Oral History

Edward Lessing describes wearing the compulsory Jewish badge.

Edward was born to a Jewish family in The Hague. In 1929, the family moved to the United States. Because his father had difficulty finding employment, Edward and his family returned to the Netherlands in 1932. They were living in the town of Delft and running a small clothing store when war broke out. Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. Anti-Jewish decrees were instituted, increasing in severity to the point that Jews could no longer own businesses and were forced to wear a yellow badge after May 3, 1942. When deportations of Jews in the Netherlands began, Edward and his family went into hiding. Edward posed as a non-Jew until the end of the war.


Then came a decree one day that you had to wear a star. All Jews had to wear a star if they went out of the house. So my mother sewed on stars on my clothes. And I remember an incident. I have a cousin, my cousin, Hans, he lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, now. He's about my age, and at the time we looked a little bit similar, and we had both gotten the same overcoats from my father's former clothing store, so we looked like twins. And Hans always kept saying, "Hey, let's go out and...let's go out and walk like twins." So we put on the same socks, shirts, as much as possible, same mufflers and, uh, we walked as twins. And we had a...that was wonderful. Except I had a star, he didn't. Well, that was the only thing different. He...his mom...his mother...my Aunt Clara had married a non-Jew. So Hans was only half Jewish. And I remember walking through Delft and once got stopped by a German. It was the only time a German physically touched me. I was stopped by this German. We were stopped by this German in our...in our same overcoats. And the German said to my cousin, Hans, "What are you doing walking with a Jew?" And I said, "He's my cousin." And the German slapped me full in the face and I fell on the, on the ground. Pow. Like this...and he said something like, "You lousy Jew." And he said to my cousin, "Don't...don't let me ever see you walking with him. With a Jew."


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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