Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Yellow Badge on Postage Stamps

The yellow badge is the name of the most known badge among the identifying badges that the Nazis enforced in legislation on the Jews. This badge was made from yellow cloth cut in the form of a triangle or in the form of a Star of David. In its center was added at times in black color the word Jew in the local European language such as in German or in French. The yellow badge serves nowadays mainly as symbol of the holocaust of European Jews, and as a central image of the Jews as victims. It evokes in us powerfully traumatic feelings of fear, anger and identification on the one hand, and of awe and holiness on the other hand.

Since WWII there were few stamps that “mentioned” the yellow badge:
East Germany issued in 1963 a stamp that marks 25 years since Kristallnacht, Night of the Broken Glass, in which the Nazis burned Jewish synagogues all over Germany and Austria. A chained yellow badge with the German caption “Jude” appears on this stamp on the background of a burning synagogue. Germans mark Holocaust Remembrance Day annually on the 27th of January; the day the Russian army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp. In 2005 UN adopted the same date as a world Holocaust Remembrance Day.
            Israel issued in 1965 a stamp that marks 20 years since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust survivor Yaacov Zim designed this stamp. The Hebrew word “remember” appears under a yellow badge. In Hebrew this word arouses the association of the Biblical verse from Deuteronomy 25:17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt”. Amalek represents the Nazis and the verse calls not only for remembrance but also for vengeance.
Sweden issued in 1987 a booklet pane and one of its stamps was dedicated to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (1912 –1947?). A yellow badge appears on the chest of one of the thousands of Jews that he rescued from the Holocaust.
West Germany issued in 1988 a stamp to mark the 50 years since Kristallnacht. This stamp shows a burning synagogue along with a white Star of David that alludes to the yellow badge.
Canada issued in 1995 a stamp in memorial of the Jewish Holocaust with a large yellow badge in front of images of Jewish-concentration-camp-prisoners in their black striped uniform.
Belgium issued at the end of 1995 a stamp in memorial of Yvonne Feyerick Nevejean (1900-1987) who helped hide Jewish children in Belgium during World War II. Behind the portrait of Yvonne Feyerick Nevejean we see children standing in front of a yellow badge.
USA issued in  1997 a stamp in memorial of Raoul Wallenberg, which is very similar to the above mentioned Swedish stamp: a yellow badge appears on the chest of one of the thousands of Jews that he rescued from the Nazis.
Russia issued in 2000 a stamp marking 55 years since the Holocaust. There’s a yellow Star of David (alluding to the yellow badge) on a wall, which carries the word “Holocaust”. Behind the wall we see a huge flame, and above it, in the sky, two birds of freedom.
Israel issued in 2003 a Holocaust and Revival stamp designed by Gideon Sagi. The yellow badge is peeling, and behind it we discover the blue Star of David of the Israeli flag. The message is that the blue Star of David was based on, or even born from, the yellow badge. The Stamp is dedicated to the revival of half a million Holocaust survivors in Israel. On the tab we see the words Ezekiel 16:6: “in thy blood live”. These powerful words mean that Israel (represented by the blue Star of David) came to being due to the blood of the Holocaust victims (represented by the yellow badge). The words “blood” (death) and “living” are opposites. The Star of David, which is the shape of the yellow badge, is a symbol of the unison of all possible opposites.
Israel issued in 2003 a stamp marking Yad Vashem's Jubilee Year. It shows a  yellow badge on the chest of a Teddy Bear alluding to the children murdered by the Nazis during the   Holocaust period.
Israel issued in 2003 a stamp [Designed by Meir Eshel] with the names of force laborers from a factory in Poland who were shot or transported to Death Camps. On the stamp we see railroads (used for transporting Jews to Death Camps) transform into the blue stripes of the Israeli flag, while the yellow badge at the bottom ascends and becomes the blue Star of David on the Israeli flag.

We should remember that stamps are not subjective whims, they are states’ statements aimed at reflecting some public concerns. Judging by this small sample of Yellow Badges on Postage Stamps we may notice, unsurprisingly, that the remembrance of the Holocaust troubles the Israeli government in the first place and the German government in the second place. 

The Star of David and the Zodiac

The six-pointed star is a most complicated symbol. It has many meanings in different cultures. Currently, it is known as the (political) symbol of Judaism, but in the past there were ascribed to it, among other things, significances such as: defense and intertwining (psychology); unification of the opposites; the similarity between microcosm and macrocosm (philosophy). In European languages it goes by the name of the STAR of David – which brings us to wonder about the astrological significance of this symbol in general, and about its relationship with the zodiac in particular.

The six-pointed star is known in Jewish culture as Magen David (David’s Shield), in Roman culture as hexagram, in Christian culture as the star of Mary or as the Star of David. The Muslim calls it Solomon’s seal, and the Indians – Yantra.

This Symbol was known already on the daybreak of history. In the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin are presented several cylinder seals, dated to c.2500 B.C., decorated with celestial symbols showing stars with six, seven, eight and more points. These stars appear there in an astrological context or in an astronomical context. Among them there is (on item VA/243) a circle surrounded by six triangles, which looks like the Star of David. From the same culture and from the same time frame there are archaeological artifacts of the zodiac that prove that the Sumerians recognized it or even invented it [1]. The Star of David and the zodiac signs developed since then in parallel lines, and separately, with sporadic collisions of their courses. For instance:

The six-pointed star shaped Bir Chana Mosaic Floor (now in Tunisia’s Bardo Museum) contains the zodiac signs as well as the personifications of the days of the week. It is dated to the third century C.E. Whoever created it “suggested” that the Star of David is the geometrical symbol of the map of the sky.

Jewish tradition has it that after Exodus the 12 Israelite tribes encamped in the desert in the shape of the Magen David [2]. To this equation numerous Jewish sources add the comparison of the 12 tribes with the stones of the Jewish High Priest, and with the zodiac: In Sefer Hapliah ascribed to Rabbi Nechonia Ben Hakana we find that the encampment of the Tribes was parallel to the 12 zodiacal signs and to the 12 stones of the High Priest. The same goes as to Midrash Tanchuma [3] where we read that the tribes are part of the cosmic order, like the 12 hours of the day, the 12 months of the year and the 12 zodiacal signs.

In his book De Vita Mosis (3, 209) Philo (20-50 C.E.) interpreted the names on the 12 stones of the High Priest as the signs of the zodiac. Josephus Flavius (37-100 C.E.) gave a similar explanation to the 12 stones in his book Antiquities of the Jews (Vo. 3 chapter 7). The stones were placed in FOUR rows like the zodiac signs which are arranged in FOUR groups according to the four elements: earth water fire and air. This equation seems to be based on the common numerical denominator of the zodiac and the tribes: 12. In the Star of David, there are 6 points and 6 angles. In addition, the 6 outer triangles can be folded into the hexagon and create 6 internal overlapping triangles.

The book Solomon’s seal (dated to the first century C.E.) tells about King Solomon who caught a devil by using an enchanted seal that God gave him. According to Jewish and Muslim traditions this seal was in the shape of a five or six pointed star. In the 10th paragraph of the book King Solomon asks the devil which zodiacal sign rules over him and the devil answers that he obeys Aquarius. In the 73 paragraph of the book, one of the zodiacal signs presents itself to King Solomon as the first sign, Aries.

In Opus Medico-Chymicum, an alchemy book by Johann Daniel Mylius published in 1618, one of the illustrations shows a six-pointed star representing the planets surrounded by the zodiac wheel. The general structure of this illustration is very similar to the Bir Chana mosaic mentioned above, even though 1300 years separate between them.

At the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany there is a statue called Virgo Immaculata which was created in 1749. It shows 12 hexagrams around Virgin Mary’s head, representing the 12 zodiac signs. It seems like an illustration of the verse from Revelation Chapter 12:1-2:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

[1] Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia And Assyria, 1915, project Gutenberg, Chapter XIII- Astrology and Astronomy.
[2] In a Hebrew article by Dr. Gabriel H. Cohen from the Bible Department of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel

 [3] Buber Edition Parashat Vayechi 16