Jewish Identity Cards

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz
Self Portrait With Jewish Identity Card” by Felix Nussbaum, 1943
The use of Identity Cards has been pervasive in civilization and it was especially utilized to differentiate Jews during World War II. The self-portrait above of artist Felix Nussbaum is just such a reference to these cards. For genealogists, the identity card can provide much family information. It is worthwhile searching in family archives and other resources for such documentation.

A group of identity cards or passports can be seen on the following site which focuses on documents utilized by Jews to successfully leave Germany during World War II: These include the Nazis’ Kennkart for all Jewish civilians over 15 years of age.

Cover of a Nazi Kennkarte
(Courtesy of the Neufeld Family Archive, a collection of Holocaust/family artifacts donated by Anne Neufeld Levin. The collection is housed at Special Collections in UCSC’s McHenry Library)

The Kennkarte, as one can see, was issued with a “J” to indicate that the individual holder was Jewish. Not only were there the Kennkartes, but there were some identity cards issued for the ghettos which were established for certain Jewish populations. One of these is seen below for the Krakow Ghetto.

A remarkable identity card found on the site is a Provisional Identification Card for a civilian internee of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Jakob Machat, whose card was stamped by the Allied forces on the day the camp was liberated. Also, one can view his original photo taken later in Palestine, commemorating his own concentration camp prisoner's uniforms. This young man served as a pilot in the IDF Air Force. [D]

Jakob Machat Ausweis Card, Buchenwald, Germany, 1945
(Courtesy of the site)

There were also identity cards given to residents of Mandatory Palestine by the British. These cards identified individuals as Jews. One such example is for Ruth Goldman.

Ruth Goldman, Palestine, 1940

Another example of a Palestine Identity Card is one for Esther Yoskowitz Reiss which was issued in May, 1946.

Identity Card for Esther Yoskowitz Reiss, May 24, 1946

Another Mandatory Palestine Identity Card was the following for Paul Mortge which was issued in 1946.

Mandatory Palestine Identity Card for Paul Mortge, 1946
(Courtesy of the site)

In addition to the Identity Card required in Palestine, the British government after a first attempt at identity cards during World War I, established a temporary wartime scheme during World War II. This required their own civilians over the age of 16 to carry an Identity Card from October, 1939, to May, 1943. Cards were issued until February 22, 1952, when their use was abolished..

Unlike many other identity cards, this one did not have a picture of the individual nor did it provide date or place of birth or religion. Merely, the name and address of the individual was given.

British National Registration Identity Card

Additional information had been collected for the National Register in 1939 prior to the issuance of the identity cards which contained the name of the individual, their sex, date of birth, marital condition, occupation and whether they were a member of the armed forces or reserves.

The National Health Service now provides access for genealogical purposes to this 1939 Identity Card database as part of its Central Register. Information can be garnered, at present, only for those individuals who can be proved to be deceased.

Returning to Jewish identity, after the State of Israel came into being, they issued their own certificates of identification which were called Te’Udat Zehut. One of these is shown below from 1947. The card was issued to Leah Melnik, born 1916, who had come to Israel from Latvia and lived on Kfar Blum.
Israeli Identity Card, Issued January 9, 1949
(Courtesy of the

An interesting source of information on identity cards is found on the Israel State Archives site. Here there is a “Jews and their Wanderings” online exhibition. The exhibition is composed of twenty-nine different types of identity/travel documents which can be viewed in four segments:
  • Pre-World War II
  • Persecution of the Jews and Flight
  • Aftermath of the Holocaust
  • Immigration to Israel
As a concluding comment on identity cards, you will remember that there were temporary schemes for British identity cards which existed primarily during the War years. Recently, the first person to be issued the new electronic United Kingdom National Identity Card was British Jew Angela Epstein from Manchester. She obtained the card at the inception of the cards in 2009. Unlike others in the past, this card did not identify Angela Epstein by religion.

So much of what can be learned of the Jewish struggle to exist as a free and independent people can be seen through the images of these identity cards. From their initial negative purpose to separate and distinguish the Jewish population during the War years to the later positive identification as citizens of the State of Israel, it has been quite a journey, albeit fraught with pain and suffering.

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