundesarchiv

Since September 1940, a procession of measures has been taken to identify, destroy, isolate and discriminate against the Jewish population. “Inventories and spoliation of property, imposed by the first ordinance of September 1940, were followed by professional discrimination and social exclusion. Prohibitions increased: the presence of TSF sets, participation in assize courts “The sixth ordinance, in February 1942, prohibited Jews .outings between 8 pm and 6 am, as well as changes of residence,” Claire Zalc explained in particular.

In the early days of June 1942, the Jews of the occupied zone had to remove the star in town halls, sub-prefectures or even at police stations. It is not free and can be obtained for textile card points or money. Some benefit from derogations, such as Jews living in mixed marriages if their children are recognized as non-Jews, but they are granted only rarely.

In an unoccupied zone, the measure is not applied. For this Holocaust specialist, it shows no opposition from Marshal Pétain who described it as a “fair measure”. “Marking does not pose a problem to Vichy because the‘ Jewish ’stamp on the identity card has been mandatory in the unoccupied area since December 11, 1942. However, the Vichy regime aims mainly to preserve public opinion. from the reactions of sympathy that can be provoked to the obligation to wear a star ”, Claire Zalc estimates.

Women wearing a yellow star on a street in Paris.
Women wearing a yellow star on a street in Paris. © Wikimedia / Bundesarchiv

Different reactions

Acts of solidarity are actually visible in the occupied zone. Police arrested people who showed their support for the Jewish population by wearing fake badges or stars with creative names such as “auvergnat”, “swing” or even “zazou”. Others, on the contrary, take the opportunity to show their anti-Semitism by insulting those who should already wear the star.

Within the Jewish community, reactions were also conflicting, as Claire Zalc described: “Some are hesitant, refusing to wear it. Others hide it under the lapel of the coat, or put it on. press stud to easily remove it. There are cases of suicide as well. There are those who have the courage not to wear it and there are those who have the courage to wear it. ” Eight -year -old Agnès Buisson remembers the day her mother came home carrying that badge to their apartment in Paris. “He started sewing these yellow stars on clothes. He allegedly sewed them into small stitches and he sewed them into large stitches in anger,” he recalled. “It’s worse than anything.”

Mark used to stop

For Claire Zalc, this marking was not only a way of stigmatizing and humiliating Jews, it also made it possible to isolate them, monitor them and control their movements. “At the time when mass exile for the purpose of exterminating the Jews of Western Europe was arranged the marking policy was put in place,” he asserted. When the decision was taken to organize mass deportations of Jews from France to the East in the spring of 1942, the marking also served to stop. A few weeks after the introduction of star wear, nearly 13,000 people were specifically interviewed on July 16 and 17, 1942 during the infamous Vél d’Hiv tour organized in Paris and its nearby suburbs. , before being exiled to Auschwitz -Birkenau.

Eighty years later, the yellow star became a symbol of persecution of the Jews. It represents for the victims and their descendants what they experienced during the Shoah. It was kept by six -year -old Renée Borycki in 1942 as a relic. “I received it as a birthday gift”, ironically this hidden child who escaped the aging Vél d’Hiv. “When I even got to the ceremonies, I always wore it. At every event. I was offered money for it. I would never give up my star. I kept it not only as proof, but as a sacred thing.”

The yellow star of Renée Borycki, which she received on her sixth birthday in 1942.
The yellow star of Renée Borycki, which she received on her sixth birthday in 1942. © Stephanie Trouillard, France24

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