The concept of using badges to identify and segregate Jews from the rest of the population did not originate with the Nazis. Muslim Caliphs introduced an identifying badge for Jews in the 8th century CE, and throughout the Middle Ages, European kings and popes continued the practice of compelling Jews to wear distinguishable clothing or markings. These practices were abandoned in Western Europe when Emancipation took place.
Nazi officials implemented the Yellow star badge to mark Jews between 1939 and 1945. They did so in a systematic manner, as a prelude to deporting Jews to ghettos and killing centers in German-occupied eastern Europe. The policy of forcing individuals to wear identifying badges was one of many psychological tactics aimed at isolating and dehumanizing the Jews, directly marking them as being different from everyone else. It allowed for the facilitation of their separation from society. Those who refused to wear the badge risked severe punishment, including death.
The design of the badge varied from region to region; the badge on display is from France. A decree for Jews in Occupied France to wear the yellow star went into effect on June 7, 1942.
To learn more about badges under the Nazi regime, including the badging system implemented in Concentration Camps, see our resource graphic Identifying Badges in the Holocaust.