“I didn’t have the armband,” Sam said. That’s right – Sam Goldberg never wore one. He just didn’t. He went about his business and just never wore one. Go Sam.
The notorious armband forced onto the sleeves of the Jews of Europe during Nazi control has made a comeback in the news. Today’s Seattle Times ran an article by Christine Hauser of the New York Times, titled: After neo-Nazi Posting, Police in Montana Town Step Up Patrols.
The article’s lead reads:
The Daily Stormer article was filled with anti-Semitic slurs, and yellow stars reminiscent of the ones Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis were superimposed on photographs of the six: a lawyer, a real estate agent, a boy identified as their child, two rabbis and an activist.
The rest of the article can be found here:
While I believe that neo-Nazis do not deserve to be mentioned, I have come across the origins of the armband in my research and I thought I would share it with you.
Hans Frank, the governor of the German-controlled areas of Poland, issued the first armband order on November 23, 1939. All Jewish men and women over the age of ten were required to wear “a white band, at least ten centimeters wide, with the Star of David, to be worn on the right sleeve of both inner and outer clothing. Jews were being concentrated and identified, so that none would escape the ever-tightening meshes of German control.” (Dawidowitcz at 273)
Warsaw was under Frank’s jurisdiction and had a large concentration of Jews who would now be required to wear this armband. The start date was December 1, 1939. By this time, the Nazis had appointed a Warsaw Jewish Council to do their bidding and enforce their rules. Adam Czerniakow was appointed as the first chairman of the Jewish Council.
In his Diary entry of December 3, 1939, Czerniakow noted: “In the morning, I proceeded through the streets with an armband. In view of the rumors about the postponement of the wearing of armbands such a demonstration is necessary.’ (Friedlander at 37-38)
While Jews living under Nazi control in Poland began wearing the armband in December of 1939, it seems that the Jews of Germany did not encounter the armband until the fall of 1941.
“A few days after Goebbels received Hitler’s authorization,” writes Saul Friedlander in Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945: The years of Extermination, “the marking of the Reich’s Jews with a ‘distinctive and clearly visible sign’ was launched. A decree of September 1, 1941, issued by the Ministry of the Interior, ordered that from the nineteenth of that month all Jews of the Greater Reich and the Protectorate aged six and above should wear a yellow six-pointed star with the word Jude inscribed on it in (twisted) black letters. The palm-size star had to be sewed to the clothes, on the left side of the breast, at the height of the heart, so as to be fully visible when a Jew was in a public place (defined as any place where people not belonging to the family circle could be encountered).” (Id. at 251)
As I thought about this very visible marking that the Jews of Europe were forced to wear to set themselves apart, I recalled the biblical mark of Cain. In Genesis, chapter 4, Cain murders his brother, Able, presumably because he is jealous that G-d accepted Able’s sacrifice but not his own. G-d says to Cain: ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) G-d punishes Cain by cursing the ground, that “opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood.” Further, Cain is exiled as a “fugitive and wanderer.” (Genesis 4:12) Cain is very worried that “it will come to pass, that whoever shall find me, shall slay me.” (Id. 4:14)
G-d responds: “Therefore whosoever slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him.”
It seems that the sign or mark of Cain was a protective shield – to keep people from killing him. In contrast, the Nazi armband was a sign to persecute, torture and kill those with this mark.
During the Holocaust, so much blood was spilled. I can only imagine how wide the earth had to open its mouth to receive it all. I pray that vengeance will be taken sevenfold.
Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945. New York, NY. Bantam Books. 1975.
Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945: The Years of Extermination. New York, NY. Harper Collins. 2007.
1991 Interview with Sam Goldberg.