On 1 September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the Jewish Holocaust, decreed that all Jews over six years of age in the Reich, Alsace, Bohemia-Moravia and the German–annexed territory of western Poland were to wear yellow Star of David badges on their outer clothing in public at all times. The word “Jew” was to be inscribed inside the star in German or the local language. It was but a single step to humiliate Jews, but also to bend acceptance toward their being considered different, inferior, worthy of hatred.
Darkness often takes small steps like this, sometimes so much so that it becomes difficult to recognize that a change has even become. This is the strength of a strong artists’ culture: artists see those tiny fragments in time and capture them, playing them back in the minute increments that we’d otherwise miss. These are two humans–not particularly striking in any way, neither glamorous nor repugnant, neither visibly wealthy nor impoverished. There is little to set them apart, save the badges on their chests, and that is the point. They confront you, in their own way, daring you to miss their humanity, their right to be.
Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei (also spelled Evgenii Khaldeai) worked for the Tass news agency from 1935 – 1948, and for Pravda from 1959 – 1976. During the lead-up to the war, Soviet photographers typically ignored the plight of the Jew under the assumption that Soviet citizens would not go to war if they thought it was merely to help Jewish citizens. Khaldei, however, himself Jewish, photographed other Jews as they were liberated from the ghetto of Budapest, before ripping the yellow Stars of David from their chests.