Yellow Star of David badge with Jude worn by a young German Jewish boy

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2010.200.2
1 Jan 1941 - 31 Dec 1945
Level of Description
  • German
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: Height: 3.750 inches (9.525 cm) | Width: 3.250 inches (8.255 cm)


Biographical History

Klaus Werner Max Zwilsky was born on August 16, 1932, in Berlin, Germany, to Erich and Ruth Herzberg Zwilsky. Erich was born on August 23, 1896, in Landsberg, Germany (Gorowo Ilaweckie, Poland), to Samuel Zwilsky, born on July 10, 1857. Ruth was born on May 11, 1910, in Breslau, Germany (Wroclaw, Poland), to Elsbeth, born on August 3, 1881, and Martin Forder Herzberg, born on April 11, 1870. Her father had a dry goods store and she had 5 siblings: Moritz, born on January 21, 1902, Hildegard, born June 23 1903, Irma, born on December 31, 1904, Gisela, born on December 18, 1908, and Salomon, born on December 8, 1911. Erich served in the German Army in World War I. He trained as a pharmacist at Konigsberg University and worked at the Andreas Pharmacy in Berlin. Erich and Ruth had a dual wedding ceremony on August 30, 1931, with Gisela, Ruth’s sister, and Phillip Kozower. Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in January 1933 led to increasingly severe restrictions on Jews in Germany. Ruth had attended pharmacy school in Breslau, but as a Jew, she was not allowed to take the licensing exam because of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. Erich was dismissed from the pharmacy on January 31, 1939, because Jews were not permitted to work in non-Jewish pharmacies. He began a job as an office worker in the Jewish Community of Berlin. In July 1939, Erich, Ruth, and Klaus received affidavits to emigrate to India from Moritz, Klaus’ maternal uncle, who lived there. They were scheduled to leave on October 1, 1939, but were unable to travel because of the outbreak of the war on September 1, 1939. In early 1940, Erich transferred to the health department as principal aide for the Association of Jews in Germany and later became a pharmacist at the Jewish Hospital. On October 14, 1940, Ruth was assigned to forced labor at the Siemens electrical and engineering company. Klaus’ grandmother, Elsbeth, had died on August 7, 1940, and his grandfather, Martin, died on November 15, 1940. Klaus started public school in 1936, but had to switch to a Jewish school in 1938. In June 1942, those schools were closed. Gisela and Phillip, Klaus’ maternal aunt and uncle, cared for him during the week while his parents worked. On January 27, 1943, Klaus was with his relatives at their apartment when the Gestapo arrived to arrest them because Phillip was a prominent attorney and leader of the Jewish Community. Gisela, Phillip, and their three children, 10 year old Eva, 8 year old Alice, and 10 week old Uri Aron, were deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. Phillip became head of the camp post office, and the family frequently sent correspondence to Klaus and his parents. Because of Phillip’s status, they were allowed to live in a single room together. Klaus and his parents sent food, puzzles, and games for the children. Ruth was arrested during the last major roundup of Jews in Berlin for deportation, the Factory Action, on February 27, 1943. She was released on March 6, 1943, because Erich was a Jewish Community employee. On April 7, 1943, she was assigned to work for W. Jakubaschk, a sewing and repair company for German military uniforms. On May 19, 1943, Salomon, Klaus’ maternal uncle, and his future wife, Gerta Grunberg, were deported from Berlin to Theresienstadt. In October 1943, Klaus and his parents were forced to move to the Jewish Hospital because Erich was the only remaining pharmacist. They lived in relatively good conditions, with running water, heat, and electricity. Most of the people living, working, and hospitalized in the facility from 1944 to 1945 were part-Jews or Jews with a non-Jewish spouse. Klaus and his parents were an exception. Ruth had to secretly bake matzo for Passover. In early 1945, Allied air raids on Berlin became a nightly occurrence. That May, Ruth began working in the pharmacy with Erich. On April 24, 1945, the Jewish Hospital was liberated by the Soviet Army. There were about 800 Jewish residents at liberation. Erich was appointed Director and the family continued to live at the hospital. On July 1, 1945, Klaus returned to the third grade at a Jewish school. He was the first Bar Mitzvah in Berlin after the war.The family found out that Salomon had been deported on September 28, 1944, to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where he was killed upon arrival. His wife, Gerta, survived the war. Gisela and her family had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and murdered there in November 1944. Klaus’ maternal aunt and uncle, Hildegard and Salomon Burstein, and their children, 16 year old Inge and 12 year old Herbert, had been deported from Memel, Germany, and presumably perished in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania in 1944. On August 26, 1945, The New York Times published a short article about the surviving Jews in Germany and Erich was interviewed as Director of the Jewish Hospital. Irma and Kurt Goldstein, Ruth’s sister and brother-in-law, and their 12 year old son, Carl, had emigrated to the United States from India in 1941. Irma saw the article and reestablished contact with the family. The family was not able to get US visas to emigrate directly from Germany to the US, so Irma arranged with the Red Cross for them to enter the US through Sweden. In June 1946, they went to Stockholm to live with Erich’s cousins, Adolph and Else Hirschfeldt. Erich and Ruth worked as pharmacists and Klaus studied English and worked in his cousin’s blouse making factory. Their US immigration visas were granted and, on January 27, 1947, they emigrated to New York on board the SS Drottningholm. Klaus married, and had two children. He received a doctoral degree and became a metallurgist. Erich died on January 1, 1961, age 64. Ruth died on September 9, 1986, age 76.

Archival History

The Star of David badge was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010 by Klaus M. Zwilsky.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Klaus M. Zwilsky

Funding Note: The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Scope and Content

Star of David badge issued to 9 year old Klaus Zwilsky in 1941 in Berlin where he lived with his parents, Erich and Ruth. In September 1941, Jews in Germany were ordered to wear a Judenstern [Jewish star] badge on their clothing at all times. In October 1943, the family was forced to live in the Jewish Hospital because Erich was the only remaining pharmacist. Ruth was a forced laborer and then worked in the hospital as a pharmacist. The hospital was liberated by the Soviet Army in April 1945. Erich was appointed Director and the family continued to live in the hospital until, at Ruth's insistence, they decided to leave Germany. Her only surviving sister arranged through the Red Cross to get them to Sweden, where they received visas for the United States. They emigrated to the US in January 1947. The majority of both Erich's and Ruth's families were deported and killed in death camps.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

No restrictions on use

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Yellow cloth badge in the shape of a 6 pointed Star of David handstitched to offwhite cloth backing. The star outline is formed from 2 overlapping, dyed triangles and has German text in the center. On the reverse, the backing has a diagonal uncut buttonhole machine stitched in offwhite thread.



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.