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Factory-printed Star of David badge printed with Juif, acquired by a Jewish Lithuanian artist

Object | Accession Number: 2003.357.1

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    Factory-printed Star of David badge printed with Juif, acquired by a Jewish Lithuanian artist

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    Brief Narrative
    Factory-printed Star of David badge acquired by the sculptor, Jacques Lipchitz. In June 1942, all Jews in German-occupied France were required to wear a badge that consisted of a yellow Star of David with a black-outline and the word “Jew” printed in French inside the star. The badge was used to stigmatize and control the Jewish population. They were distributed by the government and police authorities, and in France, they cost a textile ration coupon. Jacques was born into a Jewish family in Druskenikin, Russia (now, Druskininkai, Lithuania), and immigrated to Paris, France, in 1909 to pursue a career in sculpture. He became embedded in Paris’ art community, and achieved international success by the time France was invaded by Germany in May 1940. Jacques and his wife, Berthe, fled the city for southern France, ending up in Toulouse. He received a letter from Varian Fry, the director of the American Emergency Rescue Committee, who had been contacted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Fry sponsored Jacques and Berthe’s immigration to the United States in June 1941. After the war ended, they returned to Paris in June 1946. Jacques reunited with his brother Rubin, who had joined the Maquis (guerilla resistance fighters in France). He also learned that his sisters Fanya and Dina, had suffered but survived the war in Russia; however, his niece, Irene, had died in the Warsaw ghetto. The pain, changes, and sense of loss Jacques felt in post-war Paris led him to return to the United States in December 1946, while Berthe chose to stay in France. Jacques continued to have a successful career in the United States until his death.
    use:  1942 June 07-1944 August 25
    manufacture: France
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the family of Jacques Lipchitz
    face, center, printed, black ink: Juif [Jew]
    Subject: Jacques Lipchitz
    Previous owner: Jacques Lipchitz
    Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) was born Chaim Jacob to Abraham Isaac (?-1928) and Rachael Leah (nee Krinsky, 1871?-1934) Lipschitz in Druskenikin, Russia (now, Druskininkai, Lithuania). It was a popular summer spa town, particularly with the Jewish community. Chaim was the oldest of six children; he had three sisters, Fanya (1893?-1961?), Eugenia (later, Kon, 1895-1928?), and Dina (later, Glikfeld, 1898-1978), and two brothers, Pavel (or Paul 1902/1903-1936?), and Rubin (1908-1993). Abraham came from a wealthy family in the city of Grodno, while Rachael was the daughter of a rabbi and had lived her entire life in Druskenikin. Abraham worked as a building contractor and was often away from home because of work, and Rachael ran a hotel the family owned. Rachael’s widowed mother, Chaia Fegel Krinsky, lived with the family and helped care for the children.

    Rachael valued education, and Chaim entered a local Jewish school at the age of five. In 1899, his parents sent him to Bialystok (now, Poland) to attend a secular vocational school, while he continued his Hebrew studies under a tutor. After celebrating his bar mitzvah in 1904, Chaim began going by the name Jacob, which was the name registered with the authorities at his birth. In January 1905, antisemitic and civil unrest erupted in the region. After Jacob was caught up in a riot, he returned to Druskenikin and saw the family hotel had been destroyed by fire. In June 1906, a violent pogrom was carried out against the Jews in Bialystok and it was no longer safe for Jacob to return to school.

    Jacob was sent to a new school in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania), and he fell out of active religious practice. During this time, his childhood interest in becoming a sculptor was reignited, and in 1909, with the assistance of his mother, Jacob traveled to Paris to pursue sculpture. Shortly after arrival, he went to the local police station to get an identification card, and the official Gallicized his name to Jacques Lipchitz. Embracing his new French identity, Jacques enrolled in classes at the École des Beaux-Arts, and later, the Académie Julian. He made several new friends in the art scene, including Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso. In the winter of 1915, he met Berthe Kitrosser (1889-1972), a Russian poet who was living in Paris. They married in 1916, and Jacques became stepfather to Berthe’s son, André. During World War I, Jacques remained in Western Europe, disqualified from Russian military service by a previous bout of tuberculosis.

    After the war, Jacques began reestablishing contact with his family. His parents had fled their home during the war and returned to Druskenikin, which was now Druskieniki, Poland, after the post-war border changes. Jacques’ brother, Rubin, and his sister Eugenia, still lived in Druskieniki. His sister, Dina, had married in 1915, and Eugenia married in 1921. Jacob’s eldest sister, Fanya, and Dina survived the war in Moscow, but did not return to Druskieniki. His brother, Pavel, moved from Kovno to Berlin with his wife and daughter to study electrical engineering.

    Jacques found success with his art in Paris, and was able to help his family financially. He supported his brother Pavel while he continued to study, and he brought his youngest brother, Rubin, to Paris to continue his education. When Eugenia contracted tuberculosis, Jacques paid for her care in Switzerland, and then brought her to Paris when her health did not improve. In 1928, Jacques’ father died. Eugenia and her husband both died not long after. His mother, Rachael, died in January 1934, during surgery for cancer. Jacques and Berthe then visited family in Moscow for several months. This included three of Jacques siblings, Dina, Fanya, and Pavel, as well as Berthe’s brother, her son André, and her son’s father.

    Upon their return to Paris, Jacques and Berthe were met with the first large pogrom against the Jews of the city. The 1930s brought rampant antisemitism to France, and the rise of Nazism in Germany. These new movements gave Jacques great concern, and he created multiple works that directly commented on Hitler and Nazism. Jacques was criticized for using art for political propaganda, and newspapers readily attacked him and his work. In 1938, one of his statues was sectioned and removed from the Champs Élysées, and he began receiving threatening phone calls at his home.

    France entered World War II on September 3, 1939, in response to the German invasion of Poland. The German army invaded France in May 1940. At the end of the month, Jacques and Berthe fled Paris for southern France, later joined by Rubin and his fiancée. The group continued traveling, trying to stay ahead of the German army. Eventually, they split up: Rubin and his fiancée went to Vichy, while Jacques and Berthe went to Toulouse. While he was on the run, Jacques received money from his art dealer, who had recovered and sold some of his sculptures.

    France surrendered to Germany, and Toulouse was occupied in June 1940. Jacques continued working, creating portraits and drawings inspired by his escape from Paris. One day, he received a letter from Varian Fry, the director of the American Emergency Rescue Committee. He had learned from the Museum of Modern Art in New York that Lipchitz was in Toulouse, and offered to sponsor him for immigration to the United States. At first, Lipchitz was unwilling to leave, but after six months of increasing persecution and arrests of Jews, Fry finally convinced him.

    Jacques and Berthe set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, and arrived in New York City on June 13, 1941. He was offered a teaching position at Washington University in St. Louis, but turned it down, determined to continue his career in sculpture. Jacques had several friends and pre-existing clients who were already in the New York area, and they led him to a German-born dealer who helped him sell the work he brought from France. They also helped him find a new studio to work in and introduced him to a group of American sculptors. Jacques continued to work, and managed to build a successful career during the war.

    After the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Jacques and Berthe traveled back to France in June 1946. They returned to their house and discovered that it had been broken into and all their possessions had been stolen. Jacques reunited with Rubin, who had joined the Maquis (guerilla resistance fighters in France). Jacques was later awarded the Legion of Honor. He also learned that his sisters had suffered, but survived the war in Russia; however, his niece, Irene, had died in the Warsaw ghetto. The pain, changes, and sense of loss Jacques felt in post-war Paris led him to return to the United States in December 1946, while Berthe chose to stay in France.

    Following his return to the US, one of Jacques’ clients introduced him to Yulla Mott (nee Halberstadt, 1911-2003), who worked for the American Jewish Congress. She had fled Berlin for the United States in 1938, with her husband and two small sons. After initially settling in Cincinnati, Yulla decided to separate from her husband, leaving him with her older son, Hanno (b. 1933), and returned to New York with the younger, Frank. Jacques and Yulla quickly fell in love and married. In October 1948, they had a daughter, Lolya. Soon thereafter, Jacques and his family moved out of the city to the suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson. Jacques was naturalized as an American citizen in 1958. Later in his life, Jacques became increasingly engaged in Jewish life and themes in his work, which he continued until his death in 1973. At his request, Jacques was buried in Israel.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Magen David.
    Physical Description
    Yellow cloth badge in the shape of a 6-pointed Star of David. The star outline is formed by two black triangles, printed to overlap one another. In the center is French text in a font resembling Hebrew. The frayed edges are folded over and hand basted to the back with light brown thread. The badge is extremely discolored.
    overall: Height: 4.000 inches (10.16 cm) | Width: 3.375 inches (8.573 cm)
    overall : cloth, ink, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The badge was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by the family of Jacques Lipchitz.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:10:39
    This page:

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